Do you have an international trip coming up? If so, you may be concerned about just how much you’re going to spend. Spending money is becoming a big issue for many travellers in 2022, considering the way prices have been rising around the globe.
Chances are that you started planning for this holiday with a fixed budget. You found the perfect flights as early as possible and booked them for a low price. You organised all of your accommodation. Maybe you even paid for a day tour or two in advance. The rest of your budget you assigned to spending money for food, activities, getting around the city or town, and gifts and souvenirs.
The problem is that the past few months have not only seen massive inflation at home, but have also seen even worse inflation elsewhere. Your spending money may no longer be enough.
High costs and shortages have led to additional expensive problems for travellers. Spain’s taxi driver shortage – caused largely by the unaffordability of petrol – has left tourists scrambling to find alternative options, many of which are far more expensive. If you’re visiting Sri Lanka, fuel shortages may mean you won’t be able to get around in a rental car and will have to pay a premium for any kind of transport.
If you’re lucky, you can increase your budget for your trip. But even so, you’ll be wanting to save on any unnecessary expenses. One of the expenses you can actually cut is what you pay for every financial transaction while abroad.
The cost of paying for things abroad
Whenever you travel in a foreign country, you have to deal with exchange rates that are constantly fluctuating. Inevitably, you end up finding a simple calculation to estimate the cost of things before you pay. Even if you have a good grasp of mathematics, the price is going to change day after day. A ten euro sandwich may cost you more tomorrow than today, simply because of exchange rates.
This can lead you to paying for things you otherwise would have gone without. A cute souvenir that you estimate will cost you a couple of pounds might be a different story altogether if you knew the actual exchange rate.
There is also the matter of transaction fees. Every transaction using your debit or credit card abroad requires foreign exchange services. Generally, the fee is worked into the exchange rate given to you, so you don’t see it reflected as a quantifiable amount on your statement. The amount you pay for currency exchange ends up being significantly more than you realise.
Back in the day, we would have solved this problem by purchasing travellers’ cheques or getting cash exchanged at an agency. However, we are long past using cash as our main means of payment. Fortunately, there is an alternative.
Saving with a multi-currency card
You may not have heard of a multi-currency card before. Basically, it is a debit card that links to an account that stores money in multiple currencies. You can use it as a primary account in the UK, and as a currency travel card when you go abroad.
This is somewhat similar to exchanging currency in the old-fashioned way. Instead of buying banknotes, you are transferring money into your own account. You change whatever you plan on using into the foreign currency and pay for things using your card.
This is actually a lot cheaper than foreign exchange counters. Whereas those services tend to give you an unfavourable rate in order to make money off your exchange, multi-currency cards are provided by some of the best money transfer companies around. These companies have made a name for themselves by providing cheap currency transfers at the best exchange rates.
Using a multi-currency card also makes it easier to stick to your budget. Rather than transactions appearing on your bank statement in pounds, you can track exactly how much spending money you have left in foreign currency. When buying food and other basics, you don’t need to constantly convert the cost of each item into pounds.
If you’re looking for the best multi-currency card for your travels, try the following options.
Using the Wise multi-currency account
People who regularly transfer money internationally are familiar with the name Wise. The company is one of the pioneers of the money transfer company startup boom and is trusted by millions around the world. In addition to their regular transfer services, Wise offers a multi-currency account and card. This card is able to hold money in 50 different currencies.
Wise is a great option because they have consistently innovated to provide the best technology. Transferring money into your multi-currency account is quick and easy to do online or through their app.
For people who run ecommerce websites and sometimes sell to buyers overseas, you can use a Wise account to receive payments from most payment portals, then keep those funds for your travels. This way, you never have to worry about exchange rates.
Wise is also useful because you can easily transfer money to a friend or family member who is using a multi-currency account. So, if you want to give your kids some cash to spend, or if you want to pay a friend back for a bill they covered, you can make a quick transfer.
Using the Revolut multi-currency account
If you’re looking for an alternative to Wise, you may have heard the name Revolut. Revolut is another money transfer company, which you can actually use as an online bank or neobank. You can use your Revolut account to do everything from receiving and making payments to starting your investment portfolio. They also have a multi-currency account with a debit card.
Revolut’s multi-currency card works similarly to Wise’s, and it is innovating in the field. Excitement around the company has led to a huge amount of popularity. If you have money in cryptocurrencies, you can actually use it through Revolut.
However, there are reasons to avoid this company. They have been involved in well-publicised scandals, and their cryptocurrency offerings aren’t regulated by the FCA. They also have a fair number of customer complaints, even if the majority of reviews are positive.
Using a Post Office travel card
For those people looking for a trustworthy and ‘safe’ travel card, the Post Office may seem like the perfect option. After all, the institution has been around far longer than just about any other business. However, the Post Office’s money transfer capabilities are not actually operated by the UK Post Office. Rather, it is a white-label service operated by Western Union.
The reviews for the Post Office currency account are not good. Users have complained about high fees, a lack of transparency, and bad exchange rates. In other words, they are everything you are trying to avoid.
Which multi-currency card is cheapest?
Since you’re looking to save money, your decision will take cost into account more than any other factor. As such, the Post Office is not going to be the solution for you, as you’ll just end up paying more.
When it comes to Wise and Revolut, you are going to struggle to separate them based on cost. Each of these companies are renowned for providing the best exchange rates with a lot of transparency. You will only end up spending the money you plan to spend.
Since you have to choose one option, Wise is the safest in terms of reputation. Revolut is a company that is on the up, but they have not yet proven their trustworthiness, especially considering the bad press they have received. Wise has consistently gotten great press and has many devoted fans.
Travelling this year is going to be different, as you grapple with just how much more expensive everything is. However, by cutting down on exchange rate and transaction fees, you can mitigate some of the damage.