When you go on a foreign holiday it is important to make sure that you have enough money of the local currency to take with you.
However as there are many different types of foreign currency available it can be difficult to know exactly what, and how much, of each type to carry.
Many travel experts advise you to take a variety of different forms of currency with you, or a ‘mixed wallet’ as they sometimes call it. This is good advice but it doesn’t give you any specific details.
So let’s start by looking at the different types of foreign currency that you can take and the benefits and disadvantages of each.
Usually the first option is cash, whether it’s Euros, Dollars or Pounds, cash is a simple and effective means of purchasing things when abroad. However carrying large amounts of cash is not very safe or secure, you could be robbed or lose your wallet, meaning that most if not all of your holiday money is gone. Also the exchange rates when you buy foreign currency are not the best and do not offer you very good value for money. For these reasons cash should only account for about 10-15% of your overall holiday funds. That way you can use the cash for small purchases and not be worried about carrying large quantities of cash around.
Perhaps the next option for travel money is a credit card. Credit cards are useful in that you can use them in most places and you don’t need to have the money in your bank beforehand. However, credit cards usually charge a high fee for transactions in a foreign currency, normally around 2.75%. Also you will be charged a cash withdrawal fee and possibly high interest rates. Therefore it is advisable to just take one credit card with you and only use it when absolutely necessary. A good use of your credit card would be for returnable deposits on accommodation and hire equipment or to purchase an expensive product that you want protection against in case of damage or faults.
Another common choice of holiday money is a debit card. Debit cards are useful as they are familiar, easy to use and can provide instant cash from an ATM. Unlike with a credit card, debit cards only allow you to spend what you have in your bank account so there is no danger of you overspending or having to pay high interest rates. Unfortunately they are like credit cards with regards to charging high fees for transactions in a foreign currency and for cash withdrawals. My recommendation for debit cards is that you only take one with you and that you are careful about how often you use it.
A less popular choice these days is Travellers Cheques. Travellers cheques are used as an alternative to cash but are more secure as they have your name printed on them and can often only be used when accompanied by a form of ID. However when you use Travellers Cheques you will still have to pay some fees, such as commission fees and handling charges. Also Travellers Cheques are usually purchased at one of the lowest exchange rates, making them poor value for money. As there are better travel money options around these days Travellers Cheques probably are not worth taking at all.
The final and newest option for taking money abroad is a currency card. This is a pre-paid card that is loaded with foreign currency from your bank account and then can be used much like a debit card abroad. The benefits of a currency card are that unlike credit or debit cards there are normally no foreign exchange fees, no transaction fees and only minimal cash withdrawal charges. Also currency cards offer the highest exchange rates, they can be topped-up at any time and they contain no personal information, making them fraud proof. These cards are perhaps the best option of travel money today and it is definitely worth taking one on your holiday and indeed using it as your main form of currency. There are now a number of providers of these currency cards and their fees and charges can differ greatly so you should make sure that you do some research and choose the best one for you.
By having a selection of different types of foreign currency you can be sure that you will have enough travel money to last you throughout your holiday.