Mindful Money
May 18, 20203 min read

Planning a post-lockdown getaway? Get the most out of your cash overseas.

Carl Hazeley portrait

by Carl Hazeley

Lockdown may have brought jet-setters and globetrotters back down to earth for the last few months, but the world is already starting to perfect the art of travel in the time of coronavirus. If you’re itching to get going and already planning for that post-lockdown getaway, when you finally do achieve liftoff, make sure you get the most out of your trip with our top tips on overseas spending.

Get to grips with exchange rates. Based on global supply and demand, the amount of one currency that another can buy fluctuates. For example, back in 2008 £1 would buy $2 – but in 2020, £1 is worth just $1.30. Timing your vacations based on exchange rates can help save money: lots of tourists flooded to the UK after Brexit led to a collapse in the value of the pound, because it meant cheaper trips for everyone else.

Don’t buy currencies at the airport. Airports are one of the worst possible places to change your money – they know that you’re desperate, so they give you a dismal exchange rate. If you want to make sure you land with cash in your pocket, get it sorted beforehand. Most cities will have currency bureaus where you can buy foreign cash, or you can order it online.

Be careful with cards. It’s highly likely that your credit and debit cards will charge you punitive fees if you use your card abroad. To avoid those, stick to cash – or look for a bank that has no-fee foreign spending. Be sure to read the small print though: some banks might not charge transaction fees but will still charge you to use an ATM.

Pay in the local currency. If you do find a fee-free card and start using it abroad, payment terminals will ask if you want to pay in the local currency or your currency. Always choose the local currency – the payment terminals will almost certainly give you a worse exchange rate than your own bank, costing you money.

Get insurance! If you get injured or have flights canceled, insurance can be a godsend: it’ll cover some of the costs and hopefully save your trip from total ruin. You can easily buy travel insurance online these days – but once again, read the small print carefully. Not all policies will cover you for all things, so check that yours does what you need it to: if you’re going skiing, for instance, you might need a specific policy.

Turn off roaming. Nothing sinks a vacation like getting a text from your phone provider with a whopping bill. To avoid that happening, make sure roaming is turned off on your phone before you take off: some planes now have in-flight 4G, which can cost a pretty penny. If you’re going to need your phone while abroad, look for a phone policy that includes free or low-cost roaming. And if you’re British, remember that free roaming across the EU may end for you after 2020 – check with your phone provider.