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Travel Q&A: How can I avoid getting fleeced with foreign exchange?

Conor Pope: Failing to sort your holiday currency needs could cost you a pretty penny, cent, baht or peso

If you are travelling to the euro zone this summer you won’t have to bother with foreign currency – one of the many benefits of being part of the single market.

If, however, you are visiting that country that decided to leave the single market (and were never bothered with the euro anyway), or the United States, or indeed any other part of the world where our money is not used, you will need to get your ducks in a row. Failing to do so could cost you a pretty penny, cent, baht or peso.

1. Do not under any circumstances exchange your money at an airport. Airports are great and everything for getting you here and there but you will not get value for your foreign exchange, whether you use the cash desks or the ATMs. Instead you will be asked to pay dearly for being so disorganised before your trip.

2. When you are in the foreign money market do just a little bit of research and, as with so many things, shop around. Pay attention to the exchange rate and on commission or other charges. Sites such as and allow you to check spot rates on wholesale markets to give you an idea of what’s value for money. And be mindful that some operators entice you in with very attractive rates and cancel them out with higher charges. Ordering currency online is cheaper and makes shopping around faster.


3. Contactless is your friend. In times past, we had few options when spending overseas – cold hard cash, credit cards and traveller’s cheques were the extent of it. The growth of contactless transactions and the affordability of contactless terminals mean you can quite easily travel to the UK, for instance, spend several days there and use only your phone to make payments – we know this because we did it last month. Contactless payments are generally cheaper than paying with a pin and also cheaper than taking money out at an ATM, where you will be hit with withdrawal charges and get terrible exchange rates.

4. If you are going to use ATMs overseas, be smart about it. Steer clear of multiple visits and take out larger sums less frequently – but please, please, please make sure to secure the cash you take out.

5. Currency cards are your friend. An Post has a prepaid currency card which you can load up with cash and then spend in 15 different currencies incurring no charges. And, because it is 2023, you can download the card on to your phone using the An Post Money app. Revolut is another good option when it comes to spending money in foreign currencies.

6. Sometimes when using a credit or debit card you might be asked if you want to pay in the local currency or your home currency – generally speaking, the local currency is best.

7. And finally, if you are exchanging money, try to do it during bank hours and avoid weekends. Markets are closed at weekends so you won’t get real-time rates but estimates. And banks rarely make estimates that work in your favour.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor