I landed at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, the sound of hurried footsteps and excited conversations buzzing around my head like an insistent bee. Armed with two suitcases – one filled with gifts for my friend and the other carrying the usual travel stuff, I was meant to be on the train now, heading to Shibuya. Instead, I was panic-calling my bank (a pleasure which, as I later found out, set me back £40). My bank card got blocked just minutes earlier and with no cash on me, I was stranded in one of the world’s most expensive cities with no means of leaving the airport!
My innate optimism clearly didn’t factor in technical difficulties. As the automatic voice on the other end of the phone kept re-assuring me that my call was important, I kept wishing I’d sorted out my holiday money in advance. The main reason I didn’t (except for never being the one to plan ahead), was because it seemed like a hassle, and with exchange rates varying from store to store, taking the cash out at the airport seemed like an easier option. Until, of course, it wasn’t.
Planning in advance, as unappealing as it may seem, often means more time to enjoy your travels (or, in my case, biting into my very first portion of Tokyo’s finest sushi an hour sooner!). Since I can’t exactly claim to be an expert on money exchange, I teamed up with Compare Holiday Money, Europe’s biggest travel money comparison service, to explain how and why exchange your money before a trip.
Compare Holiday Money is exactly what a site should be like when it comes to sorting out your travel finances – easy to use and hassle-free. Aside from comparing the best exchange rates for over 80 currencies from UK’s top currency suppliers, it also helps you compare prepaid currency cards, including Euro, US Dollar and multi-currency options (a feature I will definitely be looking into myself!).
To compare currency deals, simply type in the amount of money (in GBP) that you’d like to exchange as shown on the homepage (screenshot above). You’ll be presented with a list of suppliers. The exchange rates get updated every five minutes, 24 hours per day, which means that the data’s always up to date. It will look a little something like this:
What I love about the site is that it helps you pick the best supplier not just based on the deal alone, but on their review rating, helping you avoid any nasty surprises. Once you choose the company you want to go for, click ‘buy now’ – you’ll be redirected to the chosen supplier’s site. Most of them will post your money within 24h if ordered within their cut off times.
If you’d rather collect the money yourself, select ‘Click and Collect’ from Compare Holiday Money’s main navigation menu. You’ll then be able to compare the best high street exchange rates from an impressive 15,306 stores throughout the UK. This means you can order and reserve your currency online from your nearest supplier and get a better exchange rate than if you simply turned up at a store! This service is unique to Compare Holiday Money and also one of their most popular.
Aside from the obvious aka not being stuck at an airport with no means of actually going anywhere, what are the benefits of exchanging money before the trip?
- It will help guarantee the best exchange rate, hence saving you money. In fact, comparing exchange rates with Compare Holiday Money can save you 10% or more!
- Exchanging money at airports is almost always a bad idea – you’ll massively overspend and wish you’d taken an extra couple of minutes to do it online!
- Withdrawing money from a cash machine once abroad is a better option than exchanging it at an airport, however, even then you’ll be charged a transaction fee by your bank (usually around 3% although this differs depending on the bank), on top of a foreign transaction fee.
- Travelling with cash vs paying by card gives you more control over your holiday budget. You will know exactly how much to spend and won’t be tempted to go too crazy (unless that’s your thing, in which case – go for it!!). That being said, always make sure you don’t carry the whole amount on you – leave most of it at the hotel’s safety deposit box and only carry the amount that you’re planning on spending that day.
Have I convinced you to give money exchange a go? Let me know in the comments and, as always, happy travels!
This post is in collaboration with Compare Holiday Money but, as usual, all opinions are my own.