Nothing beats a holiday. Just for a short while, you can trade in the daily grind for a life of luxury, whether it’s lounging on the beach, exploring a city’s art galleries, or hurling yourself down a ski slope. Sadly, however, holidays cost money. But there are ways that you can make sure they don’t cost more than they have to.
For instance, it pays to get your travel money in the most efficient way. To get foreign currency, the traditional method is to head down to your bank or local post office and fill your pockets with foreign cash. But these days, there are other methods - even just using a debit card abroad to withdraw cash can be surprisingly cost-effective, for instance.
However, holiday money is still big business, as a company like ICE - International Currency Exchange - demonstrates. With 400 branches around the world, including in airports and train stations, ICE is a major operation. And yes, you can order online too.
This article will look at how to order travel money with ICE, as well as considering how good a deal it really offers.
You’ve probably seen ICE booths, even if you don’t recognise the name. They’re at many a major train station, and plenty of other locations too, with an especially strong presence in London. Here’s an overview of some of the key ways they can help you with your trip abroad.
ICE’s key offering is foreign currency. There’s more detail on this below, but to summarise: you can order foreign money online, by phone or at one of their locations around the country. They can deliver your order to you, or you can collect it if you prefer.
What are the fees? Take a look at the table in the next section.
From January 2019, ICE is offering an “ICE Clear card” - a pre-paid currency card as a cash-free alternative to travel money. If you’re heading somewhere that takes card payments easily, this could be a good alternative. ICE is entering a competitive market, though - many companies offer currency cards of this sort.
There’s a little more information on this new product below.
ICE partners with TorFX to offer international money transfers, so if you need to send money to someone in another country, there’s an option to do that, too. This is another very competitive market. Whenever you’re making an international money transfer, try and get the mid-market exchange rate if you possibly can - otherwise you’re not getting as good a deal as you might imagine.
Fees vary: it’s hard to be precise. But here’s a look at what you’re likely to have to pay in most cases if you get your holiday money with ICE. It’s correct at the time of writing, but could change at any time. And the card fees mentioned below are not a definitive list: you should check with ICE if you want a complete rundown of what the card can cost you.
|Asda travel money||Fee|
|“Handling fee”/transaction fee|
|Travel money - Home delivery fee|
|Currency card - Withdrawing money fee|
|Currency card - Fee for making a payment using the wrong currency||5.75% of the transaction. You’re charged this if you pay in a currency in which you don’t have enough funds, and the card takes the money from a different “currency wallet” by default|
|Currency card - Inactivity fee||Charged if your card hasn’t been used for 12 months: £2 per month|
If you want to order over £700 with ICE, you might think it’s a pretty great deal - no handling fee. That’s true, but do you really get the money on the house? The answer is almost certainly no - and the reason is concealed in the exchange rate.
ICE, like all foreign currency suppliers, can choose its own exchange rate, so it’s able to look at the mid-market rate - the average exchange rate between two currencies at a given time, which you can see on Google or XE - and simply mark it up.
Checking ICE’s exchange rates online suggests that this is what they do: they do not, in fact, offer the mid-market rate. Which could make a serious difference to how much money you get.
The real mid-market exchange rate isn’t actually so hard to find. Wise, for instance, offers it on all of its international money transfers. Because of that, it’s 100% transparent about what fees are charged - there’s no markup on the exchange rate at all.
Yes, you can: ICE may be better known for its physical locations, but they offer online services as well. You can also place an order by phone, if that’s your kind of thing.
There’s an added bonus to ordering money online. ICE offers their “best available rates” on online orders, as they state on their website. So you’ll get a better deal using ICE online, compared to the deal you’ll get if you go in person.
If you want to send money direct to a foreign bank account, you can do that online too - as mentioned above, ICE partners with TorFX to offer that service. Just like if you’re getting foreign currency, do make sure you compare travel money and get a decent deal on the exchange rate.
ICE launched a new travel card in January 2019. It’s called an ICE Clear card and replaces their previously offered ICE Traveller’s Cashcard.
This new card is a MasterCard, and you can put money in up to 10 currencies on it, from British pounds and US dollars to Turkish lira. The exchange rate you get is fixed when you top the card up, so you don’t have to worry too much about volatility in the currency markets. Will you get the mid-market rate, though? “The foreign exchange rate will be displayed clearly at the time you top up your card”, says the ICE website. So not necessarily, then.
As mentioned above, there are various fees you might have to pay - watch out for that monthly “inactivity fee”, which kicks in after your card’s been inactive for a year, as well as the ATM cash withdrawal fee. But getting the card itself is free.
It’s not the only multi-currency card around. In fact, there are quite a few to choose between. One alternative, offered by Wise, comes with a UK borderless account. For no monthly fee, a borderless account lets you hold money in 40+ international currencies, pay out in over 50, and you also get virtual account details in pounds, euros, and US, Australian and New Zealand dollars - so you can both pay and get paid in any of those currencies just like a local. And just like with ICE, you get a travel money card, which can of course be used widely all around the world.
Don’t forget that your home bank’s debit card may well be usable abroad too: just using that might even offer a better deal than buying holiday money specially. But if you do decide to use your normal card abroad, always watch out for foreign cash machines. If they ask you which currency you want to pay in - the local currency or your home currency - you should always choose the local currency. Otherwise, they’ll convert your money via Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) - which always results in a very bad deal for you. There may also be ATM fees charged by the ATM operator. So you do have to watch out.
Whether you decide you need a special travel card or not, and whether you go to ICE for your travel money or choose another service, good luck in sorting out money for your holiday. Most importantly, don’t let a bad deal get in the way of the things that really matter in life - like taking the time to enjoy your trip.
All sources correct as of 31 December 2018
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.