John Lewis Travel Money: Foreign Currency Rates & Fees Explained


While everyone loves a great holiday, few of us really enjoy sorting out the practicalities of one. If you’ve already packed your bags, checked your passport is in date and sorted out some travel insurance, it’s time to get your holiday money.

One option is to get your holiday money from John Lewis Travel Money service, either by ordering in advance and collecting foreign currency from a John Lewis or Waitrose store, visiting one of their bureau de change desks, or having it delivered to your home¹. If you’re planning on using John Lewis for your holiday spending money, it’s good to check that the exchange rates and costs you’ll likely face are fair - and avoid spending more than you have to for your well deserved break.

Here’s a guide to getting your foreign currency from John Lewis Travel Money, to help you decide if that’s the right provider for you.

What products does John Lewis Travel Money offer to get your holiday money sorted

John Lewis foreign currency services are all operated under their John Lewis Finance brand, with services available online, in John Lewis stores, and in some cases in Waitrose stores. You can also make some international payments and money transfers thanks to their partnership with Western Union - although there are a number of fees and charges to consider if you wish to use this service. More on that later.

Here are the main travel money services on offer from John Lewis.

Foreign currency/traveller’s cheques - click and collect

It’s possible to order any of over 60 currencies, or traveller's cheques, from John Lewis, for collection the next day from a local Waitrose or John Lewis store. The minimum order value for click and collect transactions is £500 and the maximum amount you can order is £2500. If you’re planning on ordering your travel money this way, it’s worth knowing that only the person who placed the order can collect it, and will need to provide photo ID, a reference and the card used for payment¹.

Foreign currency/traveller’s cheques for home delivery

If you can’t get to a store to collect your holiday money, it’s possible to have it delivered to your home instead. In this case, you’ll need to order at least £500 of foreign currency or travellers cheques, and there will have to be someone home to sign for the delivery when it arrives. Delivery can be as soon as the next working day, but there are specific cut off times to take into consideration. Order your cash on a Friday afternoon, for example, and you might not get it delivered until Tuesday¹.

Bureau de change

There are bureau de change offices in 34 John Lewis stores in the UK, so if you happen to be near one of them, you can buy your foreign currency or travellers cheques there. You’ll need to present ID to buy currency, and can choose from 30 different world currencies for immediate collection².

International payments / money transfer

If you need to make a one off or regular international payment or money transfer, John Lewis have partnerships with both Western Union (money transfer³) and HiFX (international payment⁴) to allow customers to place international transfers. There are terms and conditions attached to these services, and you’ll need to register to make a payment. There are also other Western Union branches, which you can find here.

What are the fees for getting your travel money with John Lewis Travel Money

Service John Lewis Travel Money fee
Exchange fees for travel money - click and collect or home delivery The John Lewis Travel Money service does not charge an explicit commission or exchange fee - however, you may find that there's a markup added to the real exchange rate. More on that later¹.
Minimum order value - click and collect or home delivery £500 ¹
Home delivery of travel money Home delivery is free if the amount is above £1000, if it’s below that amount there’s a £5 delivery fee. If you want a Saturday delivery, there’s an additional charge of £3.60 if your order is above £1000, for orders below that amount the additional delivery fee is £8.60 ¹
Credit card payment fees Your credit or debit card provider may charge a cash advance fee if you use a card to purchase travel money. John Lewis Travel Money’s terms and conditions specify⁵:* “*Your credit or debit card issuer may charge you interest and/or fees on paying by credit and/or debit card as they consider it a "cash advance". This is not a service charge made by us and we have no control over, and are not responsible for, these charges.”
Canceling an order Up to £20 + possible card charges John Lewis Travel Money’s terms and conditions specify:** * “If you cancel your order, you will still have to pay any cash advance charges made by your card issuer and we will not refund these charges to you.”*⁵
International payments John Lewis doesn’t charge you an upfront fee for an international payment. You have to make an international payment of at least £100.⁴ You may find your payment is subject to an exchange rate markup, a card charge, and/or additional fees if the payment is processed via the SWIFT network.

John Lewis offers international payments with Western Union, and also HiFX for payments over £100. These payments are made under the terms and conditions of these partner organizations, so you’ll need to make sure you understand the small print before you confirm your payment. Be sure to check out the exchange rate being used - and also be wary of hidden costs if the payment is made via the SWIFT network.

