Money blog: Holiday money - experts share tips on cash v card, where and when to buy currency and other hacks (2024)

Weekend Money
  • Holiday money - where to buy it, how to avoid fees, and one thing you must not do
  • The supermarket olive oil that costs £5.19 and aced taste tests
  • Cinema adverts and Taylor Swift ticket prices - what you've been saying this week
  • A flatlining economy and mortgage rates hiked - top Money news this week
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Holiday money - where to buy it, how to avoid fees, and one thing you must not do

By Brad Young and Katie Williams, from the Money team

UK residents spend billions of pounds abroad each year, but it can be difficult to know how to make sterling go as far as possible.

With summer fast approaching, so too are the opportunities to splash out on holidays, so the Money team spoke with three travel experts to find out when, where and how to pay abroad.


"The cheapest way to spend overseas is often on plastic, if you've got the right plastic," said James Jones, head of consumer affairs at Experian.

"Using credit and debit cards can be a great way to get the very best exchange rates."

He said rates offered by currency exchange shops are usually "much less attractive" than those offered on some cards, which were much closer to the rates the banks use themselves.

Fees could wipe out any gains

But it's essential to be aware of things like non-sterling transaction fees, cash withdrawal fees and credit card interest.

So shop around for a card with travel rewards, Mr Jones said - and do this before your trip.

"You probably need to give yourself, ideally, six weeks."

Extra protection

When you book a trip between £100 and £30,000, try and pay for some of it on a credit card to get "extra protection" under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, said Mr Jones.

That means the card provider is jointly responsible with the retailer if something goes wrong, such as arriving at a hotel only to find it has closed down.

If you are using a credit card, make sure you are can pay it off in full to avoid interest charges, said Sean Tipton from the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).

One trap you must not falling into

An increasingly common trap when paying with card (credit or debit) is being presented with the option to pay in the local currency or in pounds, said Mr Jones and Mr Tipton.

While paying in sterling might "seem like a wonderful convenience" you will ultimately be paying "quite a bit more for the purchase", Mr Jones said.

If you pay in pounds, the local retailer's bank sets the exchange rate, but if you pay in the local currency, your UK bank sets the rate.


"Some service providers don't apply fees for overseas use on their regular UK debit cards," says Moneyfacts - but you must always check as some incur big fees.

Alternatively, "some service providers offer specialist travel debit cards that don't impose non-sterling transaction fees and cash withdrawal fees".


If you're looking to avoid a credit check, prepaid cards can be loaded with multiple currencies and work like a debit card, without being connected to your bank.

"Typically, prepaid travel cards will offer competitive or even no charges for foreign usage, which can make them a cheaper alternative to using a normal credit or debit card while on holiday," says MoneyFacts.

One of the most popular prepaid cards, Revolut, uses its own exchange rates, which might not always be the best you can find - and while it is fee free on weekdays, there are charges at weekends, so do your research.

Also be aware - prepaid cards do not offer purchase protection like a credit card and aren't regulated by theFinancial Conduct Authority.


"Don't rely solely on a card - it can backfire on you if you do," said Mr Tipton.

Some taxis only take cash, leaving you to face hefty charges withdrawing from an ATM.

In some countries, like Argentina, it can be difficult to get money out of ATMs without a local bank account, Mr Tipton said.

Mr Jones added: "If you're in a very remote part of the world that actually doesn’t have many ATMs and maybe where cash is king, then that might dictate what you need to do."

Where and when to get cash

"I'd strongly recommend [to] get some cash out in the UK," said Mr Tipton.

It can be difficult to find a bureau de change in some developing nations, and ATMs have "started introducing quite hefty charges" across the board, he said.

The exceptions are countries with really high inflation rates, where it may make more sense to get cash out when you arrive, he added.

When to exchange currency really depends on the destination, saidLaura Plunkett, head of travel money at the Post Office.

"Exchange rates change frequently, so if you have time, do your homework and lock in a rate when it is good."

What is a good exchange rate for Europe?

Some 80% of British holidays abroad take place in the Eurozone, said Mr Tipton.

The rate has remained "fairly stable", but if you see the pound increasing in value that may be the time to buy a larger amount of Euros for a couple of years in advance, he added.

Mr Tipton said 1.2 to the pound is a "pretty healthy" time to buy, but "it is a bit of a lottery".

Every year the pound gets stronger against the South African rand, and the same in Argentina, where the peso is "unbelievably weak", Mr Tipton suggested.

