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Shoppers price survey for money exchange with cross channel companies and in France –

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Changing money at Bureaux de Change

Buy online with Travelex – best rates for online orders.

Pre-paid charge cards / Currency cards


April 2012 – At last rates are getting better for U.K. shoppers. Today (27th April) they are higher than they have been for three years. With ever cheaper fares, there is now every reason to travel frequently across the channel.

May 2010 – Here is what we got or could have got had we ordered cash in advance for a day-trip on the 26th. Pre-ordered travelex 1.1308, Travelex on board PO Ferries 1.11, HSBC debit card 1.1416, Mastercard (John Lewis) 1.1407, Bureau de Change Calais 1.1013. The debit or credit cards win.

Changing money in France is often confusing and expensive – here is our advice. Strict money laundering laws, make the experience of exchanging cash a challenging experience. Large amounts of money?

There is still a need for cash though, especially when shopping where many of the Calais wine and beer and Adinkerke tobacco shops accept Sterling and at very good exchange rates. With the pound yo-yoing up and down (mostly down) shoppers need to be extra careful. Credit cards are often the best way of paying for goods in Euroland offering a marginally better rate, but remember cash withdrawals incur charges.

When travelling abroad it is essential to consider beforehand how much you will need for cash, credit card and travel card purchases. Most people rely on a combination of the three. It is no longer necessary to carry wads of cash, as travel currency cards are safe and cheap to use, and easily stopped if stolen, your money safe in your account.

The exchange rate we quote on the right of our pages is from Travelex ( ). In general the rates are not the best available if you just exchange at the ports, but if you pre-order the rates are very good. Indeed Travelex aim to be the best value online supplier of currency. Buying currency at the point of departure is not sensible. For example in early December 2008 you would have got 1.14 euro to the pound if you pre-ordered which was also commission free (which you could then pick up at the port). At the port (Dover) you got just 1.06 and that did not include a £3 commission charge for values up to £250. In other words you get about 5% more if you pre-order online. In terms of convenience Travelex are a great help, with shops at most ports and airports.

Remember to consider two things when buying currency – the rate offered and the commission charged.

Although convenience is an important factor, with a bit of preparation your pounds can stretch that bit further. Avoid changing money back to Sterling, this usually offers poor value. Use your cash up first, and if you need more, rely on your credit or debit card. Bear in mind that Bank's impose a usage fee if you use their cards abroad, usually up to 2.75%. Some even charge a "cash withdrawal fee" as well. Try and get into the habit of buying and then using a travel card. Although you must load it with cash up front, there are no fees thereafter, and you can top it up, online or over the phone.

With exchange rates dropping an alarming 25% against the dollar and the euro over the last few years, shoppers need to plan their journeys with care. With sensible planning you can mitigate the very bad exchange rates we are now experiencing, currently just above a 16 year low. Since Sterling peaked against the Euro in January 2007 it has lost over a third of its value.

January 2010 – The recent rise in the value of the Pound is good news for shoppers. However many agents quote prices in sterling and few pass on the new savings to their customers. We therefore advise travellers booking hotels in particular to opt for the euro rate when making a reservation (the default may be sterling but this can usually be changed. It is also a good time to buy currency as most analysts seem to suggest Sterling will plateau at 1.15 euro and then fall back.

Ask for smaller denomination euro notes – we hear shoppers are having trouble using 100, 200 and 500 euro notes when shopping.

Avoid airline credit and debit card charges – use a pre-paid charge card.

Loads of money? You must now declare it to Customs

Best Buys (All the best buys); If you are changing money, particularly small amounts, the Bureau de Change in the centre of Calais offers a good deal.

Pounds slides – should we join the euro? The slow decline of the Pound Sterling over the years is worrying. This table shows how much it has slide over the last few years. Bear in mind that when the Euro started £1 bought you about 1 euro 50 cents.

One euro equals 6.5596 (FF's) When you get . . . (* rate at 1st January 2008)
Euro to the £ Sterling You get £ to the euro Which = Francs
1.525 0.6562 10.000
1.500 0.6667 9.839
1.400 0.7143 9.183
* 1.289 0.7758 8.455
1.200 0.8333 7.872
1.143 0.8746 7.500
1.000 1.0000 6.560

The decline of Sterling this past year (click graph to enlarge)

Useful link.

Latest pound vs euro graph and rates – currency converter

Latest currency news.

CREDIT CARDS – we suggest you ring your credit card company before shopping in France – increased fraud means they are turning down shoppers cards if their spending deviates from the norm. Take your mobile – you can often sort the problem out over the phone.


