Which? reveals best and worst currency exchange ratesWe help you find the best travel money deal

12 October 2016

The best currency exchange rates can be found online

You could be more than $100 worse off if you exchange £500 using an uncompetitive travel money provider, according to new Which? research.  

Following last week's 'flash crash' in which the value of the pound dropped to a 31-year low, we gathered exchange rates from 51 travel money providers. 

The best deal, offered by online providers Thomas Exchange UK and Best Foreign Exchange, would get you $608.75 for £500. The least competitive deal, from Moneycorp at Bristol airport, would get you just $500.95.

Using an uncompetitive provider to exchange £500 into euros could also leave you more than €65 worse off, according to our research. 

Find out more: How to find the best travel money deal - see our advice guide

Online currency exchange rates

To get the best travel money deal, use a competitive online provider. 

We found that online rates are typically much better than you'd be able to get if you went to a high street currency exchange without pre-ordering.  

Thomas Exchange UK and Best Foreign Exchange offered the best rates out of the providers we looked at. However, if you're looking to collect your currency in store, bear in mind that these providers only have branches in central London. They also both charge additional fees for postal delivery.

John Lewis Foreign Currency offers competitive exchange rates, and it's possible to ‘click and collect’ for free from John Lewis or Waitrose stores.

Online exchange rates
Travel Money ProviderUS dollars for £500Euros for £500Delivery chargesClick and collect available?
Thomas Exchange UK$608.75€546.75£10London only
Best Foreign Exchange$608.75€546.75£4.90London only
Thomas Exchange Global$606.50€525.50£4.90London only
John Lewis Foreign Currency$608.55€546.55n/aSelected John Lewis and Waitrose stores
Travel Premier$605.10€545.90£5.95No
Best Exchange$605.00€543.75£7.50London only
ICE$603.65€542.40£4.75London and selected UK train stations and airports
Tesco$603.55€542.35n/aTesco stores
ICICI$603.15€542.05£5.00Eight UK branches
Rational FX$603.00€541.85n/aNo
Table notes: Based on rates for exchanging £500 into US Dollars and euros gathered on 11 October 2016. Delivery charges based on  home delivery for £500 currency. Delivery charges may vary for different currency amounts. We gathered rates from 33 providers; the top 10 are displayed here.


High street currency exchange rates

We also looked at the rates offered by eight of the most commonly used high street travel money providers.

When exchanging £500 at Debenhams, you'd get $597.50 or €535.50. That's $17.50 or €15.50 more than you'd get at the Post Office. 

Nevertheless, all the high street providers we looked at offered better deals than airport providers. 

High street exchange rates
Travel Money providerUS Dollars for £500Euros for £500
Marks & Spencerb$596.90€531.40
Thomas Cookc$590.00€535.00
Post Officec$580.00€520.00
Table notes: Based on rates for exchanging £500 into US Dollars and euros gathered on 11 October 2016. a Preferential rates offered to Debenhams credit cardholders. bPreferential rates offered to M&S cardholders. cRates may vary by branch.


Airport currency exchange rates

Avoid exchanging currency at the airport unless it's absolutely necessary. 

Each of the 10 airport providers we looked at offered inferior rates compared to most online and high street providers.

Moneycorp at Bristol airport was the worst of the bunch. You'd get just $500.95 or €481.55 when exchanging £500 there.

Six of the 10 airport providers we looked at were offering less than one euro per pound. 

If you're keen to collect the currency in the terminal, at least pre-order it online first to benefit from a better rate.

With Travelex, you can often do this up to four hours before you arrive at the airport (on a range of currencies). Moneycorp recommends ordering 24 hours in advance. With ICE, you can instantly order a 'voucher' to present in-branch. 

Airport exchange rates
AirportTravel Money providerUS Dollars for £500Euros for £500
London StanstedMoneycorp$532.25€478.70
London GatwickMoneycorp$534.90€481.00
London LutonICE$535.50€481.50
London HeathrowTravelex$543.95€500.55
Table notes: Based on rates for exchanging £500 into US Dollars and euros gathered on 11 October 2016.


Credit cards for overseas use 

There are many credit cards on the market which charge no fees for overseas transactions or ATM withdrawals.

These cards, or a competitive prepaid currency card such as Revolut, could be a good option to consider if you regularly travel abroad.  

The Which? Money Compare credit card tables let you search for cards from providers large and small to choose a great deal based on quality of service as well as cost and benefits.

Which? Money Compare table - credit cards for spending abroad - find a great deal 

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