In store or online?

"Most online suppliers will insist on a minimum order value that might be too high for some people, and you'll have to make sure that you're home for when it's delivered," said Ms Plunkett.

"But typically, rates are better online if that's an option for you."


A flatlining economy and mortgage rates hiked - what you need to know from Money this week

As the election campaign continues, Rishi Sunak was likely hoping for signs of a strong economic bounceback this week to boost his efforts to win over voters.

But in what came as a blow to the prime minister, early official data released on Wednesday showed the UK economy has flatlined.

The Office for National Statistics said there was zero growth in April, after the economy recorded its fastest growth in two years from January to March.

Experts blamed a negative impact from wet weather, knocking both retail sales and construction output - but despite the emphasis on the hit from rain, the numbers were still a setback for Mr Sunak's key election argument that the economy is improving after successive hits from the COVID pandemic followed by the cost of living crisis.

Read more here...

The week also saw four major lenders hike their mortgage rates, with brokers declaring the market was "unseasonally bad" and its future was not looking bright

Barclaysupped a number of deals by 0.15%, whileTSBhas increased rates across their residential and Buy to Let ranges by up to 0.35%.

Smaller increases were announced byLeeds BuildingSociety, including a 0.6% hike on selected residential products and a 0.20% rise on some shared ownership products.

Clydesdale Bankopted for similar increases, upping its 95% LTV Five Year Fee and other fee fixed rate deals by 0.20%.


The supermarket olive oil that costs £5.19 and aced taste tests

Taste testers have revealed which olive oils are worth spending your money on, as prices have soared in the past few years.

Some premium olive oils cost as little as £2.50 for a 500ml bottle in 2022 - but now price tags have increased by up to 160%.

Which? used a panel of four independent experts to blind-taste and rate seven premium extra virgin olive oils and five branded options.

They picked out Aldi's Specially Selected Terra Di Bari Castel Del Monte Extra Virgin Olive Oil 500ml as a Which? Great Value product - meaning it offers great taste at a low price.

The product, which is priced at £5.19, came third overall in the blind taste test.

The consumer website also looked at how much olive oil prices have risen at supermarkets.

The Money team dug into this in March and found bacterial disease, criminal gangs, changing weather patterns and Brexit were all to blame for the dramatic rises (you can read more on this below).

Which? found the average price rise for premium own-brand olive oils was 57% between 2022 and 2024.

The highest increase was on Morrisons The Best Unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil 500ml, which increased in price by 88% from £4.00 to £7.50.

It also looked at price rises on branded olive oil over a three-year period.

Napolina Extra Virgin Olive Oil (500ml) was previously priced at £2.50 at Ocado but jumped to £9.50 - more than a threefold increase.

Meanwhile, Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil (500ml) at Asda more than doubled in price from £2.50 to £6.50 - a 160% increase.


Cinema advert wait times and Taylor Swift ticket prices - what you've been saying this week

Each week, we sift through hundreds of comments left by our readers in response to features and news in the Money blog.

This week, you were most interested in cinema advert wait times, healthy bread, Taylor Swift ticket prices and working from home abroad.

Let's start withnews reporter Narbeh Minassian's feature last weekend on what time you should actually arrive at the cinema...

Here's what you had to say:

Here's all you have to do - look at the time the movie ends according to the booking site; subtract the actual length of the movie and viola - the time the movie actually starts.

Top article on cinema ads. So irritating and getting longer


As regards adverts in cinemas - if you choose to skip them, have consideration for those who've sat waiting and don't want to see heads going past the screen or a herd of elephants marching up stairs after it's started. It's bad manners.


Not only parking fees are a consideration about timing, but also factoring in going to the toilet beforehand, as some films are very, very long these days, without adding on an extra half hour before one can reach the toilet!


We also had this question on our regular health feature, which runs on Fridays.

Is wholegrain seeded bread good for you or still high in sugar? Does sourdough come out better?


By way of an answer, check out Sunna Van Kampen's piece for the Money blog earlier this year...

Now on to Taylor Swift - with some punters disappointed after paying just under £700 for a ticket only to find their view... somewhat obstructed.

I've just seen the post regarding Taylor Swifts concerts in Edinburgh, with some prices going up to £680. In the current cost of living climate, why do companies still feel that it's OK to rip customers off with prices like that.

