Travel money - online or instore

  VNAM75 19:46 31 Jan 07

I will be travelling to Hong Kong in a few weeks and need to get some travel money (about £800 worth). The current exchange rate is about £1:HK$15.35. How come I am being quoted about £1:HK$14.30. Is the commission/handling fee built into this rate?

Which is the best place to go and are there advantages purhasing online? I have been told Marks and Spencer Bureau de change and Lun Polly. Would I need to give notice to exchange £800?

  wjrt 19:52 31 Jan 07


  wjrt 19:56 31 Jan 07

if you pay by credit card then send a cheque straight away to your cc company as would think this would count as a cash withdrawal and liable for interest immediately

  Jackcoms 20:34 31 Jan 07

Unless you live in the sticks, why not take a stroll down your local High Street and stick your nose in the windows at NatWest, Barclays, Lloyds, the Post Office, etc, etc.

They should all have a Bureau de Change rates board in the window and that's the best way to compare prices.

  Stuartli 21:09 31 Jan 07

I've usually got the best rates buying or selling at the Post Office.

  Kate B 21:14 31 Jan 07

I usually change about £50 at the airport (wincing at the spread) for cabs etc and get the rest of my cash on arrival from a cash machine using my Visa Delta debit card, which gives you the best rates - much better than the tourist rates charged by retail outlets.

At places like American Express and Travelex, watch for the spread - the difference between the buy and sell rates. They can be very broad and if you're organised, buy a small amount of currency at the institution offering the smallest spread/best rates and don't be swayed by a "guaranteed buyback", for which they'll charge you. That's in effect an expensive way to hedge against changes in the exchange rate. For the small(ish) amounts that you'll be changing, it's not worth it. The pound is unlikely to move enough to make paying that fee the cheaper option.

  Kate B 21:18 31 Jan 07

Just to add that the rate you're quoting is the money-market rate; ie the rate at which banks buy and sell currencies to each other. The tourist rate is less good and does, as you rightly suspect, take into account profits for the retail banking outlets selling you the currency.

  VNAM75 21:56 31 Jan 07

OK, thanks everyone.

  hastelloy 07:27 01 Feb 07

I never take currency or travellers cheques with me. I use ATMs and credit cards when there. Nationwide don't charge commission on these transactions so you get the exchange rate at the time of use and no extra charges - other Banks will charge commision. In Hong Kong there are plenty of ATMs - several in the airport.

  v1asco 14:37 01 Feb 07

The Post Office does not charge commission.

  Kate B 14:38 01 Feb 07

Watch the Post Office's rates and the spread, then. It's got to make money somewhere. You might be better buying from someone with a better rate who charges an upfront fee.

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