How to beat obscene currency exchange rates and get top value from leftover cash

MILLIONS returning from holidays abroad face the biggest swindle in travel – obscene exchange rates for £2.5billion of overseas currency brought home.

The annual foreign cash mountain has grown too big because two in three of us come home with leftover notes, averaging almost £100 worth of currency for each traveller, exchange firm WeSwap said.

Sun Money last week exposed pricey rates for Brits trading pounds for other currencies as many headed overseas.

But if you thought the commission for buying foreign notes was bad, wait until you see the rates some exchange offices are charging for buying leftover overseas cash.

UK airport bureaus keep up to £21 of every £100-worth of currency changed into pounds, while high street outlets charge up to 15 per cent.

But ordering pounds in advance or paying £5 for guaranteed buy-back rates slashes costs to five per cent or less.

Posting cash — by insured delivery — or using peer-to-peer exchanges can cost as little as one per cent.

And, don’t forget, you can avoid fees altogether by swapping overseas currencies for sterling with family and friends going abroad.

Or keep excess currency for your next trip — you could effectively lose money, but likewise you could gain.

MoneySavingExpert.com said: “Exchange rates selling currency are often terrible. Make sure you compare rates and ways to exchange.”

Here’s how to beat the biggest rip-off in travel.

Post

Send cash — insured by £6.85 Royal Mail Special Delivery — to specialist exchange houses such as Currency Online Group.

You pay as little as one per cent. Everyone in Britain can do this, not just those living near a bureau office.

POTENTIAL LOSS: per £100-worth of overseas currency (compared to ‘interbank’ rate): £1 (+ £6.85 postage)

Buy-back from bureau

When you buy overseas cash, some bureaus let you pay a fee, around £5, guaranteeing a better rate to sell back leftover notes.

But buy-back rates vary. Travelex is good as you get the full exchange rate, but Asda only gives the rate at which you bought currency, which typically loses five per cent.

POTENTIAL LOSS: £5-10 per £100

High street

You will be stung by up to a giant 15 per cent if you walk into a UK bank or bureau and sell overseas currency.

Travelex was charging 12 per cent on Thursday, exchanging 1.33 euros for £1. The official rate is 1.18 — but ordering online in advance and collecting at a bureau cuts costs.

POTENTIAL LOSS: £15 per £100

UK arrival airport

Kiss goodbye to over £1 in every £5 if you change back currency at the airport.

International Currency Exchange said it was exchanging a whopping 1.50 euros for £1 at Stansted Airport this week — losing 21 per cent on the full Euro rate of 1.18.

Travelex rates were 1.43 at Heathrow.

POTENTIAL LOSS: £21 per £100

Overseas

You will not usually get better rates if you exchange your foreign notes for sterling before you come home. Expect to lose six per cent at a high street bureau abroad, and 15 per cent at airports.

Ordering pounds in advance and collecting at a bureau will give you better value.

POTENTIAL LOSS: £6-15 per £100

Peer-to-peer

You want to get rid of your overseas cash, but someone else needs foreign notes.

There are online firms such as WeSwap.com who marry the parties together — and you only pay one to two per cent.

WeSwap said: “Travellers save up to 90 per cent by swapping currencies with each other.”

POTENTIAL LOSS: £1-2 per £100

Friends and family

Neighbours going to Europe next week? Sell them your euros at 100 per cent of the rate — you get commission-free pounds and they get no-fee currency.

Visiting family abroad? Leave your unused cash with them — then give them the same value in pounds when they next come to see you in the UK.

POTENTIAL LOSS: £0 per £100

Swapping notes key for Colin

EXPERIENCED travellers Colin Whiting and wife Pam avoid bad rates for leftover currency by exchanging with family – at full value.

The couple, from Wandsworth, South London, also keep a Euros kitty for future trips, and avoid having leftover money in less common currencies.

Retired civil servant Colin, 70, who has cycled in Europe and Cuba and also visited Peru and Ethiopia, said: “Rates are bad to change back currency, so we swap some Euros for pounds with my sister-in-law, and keep the rest for the next trip.

“We are careful not to come back with any unusual currencies, as we’d lose money exchanging them.”

Retired teaching assistant Pam, 68, who has two children with Colin – twins Paul and Helen, 40 – said: “We never change leftover currency at the airport when we return, as the rates are so poor.”

Keep for future holiday

One in four Brits do this. If the pound weakens, it means you effectively gain money by keeping overseas currency.

But if the pound strengthens, you lose — as you would have got more foreign cash for your sterling by buying it at the time of your next trip.

Keeping currency only works if you will return to the countries that use it.

POTENTIAL GAIN/LOSS: Varies.

And don't forget… donate to charity

Throw your leftover currency in the charity collection bag on your flight home.

Hundreds of millions of pounds have been donated in this way.

EasyJet alone has raised a massive £14million for UNICEF Change For Good.

POTENTIAL LOSS: All of it – but for a good cause.

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