Top tips to stretch your travel money

With our personal finances under so much pressure, holidays have become a real treat and we need to make every penny count.

Unfortunately there are countless ways to blow your hard-earned cash on holiday, so how can you avoid common pitfalls and stretch your budget further?

We all know that planning ahead is a wise move. With busy lives it can be too easy to leave everything to the last minute. Yet with research from showing that buying your currency in advance can save up to £9 in every £100 of currency, it really makes sense get your finances in order before you jet off.

Here, the online comparison site shares tops to make the most of your travel money this summer.

Buy currency online
Buying your currency in advance online will boost your holiday budget more than grabbing it at the aiport. For example, buying €1,000 in advance through Online FX would cost £892.46, while purchasing last minute through Travelex at Heathrow would cost £949.31 - a difference of £57. Order cash online with free delivery and no commission.

Order in advance
If you're too late to buy online, try the Post Office or a high street travel agent, which should be the next best option, rather than your normal bank. If you're too late for this, order in advance over the phone or online and pick up at the relevant airport bureau de change - both Travelex and Thomas Cook offer this service.

Consider pre-paid card
Pre-paid cards are a good option as many do not charge for use abroad both on purchases and ATM use. They are free to take out and have no running costs. Unlike cash, should your card be stolen the funds will be protected. They can be topped up easily online or over the telephone. The current top pre-paid cards for use abroad are from FairFX and Caxton FX.

Use debit cards wisely
Using your debit card abroad is one of the easiest ways of accessing cash abroad but using the wrong card could add a chunk to each transaction. Find out how much your bank charges for overseas usage – many hit a minimum charge, typically £2-£3 on each transaction. Frequent travellers should consider opening a bank account with a debit card that doesn't charge any foreign usage fees.

Credit card caution
Credit cards also have charges for use outside of the UK, with fees of up to £45 based on five transactions of €200. Use the Halifax Clarity Credit Card or the Santander Zero Credit Card and €1,000 would cost just £870.91 as these cards have no charges for use abroad.

Most credit cards designed for overseas using may come with no ATM fees, but you will still be charged interest from the day you make the withdrawal. The exception is the Sainsbury's Gold Card which offers an interest free period on cash withdrawals, as long as you pay off the transaction in full at the end of the month.

Selling currency back
If you have money left over from your holiday, exchanging it back can be costly. Buy back rates are usually far lower than the selling rate. Some providers, such as Travelex and Thomson/First Choice retail shops offer a guaranteed buy back rate at the price you bought the currency, usually for a typical fee of £4.

With pre-paid cards, you can hold money for two years, so it may be worth holding any leftover money for future trips. Alternatively sell your spare currency back to friends and relatives heading to the same destination at the rate you bought it for - this will ensure you do not lose out.
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