MK Mark

Is it not about time that people stop being so deluded? The performer is only a singer, a human, making money to fund her expensive lifestyle while others are suffering.


Finally, a word on working from home... from Thailand.

A glowing endorsem*nt from one of our readers...

I used to work in there in 2019. It's awesome to live and work there, weather is beautiful and money is good. As a foreigner from Britain you get special treatment everywhere you go, rent, food etc is all dirt cheap, you pretty much live like a king and £1 goes a long long way.

Tom herns


Welcome to Weekend Money

The Money blog is your place for consumer news, economic analysis and everything you need to know about the cost of living - bookmark

It runs with live updates every weekday - while on Saturdays we scale back and offer you a selection of weekend reads.

Check them out this morning and we'll be back on Monday with rolling news and features.

The Money team is Bhvishya Patel, Jess Sharp, Katie Williams, Brad Young and Ollie Cooper, with sub-editing by Isobel Souster. The blog is edited by Jimmy Rice.


Poundland rewards scheme to be rolled out across UK

Poundland has launched its rewards app in Scotland today - and Sky News understands it will be rolled out across the whole UK by the end of the year.

Shoppers at 62 stores in Scotland have been given access to the Poundland Perks programme, after it was trialled in 43 stores across Northern Ireland and the Isle of Wight.

It works by rewarding customers with points for every purchase they make in store.

The points can then be turned into reward vouchers that save them money.

Customers can also play on the app to earn prizes through a "spin to win" system.

Poundland's director of digital Tom Hill said: "Poundland Perks allows us to offer shoppers the chance to save, earn and play through their smartphone, making shopping with us even more fun.

"We're creating an app that's convenient and easy for people to use in store, with reward vouchers that help customers save even more."


Top 10 'impossibly unaffordable' cities in the world - and London isn't one of them

The 10 most unaffordable cities in the world have been revealed in an annual housing report.

With house prices soaring globally over the last year, Demographic International Housing Affordability report has created a new category - "impossibly unaffordable".

The majority of the most expensive locations were made up of cities in the US and Australia, but the top place is taken by Hong Kong.

London was found to be the least affordable city in the UK.

The report measures affordability using a price-to-income ratio of the average house price divided by the typical household income.

It has linked the rising prices to land use policies aimed at stopping urbanisation from spreading.

"The middle-class is under siege, principally due to the escalation of land costs. As land has been rationed in an effort to curb urban sprawl, the excess of demand over supply has driven prices up," the report stated.

"Moreover, rising house prices can be driven even higher by the attractive returns from speculative activity.

"The net effect is that land values and house prices have become skewed against the middle-class, whose existence depends upon the very competitive land market destroyed by the planning orthodoxy."


The many discontinued chocolate bars, crisps and sweets you want to see return...

Following news that Cadbury's is relaunching its Top Deck chocolate bar after 20 years (see our 11.00 post), we asked you what confectionary, crisps and general food products you wanted to return - and the response has, frankly, been overwhelming.

We've had hundreds and hundreds of suggestions, with many items being mentioned time and again, alongside some more obscure yearnings.

Here is a relatively small selection of your responses:

  • Cadbury's Spira
    Perhaps the most popular of the now discontinued chocolate bars among our readers, it was on sale from 1989 until 2005 - and has even spawned a Facebook page dedicated to demanding it is brought back. One reader, Craggers, said: "Spira was the best Cadbury's chocolate and it was best used as a straw with hot chocolate. It must be brought back surely!!" Daz74, meanwhile, simply said of the treat: "Two spiral, long bars of pure heaven."
  • Cadbury's Fuse
    Among the most requested items. One of those demanding it go back on sale, Alex, said: "I would love to see the return of the Fuse bar. Peanuts, raisins, biscuit and fudge, it was delicious!"
  • Cadbury'sAztec
    Discontinued in 1978, not all our readers will be old enough to remember this particular chocolate bar, although those who can are certainly enthusiastic. Berlingirl described it as an "exquisite combination of a Mars bar and a Milky Way".
  • Spangles
    A brand of boiled sweets produced by Mars Ltd from the 1950s until the 1980s, this was also a product that clearly evoked nostalgic longings among man readers - with Tommo Boy simply saying: "Yummy."
  • Texan
    Another chocolate bar that prompted lots of mentions despite being withdrawn from sale in 1984 (albeit with a brief revival by Nestle in 2005). Pablo from Padiham said: "It was surely the greatest confection ever created."
  • Bar Six
    Another nostalgic favourite, it was compared by some to the popular Kit-Kat. Lamenting its removal from shops, UkBulldog said: "My favourite from childhood."
  • Caramac
    Apparently only discontinued in 2023, the caramel-based confectionery clearly still elicits significant fondness. JoJoBear said: "It should never have been discontinued - as its unique taste and texture have never been replicated by any other bar!!!!" An even more dramatic statement was sent to us by Ben M, who said: "Life isn't worth living, without its sugary heaven!"
  • Dark chocolate Bounty
    We've included this because there were several mentions, although it apparently remains on sale in the UK, albeit seemingly in fewer outlets than in the past. This will be news to Shandy75, among others, who hailed it as "the best chocolate bar ever".
  • Again, we've had far too many suggestions to mention, some more obscure than others.

