Keeping it in the room: health, happiness and living in Berlin
If you still change your travel money at the airport when you go on holiday, it could be costing you a lot more than you think. And on the high street, it could still be expensive, even if they tell you there are no commission charges. That’s because they change the exchange rate to make up for it: you could be losing around 13% of your money to the money changers – which really adds up when you’re changing hundreds.
Some people have started just taking their bank cash cards and credit cards with them, drawing cash out from a machine as they need it, or using them to pay in shops. That’s much better, but nearly all banks still make a charge for doing this – anything from £1.50 a time.
Another option is to use a preloaded credit card, which work by you loading them with your own currency and drawing it out when you go away. Normally these would charge fees of around 3%, but there’s a new one from WeSwap which works in a different way, and charges just 1% – and there are even ways of getting free, unlimited transfers.
The WeSwap MasterCard is loaded with cash as normal, but then you tell them using the website or app (coming soon) what currency you want to spend it in. Instead of WeSwap doing the switch, it relies on there being someone in the place you’re visiting wanting to switch to your currency.
Say you want to switch £1,000 to euros: you load your card with the pounds, and then wait while the system finds people who want to switch their euros to pounds. That might be almost instant, or it may take a little while. If you don’t want to wait, you can even request an immediate conversion (but they charge an extra 0.5% for this service).
But what if you want cash while you’re away? Most companies will charge if you use a cash machine – but WeSwap doesn’t, provided you take out more than £200 (or the equivalent) at once, no more than twice a day. That’s because they have to pay MasterCard each time you do that, so they want to try to keep costs down.
If you know people abroad, get them to sign up too, and you can swap with each other for free, forever.
Signing up is very easy – we completed the whole process five minutes. They ask for a scan or photo of the same documents you’d need to open a bank account: your passport or driving licence, and a recent bill. We tested them by giving an address in Germany as our recent bill, and they had no problem with that. In fact, they’ll happily send the card to any of 10 European countries.
You can load money onto your card easily as well: either by bank transfer, or by debit card.
Because So So Gay never accept payment in exchange for editorial, WeSwap has made a donation to the The Albert Kennedy Trust for this article.
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