21 September 2011

Foreign money worries

Hooray! Somebody has noticed. The Independent website reports:

A consumer watchdog today issued a super-complaint to fair trade officers about the amount holidaymakers are paying for their foreign currency.

Consumer Focus wants the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to investigate what it believes is complex charging and poor information for travellers spending money abroad.

Consumer Focus said charges for using debit or credit cards overseas were unnecessarily complex and confusing.

It added that marketing phrases such as "0% commision" and "competitive exchange rates" were misleading.

It reckons that charges to customers for exchanging money are around £1 billion per year.

As a result of hard experience, for my day to day monetary purposes, I tend to bring out sterling (preferably in English notes) and change it at a local bucket shop cambio. They charge no commission but tend to knock between 2% and 3% off the central sterling-euro rate. For longer term needs, I use an on-line exchange agency (HiFx) to send euros to my Spanish account; the rate of exchange is not great, but it's a lot better than getting my bank to do it (£18 per transfer). At all costs, avoid changing money at the airport where you'll pay up to 7% or more off the central rate.

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