Buying currency from an airport is the MoneySaver’s equivalent of filling up a petrol car with diesel – it’ll seriously damage your financial engine.
I somehow resisted the temptation to stop the poor souls queuing for cash at a jam-packed Luton Airport bureau on Saturday morning from throwing much of their hard-earned cash into the mitts of profiteering airport operators.
The image below shows the financial carnage awaiting – as this bureau offered only a smidgeon more than €1 to £1 and a derisory $1.15 to £1. This on a day when you could’ve got €1.17 or $1.31 via the top credit cards.
There have been stories in recent weeks of some airports giving slightly under €1 to the pound. While the rates above weren’t quite as dreadful, they were still horrid.
For many of those queuing for cash, even if they’d had an expensive debit or credit card, they’d have been better off using it to take out cash at an ATM abroad.
Take the mega-expensive Halifax Reward debit card. It charges a 2.75% commission and a £1.50 fee for cash withdrawals, so taking out €100 with it abroad on Saturday would have cost about £89. Yet at Luton airport it would have cost about £99.
How to get the best currency rates
The top credit cards are the cheapest way to spend abroad, as you get the best possible exchange rate and no extra fees. Find the best via our Cheap Travel Money guide.
While they’re cheapest when making purchases, they’re usually still the best way to take out cash, though you will be charged interest until it is paid off. Do that as quickly as possible to minimise costs.
If you desperately need cash before setting off, check rates online via our TravelMoneyMax comparison tool. You can sometimes get a good deal by ordering cash online to pick up at the airport, even though buying at the airport is a financial car crash.
These tricks will help you avoid the spitworthy rates I witnessed on Saturday.