Whilst every care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of these surveys, and has carried out considerable in depth research, they should be seen as a guide only and not definitive. Watch out for minimum commission charges – remember if the minimum charge (£3.00 for example) is more than the commission rate advertised you will have to spend more than £100 to get the 2% commission rate advertised. We did a survey of places where day-trippers going to Calais, France, are most likely to change money – here's what we found (survey date 13/07/01). Other currency rates. European Central Bank Latest Rates – latest rates.

Survey of Bureau de Change, changing money and prices in Calais, France

The exchange rate at the bureau in Calais is once again the best, particularly for smaller amounts (under £100), as they do not charge commission.

Bureau 5, Rue Royale. Tel: 0033 321 97 72 66 Open: 9am – 6pm.

Avoid onboard or port / airport bureau unless you are really desperate.

The ferry rates have increased quite dramatically – minimum charge up from £2.50 to £3.00 and 2.00 to 2.75% commission. Once again we recommend the Bureau de Change in the centre of Calais, one of the few places where you can exchange cash nowadays.

The Travelex exchange bureau after passport control has not previously offered a good rate, although the difference is marginal. 0% commission and the best price foreign currency.

Cash Machines

Our advice? For smaller amounts go to the Bureau de Change in Calais. For large amounts go to the Bank or Post Office. For safety and one of the best rates, use your credit card.

If you are spending longer away and will be spending more, the following advice in general applies when getting the best rates; 1) Best rate overall – getting foreign currency before you go, closely followed by 2) Travellers cheques, which offer greater security. Using Cards at Cash machines abroad offer good value and are practical and safe – they come in at 3) Debit Cards and then 4) Credit Cards. Simply using your cards in the shop is marginally worst, but the difference is small overall, and the convenience factor high (no cash to carry around or be left with, safety).

The old Continent (now Carrefour) offers a good rate nowadays. Cité Europe shoppers get a raw deal at Carrefour though – if you go to the smaller branch at Centre Mi-voix (the old Continent) you get 1.7% more for your money.

Ordering currency online

Some tips from Online FX

Best Rates – Next Working Day Delivery to Your Door – Commission Free

Place your order before 12.30pm and your money will be delivered by fully insured special delivery by 1.00pm the next working day.

Delivery note: Orders received before 12.30pm on Friday will be delivered the following Monday. Orders received after 12.30pm Friday or placed on Saturday and Sunday, will be delivered the following Tuesday. Special arrangements for Bank Holidays will be advertised on the site at the time.

You can add multiple currencies/travellers cheques to your shopping basket at step-3 in the order process.

Travel Money Services – Online FX specialises in selling foreign currencies and traveller's cheques. Our travel money service offers commission free currency at highly competitive rates.

Avoid the queues, unnecessary journeys and order your travel money from the comfort of your own home or office. Then let our speedy next working day delivery service to take over to ensure your money arrives at your door safely.

There is absolutely no service fee or commission on the currency exchange transaction. There is a £4.95 handling fee to cover the cost of delivery and insurance.

Payment can be made securely over the Internet with any card bearing the Debit Cards, Delta, Visa, MasterCard logo or by cheque, chaps, swift.

We also supply commission free, American Express Travellers Cheques, with the peace of mind offered by free insurance against theft and loss and a 24-hour replacement service

Using Credit Cards and Cash Machines abroad

Whilst paying for goods at shops with a credit card remains one of the best options, withdrawing money not always so. For example HSBC Mastercard charge 1.5% or £1.50 which ever is the greater and load (charge you more) the exchange rate by 2.75%. However they claim to have access to more favourable exchange rates so these charges are mitigated.

Travel or currency cards

Travel cards are increasingly popular. You buy the currency beforehand which is loaded onto a card which you can then use to draw money out when abroad. The card looks and acts like a credit card. The main advantages are; they are accepted worldwide, there are no bank charges, they are PIN protected, and they are easily loaded and reloaded. Additionally, foreign banknotes are unlikely to be insured while replacement of cash or cards can take weeks and require payment of hefty international delivery fees. You can cancel your travel card immediately.

They can save consumers up to 10% on their travel currency and up to 5% on the cost of using United Kingdom debit/credit cards.

Travel cards provide the user with great value, convenience and security and work like a debit card. They are prepaid, and you need to order your card before you travel, allowing 7 to 10 days for delivery, or top it up if you already have one (it can be used again and again). This can usually be done via the internet wherever you are.

Most cards have no ATM withdrawal fees, transaction fees, monthly fee but many do have an application fee

The cards are generally provided by Mastercard, with the broker holding the account for you. This illustration (June 2009) from FairFx shows the rates available.

Loads of Money?

From June 15th 2007, the European Union now imposes controls on travellers with 10,000 euro or more in cash (about £7,100).

This new regulation is seeking to deal with the crackdown on money laundering. Travellers are required to make a declaration to customs authorities before they leave and on arrival.