    They have included (but are certainly not limited to): Banjo bar, Rowntrees Tooty Frooties, Burtons Potato Puffs, Cadbury's Wispas mint, Cadbury's Boost coconut, Cadbury's Cream Teddy Bears, Birds Eye frozen cod balls in batter, Cadbury's Snowflake, Oxo flavoured crisps, Knorr micro noodles, Rowntrees Secret bar and Heinz toast toppers.

    Keep your suggestions coming, and we may well return to this theme in the future - and even attempt to establish if the various manufacturers have any plans to relaunch any more of your old favourites.

    • Which currently discontinued chocolate bar, crisps, sweets - or any other food product - would you like to see brought back, and why? Let us know in the comment box at the top!


    UK gamers could be entitled to up to £44 each following £656m lawsuit

    The cost of playing video games has shot up in the last two decades - but now some UK gamers could soon be entitled to a little cash back.

    Valve Corporation, the owner of the Steam PC gaming platform, has been accused of using its market dominance to overcharge 14 million UK gamers and is being sued for £656million.

    The legal claim, which has been filed at the Competition Appeal Tribunal, in London, alleges Valve forces game publishers to sign up to price parity obligations that prevents titles being sold at a lower price on rival platforms.

    It claims that Steam charges an "excessive commission" of up to 30% that has led to UK consumers paying too much.

    As many as 14 million PC gamers in the UK could have been affected and it claims that, if the lawsuit is successful, they could be entitled to up to £44 each.

    "We've seen gaming explode in popularity over the recent years – and it plays such an important role in connecting people and building positive life skills, particularly for children and young people," said digital rights campaigner Vicki Sholtbolt, who filed the claim.

    "So it's not good enough that gaming consumers are being taken advantage of and charged over the odds.

    "I am bringing this claim on behalf of gamers and their parents to stop this unlawful conduct and help people get back what they are owed."

    The claim says people could be eligible for compensation if they purchased a PC game or add-on content from 5 June 2019 on any platform.

    The claim is backed by legal firm Milberg London LLP, which brings group action cases against large companies.

    Among Steam's best-selling titles as of June 2024 are Apex Legends, Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX, Elden Ring and Helldivers 2.

    Sky News has approached Valve for comment.


    House prices now expected to stagnate this year

    House prices are expected to stagnate this year, a well-respected forecaster has said.

    Capital Economics initially predicted property prices to rise by 2%, but believes 0.5% growth is now more likely, according to The Times.

    Its prediction comes amid softer buyer demand due to the rising cost of living and a volatile mortgage market.

    "This softening in demand has come at the same time as the most significant sustained increase in supply since 2013, aside from when the housing market reopened after lockdown," Andrew Wishart, senior UK economist at Capital Economics tells the news outlet.

    However, he adds that the market could move to "a state of excess supply" in the coming weeks, which could cause prices to dip.

    Last week, Halifax released data that showed house prices in the UK dropped by 0.1% between April and May.

    Analysts had expected a drop of around 0.2%, while last week, rival lender Nationwide said its measure of house prices rose in May after falling in the previous two months.

    In the 12 months to May, prices rose by 1.5%, Halifax said - faster than the median forecast in a Reuters news agency poll for an annual increase of 1.2%.

    "Market activity remained resilient throughout the spring months, supported by strong nominal wage growth and some evidence of an improvement in confidence about the economic outlook," Halifax's head of mortgages, Amanda Bryden, said.

    The stable picture for property prices over the last three months was likely to give more confidence to buyers and sellers, she added.

    Money blog: Holiday money - experts share tips on cash v card, where and when to buy currency and other hacks (2024)


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