A really painful way to ruin an otherwise well-budgeted US trip is to discover you have lost out unnecessarily on overseas card fees or bad exchange rates – a bad choice here could cost you as much as a massive extra 10% – so take heed.
Use your UK card in the US
UK cards are accepted in every US state so in terms of safety and convenience, paying with a card trumps carrying wads of dollar notes every time. Make sure you research your card’s overseas charges though – between ATM fees and interest charged by your bank, spending and withdrawing money overseas on your normal debit or credit card can get expensive, fast.
If you have a good credit rating, you could look into getting a specialist credit card for your trip. These normally have very low to no overseas usage fees. Only go down this route, though, if you know you will pay off your bill in full at the end, as interest rates can eat up any savings dangerously quickly.
Of course, a quick and easy way to avoid the costs of spending money in the US is to get your hands on a free WeSwap prepaid travel card, accepted everywhere in the US. There are no charges to spend, you’ll get the best US dollar exchange rates available (the same one the banks pay) and you’ll also avoid the obvious risks related to carrying around large sums of cash.
Buy Dollars in advance (or in our case, swap)
On the whole, cards are cheaper and more secure than cash so we wouldn’t recommend taking your whole holiday budget in notes. But if you’d like to have some cash in your pocket, you will almost always get a much better deal if you change your money in the UK, rather than when you get to the US.
There’s a bit of myth that it’s cheaper to get dollars once you get there, but so far we have found no evidence to suggest that that is true. For one, the travel money market is much less established in the US compared to the UK, so there is simply less competition driving down rates. Also, once you’re in the US you are basically a captive customer so they have no reason to reduce their prices).
We’d say better not to risk it – you can get exceptional rates in the UK anyway, so shop around and seal a great exchange rate before you go.
Monitoring FX charts helps with timing
Lastly, if you are really serious about getting the best rate on your dollars, begin to track the FX Charts in the months leading up to your trip to gain an understanding of exchange rate trends.
If they hit something like a ‘three-month high’ you’re onto a good thing and it would be a good time to exchange your pounds.
For guidance on everything from average hotel prices to the complexities (or simplicities) of tipping, check out our article ‘Spending Money in the USA: The Ultimate Guide’.
Words by WeSwap, the clever new way to get travel money that’s up to 10 times cheaper than banks, bureaux or airports. Get five friends signed up, get free currency exchange for life.