Everyone needs a holiday now and then, and nothing quite beats heading off to some faraway place you’ve never been before, with its own exotic history and traditions, weather, food, beaches… and, perhaps, its own currency.
Which means that, whenever you head abroad, you need to make sure you’re able to pay your way there, and that generally involves getting hold of some cash in the foreign currency. The time-honored way to do this is by getting some travel money before you go, often from your bank or the local post office.
… Or perhaps from a supermarket? Sainsbury’s is best known, after all, as one of the UK’s top supermarkets. But, in fact, it also offers financial services, through Sainsbury’s Bank. They offer bank accounts for savings, mortgages, credit cards, and a number of other services - including travel money¹.
How does it work, though? And is it a good deal? Read on for some more information on getting your foreign currency from Sainsbury’s.
This article will focus on travel money from Sainsbury’s, but you should note that they offer a few other products to holidaymakers - or other travellers - as well. Here’s a quick rundown.
More info on this follows below, but as a quick summary: with Sainsbury’s, you can order foreign currency online or by phone, or just go into one of their travel money bureaux to do it. You can get home delivery or collect the money from one of their travel money bureaus, and choose between cash payments or a travel money card².
Sainsbury’s also offers travel insurance, if you want peace of mind in case anything goes wrong during your trip. There are 3 levels of cover to choose between, and different options depending on how often you’re travelling for, and how long³.
If you need to send some money abroad, Sainsbury’s can help you out there too. Sainsbury’s offers an option to do it online, thanks to moneycorp, and if you go into one of their travel money bureaux you can make a transfer using Western Union⁴ or you can also find other WU branches near you
You can get your travel money from Sainsbury’s in various different ways, some of which incur different costs. Here’s a summary - though your own situation might result in a different set of costs, so you’d need to check directly with Sainsbury’s for conclusive figures.
|Sainsbury’s travel money||Fee|
|Transfer fee/transaction fee||£0 (“0% commission”)²|
|Exchange rate|| |
|Travel money - Home delivery fee|| |
|Cash passport - Foreign exchange fee|| |
|Cash passport - Currency transfer fee|| |
|Cash passport - Load and reload fee|| |
|Cash passport - Withdrawing cash fee|| |
0% commission sounds pretty great, right? Well, it’s certainly better than being charged a fee… but don’t forget to factor in the exchange rate when you’re working out how much this will really cost you. Read on to find out why.
If, like many people in the UK, you're the proud owner of a Nectar card, then this is one of those occasions when it can really pay off. As you can see from the table above, Sainsbury’s offers different exchange rates to its travel money customers, depending on whether or not they have a Nectar card. Cardholders, of course, get the preferential rate, whereas people without a Nectar card are stuck with a worse deal².
It’s all a bit counterintuitive, if you think of the exchange rate as a simple way of evaluating one currency in another. Why should your pounds be worth fewer euros, if you don’t own a Nectar card?
Simply put, it’s because Sainsbury’s can set their own exchange rates. They don’t need to charge you the average of all the buy and sell rates currently in use - the “mid-market” rate, as it’s known. Rather, they can mark that rate up, and keep the difference. And they choose to mark the rate up even higher, if you don’t have a Nectar card.
Forget about Nectar cards, and you’ll still struggle to get a clear picture of exactly what exchange rate you get from Sainsbury’s. Their Travel money terms and conditions note that⁶:
”The rates available on the Website are set separately from the rates provided instore at a Sainsbury’s Bank Travel Money Bureau and therefore may vary. You will not be able to get our online rates in-store unless you have pre-ordered your currency through the Online Service for collection at bureau. Exchange rates may vary during the day.”
Add to that the fact that exchange rates are constantly fluctuating, and you’ll understand how difficult it is to predict what exchange rate you’ll get from Sainsbury’s at the actual moment you order your travel money.
So, what’s the exchange rate with Sainsbury’s? It depends... on quite a few factors.
Can you ever get the real mid-market exchange rate, though? It’s not as hard as you might think. For example, Wise always offers the the mid-market rate on its international money transfers, and only charges a clear, transparent fee which you’ll always see upfront. So if it’s a money transfer you need, the mid-market rate is actually pretty easy to get.
You can indeed. They offer 3 options: online, by phone or at a bureau in person.
When you order online, you can choose to collect it from a bureau or to have it delivered to your home. You can also choose their cash passport product if you order online.
As noted above, you may get a different exchange rate if you order online, compared to if you use Sainsbury’s other methods².
As already mentioned above, it does: its full name is a Multi-currency Cash Passport and you can order it online or in person⁷.
The card can be loaded up with up to 10 currencies which cover many of the top holiday destinations, from US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand dollars, to Swiss francs and South African rand⁷.
It’s a Mastercard, and you can use it to withdraw money from ATMs or pay for stuff with it directly.
Although Sainsbury’s Cash Passport is free to get there are fees to be aware of, as described in the table above. The card also has certain limits that you should take into account. For example, the minimum load and reload amount is £50, and the maximum is £5000, which is also the maximum balance you can have. You can withdraw a maximum of £500 from ATMs per 24 hours, and £150 per 24 hours over the counter in a bank. There are a few more limitations, but the last important one we’ll mention is the maximum amount you can spend in shops, restaurants, etc per 24 hours, which is £3000. ⁵
If you need to switch any money between currencies using the card, Sainsbury’s website notes that “A foreign exchange rate will apply” - a rate that is based on the daily rates, “together with a margin”⁵. So you’ll know not to expect the mid-market rate.
Sainsbury’s aren’t the only providers to offer a card like this. UK users of Wise can get hold of a borderless multi-currency account, through which you can get a debit Mastercard which you can use in a similar way. Except that, with Wise, you always get the mid-market rate.
Wise’s borderless account lets you hold money in 40+ international currencies, and you can pay out to over 50. Even better, you get virtual account details in pounds, euros, and Australian, New Zealand and US dollars - so you can receive payments like a local in any of those currencies, too. There’s no monthly fee, and, thanks to the mid-market rate, no markup to worry about.
Whatever sort of card you use, there’s one thing you should always look out for when using foreign ATMs. Sometimes, cash machines abroad will ask you to choose which currency to use to make your withdrawal: the local currency, or pounds sterling. If you’re asked this, always choose the local currency. If you choose pounds, your money will be converted using a method known as Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC), which gives you an exchange rate that is truly beyond the pale. As a result, you’ll get noticeably less cash.
The way we use money is changing fast, all around the world. In the past, going abroad without some foreign currency sounded like a truly dangerous game - but these days it’s often one of the best options, thanks to the ease with which you can use cards like debit cards or the Wise travel money card - in foreign cash machines or directly for purchases. There may be ATM cash withdrawal fees, but often they work out as less than using a travel money provider. Check out our compare travel money page and find the best travel exchange rate.
What that means is that you might not really want to buy that much foreign money before you start your trip: it could be better to hold off. Or, alternatively, you might want to explore ways to get a minimal amount of money out to see you through your first few hours abroad.
If you do still want to get some good old travel money before your trip, Sainsbury’s certainly offers a variety of options - and their travel card means that they’re also worth considering if you’d rather go cashless.
Just make sure you’re thinking carefully about the exchange rate. It’s always worth finding out what sort of exchange rate you’re going to get, and comparing that rate to the mid-market rate - which you can find easily with a bit of Googling, or on online currency converters like XE, Google or Wise. If you’re not happy with the rate you’re being offered, don’t be afraid to look elsewhere. Don’t let a bad exchange rate spoil your well-earned holiday.
Sources used for this article:
*Sources checked on December 19, 2018
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