Essential Steps and Common Pitfalls of Currency Conversion

I see lots of people asking about travel cards/money and the best way to change over their moolah. There are so many good options without fees, so if you haven’t sorted that out yet you need to get onto it. But before you get to your ideal fee-less foreign currency delight you’ll probably need to go through these essential stages:

1. “I’ll just get cash before I go”

So you’re going to a sweet foreign destination but only have a standard UK bank account? I know, let’s get out some sweet poundage and change it into cash of another currency.
Key steps:

  • Badly estimate how much you’re going to spend on your trip.
  • Lose a bunch on the conversion and commission.
  • Fret about carrying all that cash.
  • Get rejected from catching the metro/bus as your note denominations are too big.
  • Wonder how you’re going to pull when you’re wearing a skin coloured money belt.

Overall travel guru level 1/5.

Fail but that’s okay, we’ve got a skin coloured money belt somewhere. I use mine to carry my keys when I go running these days.

2. “I’ll just use my card”

Man, carrying all that cash was burden last time. Due to my bad estimation I ran out anyway and just used my card. But hey, the fees weren’t that bad, a pound here and there. I’ll just use my card, it’s so much less hassle.

Key steps:

  • Mentioning how much easier card is versus cash.
  • Mentioning how the conversion fees are better than the hassle of cash.
  • Feeling better not carrying around a tonne of cash.
  • Swiping your card all over town like a desperado on Tinder.

Overall travel guru level: 2/5

It was easy and the fees were okay but then you analyse your spending for the 2016/17 financial year and realise you gave Lloyds £70 in foreign currency fees for no good reason and you could’ve used that money to fly to Milan and get the train to Lake Como, RETURN. It’s easy to get stuck in this stage and consider the fees as part of the cost of travel but you must push on, like Frodo towards Mordor but much easier than that. Go forth my friend.

3. Asking everyone on Facebook 

“Hi team, what’s the best account to avoid currency fees?”. “Where’s the best place to get Russian Rubles?”

Key step:

  • Ask your Facebook network to solve your currency dilemmas.

Travel guru level: 3/5

You’ve seen this a lot and you’ve been there too. I’ve asked 😮 You feel ashamed because you know so much more now but that’s okay, askers fuel content for this blog and you’re in search of improving the status quo.

4. “Guys, you should open an account like me, it’s the best!”

You realise it’s time to open an account that gives you free foreign transactions so you can access that sweet cash money anywhere without giving your big overlord bank some money.

Key steps:

  • At first I opened a Metrobank account which gives free transactions in Europe, then I leveled up to Monzo which has free transactions worldwide at the perfect MasterCard conversion rate. You basically can’t do better than that.
  • You can sign up to Monzo instantly on your phone, no proof of address etc. And you can manage your account from your phone. Best thing is all transactions are instant (none of this ‘pending’ BS which you get in the UK) which is great for keeping track of your money abroad when you’re not really 💯 on what you’ve spent in pounds. You can also freeze your card from your phone if it is lost or stolen. And unfreeze it again just as easy.
  • And there are others out there too, find one that suits you best. Revolut has been gaining traction recently, with them you can store other currencies on your card.

Travel guru level: 100/5 obviously.

You now feel like an international badass with your fluro-coloured card and fee-less, instantaneous, phone-run account.

En fin:

Hopefully you make it through all the stages, don’t get stuck at stage 2. I stayed there way too long *shakes head*. Those fees could’ve fueled other sweet getaways.
Last tip: don’t bust your gut trying to finish your foreign cash (especially euros) at the airport, that shrapnel can help you buy a bus/train ticket when you next arrive in a foreign destination.


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