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22 Jul 2019

How to protect your holiday money from a currency crash

Don't let a weak pound ruin your holiday

With the pound at its weakest in six months, Brits' wallets are being squeezed just in time for holiday season. Find out what it means for you, and what you can do to make your travel money go further.

The strength of the pound fell to a six-month low this week, amid market fears of a no-deal Brexit. For millions of Brits heading out on holiday, this will have a real impact on their spending money.

At its height, on 27 March 2019, you could buy u20ac1.17 for each pound. By 17 July, that had dropped to u20ac1.11.

Here, we look at the difference this could make to your holiday, and the steps you can take to make the most of your sterling.

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How much will your pounds get you?

Exchange rates can seem abstract, but looking at specific examples shows the effect on your every day spending.

A cup of coffee in Benidorm costs £1.56 on average based on the exchange rate on 2 April 2019, according to data from Post Office Money. At today's rate, our analysis shows that the same coffee would cost £1.65.

On a larger scale, the same Post Office Money research found that a typical first day's spending in the Algarve would cost £57.45 at the April exchange rate. Today, that same day would cost £59.31.

At a more expensive destination like Sorrento in Italy, the difference becomes more pronounced. A £127.15 day in April could cost £131.27 at today's rate. That £4.12 difference per day could add up to almost £58 for a two-week stay.

Keep in mind these differences have been calculated using the interbank rate - the 'pure' exchange rate that banks charge one another. In most cases, you'll have to accept the rate set by your card provider, plus you'll also be charged fees. Avoiding these fees and securing the best possible rate is key to surviving the currency crash on holiday.

How to save on holiday money

You can save on spending abroad in a number of different ways. Read about them here to find the best option for you:

Fee-free debit cards

Debit cards from high street banks will usually charge heavy fees for overseas spending. Luckily, a few providers offer fee-free debit cards - perfect for frequent travelers.

These are three of the best fee-free debit cards you can find today, including options from Which? Recommended Providers Monzo and Cumberland Building Society.

Monzo and Starling both use the Mastercard exchange rate, while Cumberland uses the Visa exchange rate. These are both only marginally higher than the interbank rate at the moment.

ProviderOverseas transaction feeOverseas cash withdrawal fee
Cumberland Building Society0%0%
Monzo0%Free up to £200/month, then 3%

Find out more:
best debit cards to use abroad

Travel credit cards

Again, most credit cards will come with associated fees for overseas withdrawals and spending. There are some, however, that offer fee-free purchases and relatively lower interest on cash withdrawals.

We've gathered the cheapest credit cards for overseas spending, ordered by cash withdrawal APR interest. Links take you through to Which? Money Compare, where you can search the best deals for yourself.

CardNon-sterling transaction feeNon-sterling withdrawal feeCash withdrawal APRRepresentative APR
Metro Bank Credit Card0% (2.99% outside Europe)0% (2.99% outside Europe)14.0%14.9%
Santander Zero Credit Card0%0%18.9%18.9%
Tandem Cashback Credit Card0%0%18.9%18.9%
Halifax Clarity Credit Card0%0%19.9%19.9%

Find out more:
best credit cards to use abroad

Prepaid travel money cards

With a prepaid card, you can load a set amount of money onto your card to use abroad. There are three different types, each with their own perks.

  • Single-currency prepaidcards- you can load these with money in one currency, such as euros, before you travel. This will lock in whatever the exchange rate is on the day you load the cash. If you're worried the pound is going to become weaker, buying another currency now will secure the current exchange rate.
  • Multi-currency prepaid cards - these can be loaded with several currencies. So you could have £100, u20ac100 and $100 on the same card at once, for example. Each currency will be stored in a different 'wallet' within the card. Like single-currency cards, you'll lock in the current exchange rate when you load money.
  • Sterling prepaid cards - you load these cards with pounds sterling. When you spend abroad with them, you'll transact at the exchange rate of the day.

It's worth keeping in mind that these cards often come with other fees as well, including a fee to use a foreign ATM.

Below are a few euro prepaid cards, sorted in alphabetical order. For more detail, and for help finding out which is best, see our in-depth guide on prepaid travel money cards.

Card nameExchange rateForeign ATM feeLoad fee
AA Euro CardAA's own rateu20ac1.50Free
BreadFX Euro Prepaid MastercardBread FX's own rateu20ac1.50Free
Easyjet Euro Currency CardEasyjet's own rateFreeFree

Buying holiday money

Buying your holiday cash at a bureau de change at the airport will generally be the most expensive option. Instead, visit a high street currency exchange, or the Post Office.

While all bureaux de change will mark up the exchange rate they offer you, there's usually room to haggle. Look up the interbank rate on the day as a guide, and have a figure in mind for what you'd be happy to accept.

There are also online operators who offer travel money, often at an appealing rate. Before you send off cash to exchange, however, make sure you trust that the service is legitimate.

There are a few more tips and tricks you can use to get more from your pounds. Read our full rundown of how to Brexit-proof your cash in 2019 to see what else you can do.

Best value-for-money destinations

Earlier this month, Which? Travel put together a list of five cities that Which? members rated highly, but which also offer great value for money.

The table below has the average prices for these five cities, taken from our most recent world cities survey.

Which? City scoreFlights (return)Local transportDiningHotels
Cape Town87%£685£3 for an Uber across town£29 for a four-course meal at a trendy restaurant£103/night
Budapest89%£133£8 for 10 metro tickets£11 for dinner at popular Zeller Bistro£68/night
Lisbon84%£175u20ac1.80+ for bus tripu20ac30 for two-person three-course meal at typical cafe£98/night
Berlin87%£113u20ac7/day unlimited public transportu20ac3-7 for a meal at popular restaurant Azzam£78/night
Singapore82%£562£12 three-day unlimited public transport£3/meal at world's cheapest Michelin-star restaurant£102/night

Find out more about the best cities for your money here: five city break destinations where your pound will go further