Travel money: Should you exchange foreign currency back if you’re unable to travel?

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Travel money is often bought as part of key holiday preparations. However, many people have seen their jet-setting plans thwarted amid the coronavirus pandemic. Foreign currency is no use to anyone stuck in the UK.

But how worth is it to exchange your holiday money back into pounds if you cannot get away now? spoke to Shon Alam, founder of new travel money buy and sell service Bidwedge, for his travel advice.

He explained that if you think you will be able to use the currency again in the near future then it’s worth hanging on to it.

However, if there’s no trip abroad on the horizon, it’s best to exchange.

“We all do it – get home from a trip and chuck our change in the drawer ready to use for next time, but by the time next time comes around, we always forget about it,” he said.

“According to ABTA in a 2018 report, Brits each took 1.6 holidays abroad, so, in reality, we actually only go overseas around once a year on average. So don’t waste it – change it!

“If you are a regular traveller – for example if you travel monthly or for business – then I would keep currency that you are likely to use again if there are particular locations you travel to regularly.

“However, any longer than that, and I would turn it back into my home currency.”

If you decide to change the money back into sterling, the first step you should take is to check the bank rate.

“This is the rate that the banks sell to each other,” said Alam. “At Bidwedge, we buy back at the bank rate and charge a small fee, sticking to our transparency policy to help give customers the best value for money.

It’s important to be savvy about where you exchange your money back.

“Since the pandemic, a lot of exchange services are going online,” Alam explained.

“However, most other suppliers still ask the customer to post their currency, so a trip to the Post Office is needed and this adds another expense to the process.

“There are high street vendors, such as Tesco, who still do some instore transactions, and of course the Post Office themselves.

“The major issue with these vendors, however, are the rates. These variations can be as much as 20 cents on the Euro from what you buy it from vendors for to the rate you sell it back to them at.”

One major red flag to look out for is if a currency seller tells you they are receiving zero percent commission.

“They are blurring the issue to say the least,” said Alam. “The commission is the difference between the bank rate and what they are selling it to customers for.

“When you come back from your holiday and want to exchange leftover cash into your home currency, start at the bank rate and then ask what the vendor is buying it back for.”

As for when you next buy travel money, don’t be tempted to buying last minute.

“Last minute buying always comes with a premium, especially at the airport, so I would say plan in advance as in normal circumstances,” the expert advised.

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