Heading abroad on holiday? Lucky you - whether you’re heading to a beach or going on a city break, there’s nothing like getting away from the daily grind. However, no matter where you’re going, you’re still going to have to think about money.
Traditionally, people would head down to their local bank or post office before going on holiday, and buy a wad of foreign currency. That’s still a popular option - even though there are quite a few alternatives now, including simply using your debit card in foreign ATMs to withdraw cash, or using a multi-currency bank account and card.
What’s more, it isn’t just traditional banks that offer currency exchange. Asda may be better known as a supermarket, but Asda Money also offers a range of financial products, from loans to insurance to travel money¹.
This is a guide to Asda’s travel money offering, explaining how it works and offering some tips on how to look out for a good deal.
Asda has a few things that holidaygoers might be interested in. This article will focus on travel money, but here’s an overview of what they offer.
More on this to come, but as a quick overview for you: Asda lets you order travel money online, by phone or in any of 140 bureaux de change around the country. You can collect it yourself from a store, or have it sent to your home².
There’s more info on this later on, too. In brief, Asda lets you get a pre-paid currency card in several different currencies². It’s a MasterCard, so could come in handy. Watch out for fees, though - see the table below.
As you’d expect, what this will cost depends on the precise details of what you want. Here’s a summary. Be aware that they’re correct at the time of writing, but may change in the future - and also that this isn’t a comprehensive guide to all the fees with a currency card. There are a few other fees that you might end up having to pay, so it’s best to check directly with Asda Money.
|Asda travel money||Fee|
|Transfer fee/transaction fee||£0 upfront fee (“0% commission”)²|
|Exchange rate|| |
|Travel money - Home delivery fee|| |
|Currency card - Load and reload fee|| |
|Currency card - Cash withdrawal fee|| |
|Currency card - Inactivity fee|| Charged if your card has been inactive for 12 months⁶:|
While you might be charged for various things with a currency card, getting cash via Asda seems to look like a deal, given that they offer “0% commission”. But read on before you get too excited.
Asda takes a slightly unusual approach towards advertising its exchange rates. “We'll beat any competitor within 5 miles of an Asda Travel Money store”², Asda writes on its website - which seems to suggest you can be guaranteed a decent deal on currency exchange.
You should note that this guarantee is only available in store, and with reference to another “walk-in bureau currency exchange provider”⁷ near the Asda bureau. So if you’ve hunted down a better deal online, then you won’t be eligible for Asda’s guarantee.
What’s more, Asda is open about the fact that it may offer customers different exchange rates depending on whether they order travel money in a store, by phone or online².
So: what’s Asda’s exchange rate? It depends.
Asda is not unusual in this. Currency exchangers can set their own exchange rates, which tend to be based on - but not equal to - the mid-market rate that banks use to trade between themselves. By marking this exchange rate up, it’s effectively possible for these companies to keep slightly more of your money than they have to. It turns a simple exchange of funds into a transaction that benefits them - at your expense.
The offer of “0% commission”, then, is never something to get excited about. Usually it just means that the fee is hidden in the exchange rate.
It doesn’t have to be like that. It’s perfectly possible just to use the real, mid-market exchange rate all the time, and be open about any fees charged on top of that. That’s what Wise does on its international transfers, for instance.
You can indeed - although, as noted above, you may well get a different exchange rate, compared to if you order by phone or in store.
The advantage to ordering the money online is that you can see the exchange rate that Asda is currently using for holiday money ordered online². So you can compare your quote from Asda to offers from other holiday money suppliers.
If you compare that rate to the rate on an online currency converter or you Google your currency pair, you’ll be able to see how widely their exchange rate differs from the mid-market rate. You might be surprised.
You can also use other Asda Money services online - including making a money transfer⁴. Again, be sure to check you’re happy with the deal you’re being offered. You can make an international transfer with Wise, for instance, using the mid-market exchange rate - so that could well be a cheaper option.
It does indeed: if you’d rather cut back on cash - not a bad idea at all - then you can get hold of one of Asda’s currency cards.
Asda’s travel money cards are available in several different foreign currencies: they’re not “multi-currency” cards where you can switch between currencies. But if you’re getting one for a specific trip, that might be fine. The currencies are⁸:
- US dollars
- Canadian dollars
- Australian dollars
- New Zealand dollars
- South African rand
You can order your card online or from a store, and there are online options to top up your card with extra cash. Once you’ve got it, you’ll be able to use it widely: it’s a MasterCard.
As you can see in the table above, though, there are various potential fees that come with the card. Take care, especially, not to leave it inactive for too long, or you’ll start getting charged a monthly “inactivity” fee.
If you often need to switch money between currencies - or even if you only sometimes need to do this, but want the cheapest way to do it - then Wise’s borderless multi-currency account is well worth considering - especially because UK borderless account holders can get their own Wise travel money card. The Wise card has a virtual card feature as well to help you spend safely abroad. And there’s no monthly fee.
A borderless account lets you hold money in 40+ currencies, send money to 50+, and even gives you virtual account details in 5 international currencies: British pounds, euros, and US, Australian and New Zealand dollars. That means you can receive money, as well as send it, in any of those currencies, just like if you had a local account. And, because you have a MasterCard, you can use it during your holiday as well, which might even mean you don’t need to get as much holiday cash anyway.
Withdrawing money with a card at a foreign cash machine is often a surprisingly good option. That’s especially true if you use a borderless MasterCard with money in the local currency. But you always have to watch out at foreign ATMs. Sometimes, they’ll ask you whether you want to make the transaction in the local currency or your home currency - pounds, if you’re from the UK. Always choose the local currency - otherwise you’ll receive your money via a very bad exchange rate calculated by Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) - not a good deal.
Whether you opt for Asda travel money, a currency card, or whatever else, good luck sorting out money for your trip abroad. Just make sure you know how to get a decent deal on your money - so you have more of it to spend on the things that matter.
Sources used for this article:
*All sources checked on January 20, 2019
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