Under the SWIFT network, a series of banks work together to move international payments around the world. It’s a common - but often relatively expensive - way of making international bank transfers. If your payment is made using the SWIFT network, it might be processed by up to 3 intermediary banks before it reaches its destination - and each intermediary can add a fee. That can mean that your recipient gets less in their bank at the end of the transaction than you expect them to.

What is the exchange rate you’ll get with John Lewis Travel Money

John Lewis Travel Money state that they compare their exchange rates often with other high street providers of foreign currency, and will price match their competitors. It’s useful to know, though, that many high street foreign exchange services don’t actually offer their customers the real exchange rate. Instead, they take the mid-market exchange rate and add a markup, which they then keep as their profit.

To work out if the rate you’re being offered by John Lewis Travel Money is fair, you’ll want to compare it yourself - not to the other high street providers, but to the mid-market rate, which is the only real exchange rate. This can seem tricky to do because exchange rates change all the time with the market - but all you need to do is to Google your currency pairing, compare the rate on a website like XE or Reuters, or use an online currency converter to get the latest rate.

Doing your own comparison is the best way to spot any hidden charges, which often get wrapped up in the exchange rate used by banks and foreign exchange services. Check out our compare travel money page and find the best travel exchange rate.

It’s worth doing this too if you’re planning on using the international payment service John Lewis Travel Monday offer via their partners Western Union or HiFX.

For example, Western Union says the following about their exchange rates⁶:

“All currency is converted at Western Union’s then current rate of exchange. Western Union calculates its rate of exchange based on commercially available interbank rates plus a margin.”

Of course, all foreign exchange and international payment services are businesses and need to make a profit somehow. But wrapping a fee up into the exchange rate isn’t transparent, and it makes it hard to know if you’re actually getting a fair deal. If you’d rather use a service which gives the mid-market rate and then adds a transparent, upfront fee for international payments, it’s possible if you know how.

For example, you could try the multi-currency borderless account from Wise. More about that - and how to avoid some of the other common unfair fees applied to currency exchange - in a moment.

Can you order travel money with John Lewis Travel Money online?

John Lewis Travel Money offers an online foreign currency service for either home delivery, or collection in a Waitrose or John Lewis store.

If you’re travelling to visit family or friends, or know someone with a bank account in your destination, you might want to consider using Wise to make a great value international payment online to cover your travel money, instead.

Simply make a low cost international payment - using the real mid-market exchange rate - to a local bank account and then use fee free cash machines to make withdrawals once you arrive. This can also be a safer option as you don’t need to carry around your whole holiday spending money at all times - simply withdraw what you need, when you need it.

Does John Lewis Travel Money offer a travel money card?

Travel money cards are another convenient and relatively safe way to manage your travel money, as they can be used like a bank card for ATM withdrawals and spending, but aren’t linked to a bank account.

Unfortunately, however, John Lewis does not offer a travel money card.

If you want the security of a travel money card with the convenience of being able to spend in multiple currencies, one option is to get a borderless account from Wise. This smart new account lets you hold your money in any of dozens of different currencies in the same place. Simply top up your account from your UK bank account, and then switch as much as you want to the currency you need, using the real mid-market exchange rate, and for just a small fee.

There’s no cost to open a borderless account, and you can then get a linked Mastercard debit card, for day to day spending, and to make ATM withdrawals. Up to the currency equivalent of £200 a month can be taken from ATMs for free, with a small charge added above that amount.

Because there's no minimum balance requirement to keep your borderless account running, you can simply top up your borderless account online, with the money you want for your holiday. That means there’s no need at all to visit a travel money bureau. Top up your card online whenever you want, and spend in any one of over 40 currencies using your debit card.

Whether you choose to use your debit card linked to a borderless account - or any other credit or debit card abroad - you’ll definitely want to watch out for dynamic currency conversion (DCC)

You might see DCC anywhere where you’re using a card abroad - for ATM withdrawals or to spend in a shop or restaurant. Under DCC you’re asked if you’d like to be charged for the transaction in your home currency, or in the local currency. Although banks and merchants say this is a service, DCC can actually mean you pay over the odds for your foreign purchases, as there's often a poor exchange rate used. Avoid this by always asking to pay in the local currency,

Whether you’re headed off for a week in the sun, a short city break to soak up the culture, or a longer visit to friends or family, you’ll need some cash to enjoy it. The best way to make sure you don’t get caught out by unnecessary fees and charges is to invest some time in research in advance. That way you’ll have more in your pocket for spending while you’re away.

Sources used for this article:
*All sources checked on December 13, 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 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.

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