If you fail to declare your cash, you may under the new rules be searched (both you and your luggage). HMRC may fine you up to £5,000 if undeclared cash is found.

Under the new regulations, cash is defined as travellers cheques, money orders, and cheques, in addition to bank notes and coins.

Which shop gives the best rate?

Regular shoppers know that paying sterling cash for tobacco saves you a few percent more as most shops give a very favourable exchange rate for sterling cash.

The wine and beer shops also discount their sterling rates, although not as generously as the tobacco shops.

However we strongly advise you to check that the rate displayed is the one you would pay at the check out.

In March 2009 when we visited many of the Calais stores this is what we found to be the rate available for sterling cash purchases. The rate on board the ferry was 1.08 euro per pound.

PIDOU – 1.12 euro

Wine and Beer Warehouse – 1.10 euro

Oddbins (now Calais Wine Superstore) – 1.08 euro

Auchan Hypermarket – 1.03 euro

Carrefour Cite Europe – 1.05 euro

However rates change daily, in December for example Auchan were offering a superb 1.13 euro when the rate on board was just 1.03 euro per pound.

Our advice? Take sterling cash, check the rate on board and if the shop rate is higher, pay cash. Otherwise use your credit card.

Many shops set their rates at the beginning of the month, and can therefor either end up offering good rates or poor ones, compared with the prevailing rate on the day.

Transferring money abroad or buying currency cards for holidays

Using a broker is usually the cheapest way of doing this. High street banks generally have high service charges as well as charging a commission. You will need to set up an account however. When filling in the form you will need to provide your IBAN number and SWIFT CODE. It is important you get it right, use the links below to check yours.

Banks can charge upwards of £25 just to transfer your money, and they can also charge commission and make overseas delivery charges.

It is possible to check rates and track progress of payments with many companies. Caxton FX's FastPay service only offers bank-beating exchange rates and no transfer fees.

February 2010 – Transfer charge Total (Based on 3 separate transactions). Information provided by Caxton Fx. Caxton FX No charge 0 Barclays Priority (1-3 days) £40, Standard (3-5 days) £25 £120. Lloyds TSB Under £5k – £20 £60, Over £5k – £35 £105. Halifax £19.50 £58.50. HSBC £30 £90. Santander £25 £75.

currency solutions – Currency Solutions.


– SWIFT code checker.

– Check the current rate for the currency you wish to transfer.

– Travelex.

baydon currency – Baydon Hill.

– CaxtonFx Currency cards.

currencies direct – Currencies Direct.

foreign currency direct – Foreign Currency Direct. Latest currency news.

eurochange – Eurochange.

fairfx currency – Fairfx. fairfx

– First Rate Fx.

– Halewood International Foreign Exchange (HIFX Ltd), Mistress Pages House, High Street, Windsor. Berks. SL4 1LD. Tel: 01753 859 159.

hifx exchange

ICE International Currency Exchange – International Currency Exchange.

ICE International Currency Exchange – Moneybookers U.K. Send money worldwide with Moneybookers – instant, low-cost and secure. Just 0.50 euro fee. Send now.

– Moneycorp.

– Onlinefx.

– Personal Fx.

– Post Office.

– World First, good for larger transfers.

2009 Which? Survey

Which? magazine did a very comprehensive survey in April 2009.

Their survey suggests holidaymakers are losing as much as 10% of their spending money when they change their cash at airport bureaux such as Travelex.

They checked exchange rates at 21 providers. The cost of buying 500 euro ranged from £461 at Eurochange, which has a network of high-street shops, to £507.84 at an airport branch of Travelex.

Which? Money checked the exchange rates at banks, bureaux de change and travel agents on the high street and online on six different dates. It found costs varied by almost £50 between the least expensive and the most expensive providers. Airport bureaux de change such as TTT, American Express and Travelex tend to charge commission and therefore offer the worst value for money.

The Post Office offered good rates for people buying online, but not for those buying at a branch. Using the wrong card for spending can be costly. Most card transactions abroad incur a "foreign exchange loading fee" typically between 2.75% and 3% as well as a withdrawal fee for taking out cash.

Airport and ferry shops are more expensive because they have to be staffed, and need to carry a lot of currency for last minute shoppers. They do offer convenience though.

0% commission deals should be avoided as the rates offered can be very poor. Selling your currency back to the shop is also a bad idea, as you will lose out.

Our advice? Be prepared before your journey and order online.

Full article.

Useful Outside links

rip off britain – Rip-off United Kingdom.

Find an ATM where you are going – Visa.


List of ATM's in France (and elsewhere).

Foreign currency purchase

Currencies, European Central Bank.

Graph showing decline of Sterling over the last 10 years.

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