Santander Travel Money: Foreign Currency Rates & Fees Explained


While a holiday abroad might the the best part of the year for many of us, arranging the foreign currency you need for your trip can be a bit of a drag. Although there are plenty of options - including airport exchange kiosks, getting your local currency from an ATM when you arrive, or ordering online, it’s not always easy to see where the best deals are. To make sure you don’t pay more than you need to for your travel money, it pays to do some research before you go.

Santander is one of the biggest banks in the UK, with over 1,000 branches. Here’s all you need to know about the options available - and what they might cost - if you’re considering getting your travel money there.

What products does Santander offer to get your holiday money sorted

Santander have a couple of different options, if you need to get your travel money. You can choose from the following:

Order foreign currency online

It’s possible to order some 70 different currencies online, for delivery to your home. Next day delivery is available if you’re ordering more than the currency equivalent of £500, and place your order before 3pm. If you’d rather a Saturday delivery, this is also possible, but there is an extra charge.

Order travellers cheques online

You can also order travellers cheques online for home delivery. Travellers cheques are available in US, Canadian and Australian dollars, pounds and Japanese yen.

International transfers

If you’re a Santander customer, you can also make an international transfer to a bank account held in your destination country. This might be useful to pay a hotel bill, for example, or if you’re visiting trusted friends or family abroad, you might transfer money to them, and then withdraw it in local cash when you arrive. However, there are fees to pay when making an international transfer with Santander - we will cover these in a moment.

What are the fees for getting your travel money with Santander

Depending on how you want to arrange your travel money, there may be a fee to pay. Here are the most common costs you’ll need to consider.

ServiceSantander fee
Ordering foreign currency or travellers cheques online - commission and deliveryYou’ll see the fees which are applied to your transaction, when you model your order on the Santander website. There is no upfront commission fee to pay, although there may be a markup added to the exchange rate used. For some home delivery services - such as getting your money on a Saturday - there is an additional charge.
Ordering foreign currency or travellers cheques online - card paymentsThere may be an extra charge if you pay for your currency using a credit card: “Your credit card issuer may charge you interest and/or fees on paying by credit card as they may treat the transaction as a cash advance. This is not a service charge made by First Rate and you acknowledge that First Rate has no control over and is not liable for such charges.” If you choose to buy your currency using a corporate card, there will be an additional fee of 2% of the value of the transaction
Cancelling an order of foreign currency or travellers cheques£20
Exchange rate markupThe exchange rate offered by Santander is confirmed when you model your transaction online. There may be a markup added to the mid-market exchange rate. Read on for more on this topic.
International paymentsStandard electronic transfer - £25 Non-urgent euro transfer - £15 Foreign currency cheque - £10 Some international transfers may be subject to additional charges if they are processed using the SWIFT network.

If you’re planning on making an international transfer with Santander, it’s helpful to know a bit about the SWIFT network. This is a common way to route international payments, which involves several banks working together to get your money to the right place. The banks involved in the process - often called intermediaries or correspondent banks - can charge a fee for this service, which might mean that your recipient gets less than you expect them to in the end. It’s worth checking if your transfer will be routed via the SWIFT network before you decide which provider to use, so you can double check the likely costs.

What is the exchange rate you’ll get with Santander

When you order your travel money with Santander, you’ll see the exchange rate used before you confirm the payment. This is a good chance to compare the Santander rate to check you’re happy with it. The benchmark you’ll want to use is the mid-market rate. This is the exchange rate that banks use when they trade currencies on the wholesale market, and the one you’ll find if you google the currency you’re looking to buy.

Many banks and currency exchange services add a markup to the mid-market exchange rate, which they then keep for themselves. That can make it hard to see what the real cost of the transfer is, as some of the fee is wrapped into the currency conversion fee. Try to compare the travel money exchange rate on offer with Santander, with the rate used by Wise, to see if you could save.

Can you order travel money with Santander online?

You can order your travel money with Santander, and have it delivered to your home.

You can also make an international transfer to a local bank account wherever you’re headed. This means you can send money to a friend or family member overseas, and then withdraw it from an ATM when you arrive. This can help you avoid the international ATM fee which is often added if you choose to withdraw money from cash machines in another country.

If you’re planning on sending a payment to someone abroad, Wise can be a great alternative provider. The payment will be processed using the mid-market exchange rate, with no markup, and there’s just a low, transparent fee to pay.

Does Santander offer a travel money card?

Santander does not offer a prepaid travel money card. These cards are popular because they’re a convenient and safe way to spend abroad. You can load money onto the card, and then use it as you might use a debit card while you travel. Because the card is not linked back to your main bank account, even if it was stolen, the thieves wouldn’t be able to access your bank details.

If you’re interested in using a pre-paid travel card to fund your trip abroad, you might find that a borderless account from Transferwise offers the features you need, with a whole range of extra benefits too.

A borderless account lets you hold your money in any of dozens of different currencies all in the same account. You can activate the local currency in your destination country, load up the money you’ll need, and access it using your linked MasterCard debit card while you’re away. If you find you need a little more money while you travel, you can add it simply online, and if there’s foreign currency left at the end of your holiday, you can switch it back to pounds using the mid-market exchange rate, for a small fee.

If you choose to fund your holiday spending using a credit or debit card, one thing to watch out for, is dynamic currency conversion - DCC. This is when you’re asked in a shop or restaurant, or even when you’re using an ATM, if you’d rather pay for your transaction in pounds or the local currency. Paying in pounds sounds like a convenient option - but it can actually work out more expensive. That’s because the ATM operator or retailer will decide the exchange rate used for your purchase, and can charge a fee. This often ends up meaning you pay more. Always choose to pay in the local currency wherever you are, instead, to get the best deal.

And there you have it. All you need to make sure you get the right deal for you on your foreign currency exchange. Now you can arrange to receive your local currency, and set about planning to have the holiday of a lifetime. Enjoy.

All sources correct as of 27 December 2018

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