Here's another one for you - Check the small print too.
Oh and timing is everything.
Okay, that's all the motto's out of the way. Let's begin.
My family recently enjoyed a few days at Dinseyland Paris. It was bitterly cold, a bit snowy, and Eurostar did their best to scupper our vacation before it even started (more on that in another post sometime), but the long and short of it was we had a nice time.
Now, I've always been a believer in having a bit of local currency in cash form. It's good for the small purchases like drinks, and potentially for tipping too. It's always difficult to judge what you need so I get a rough daily figure in my head, times it by the number of vacation days then add another days worth on top. After all, I don't have to spend it all and I can exchange it back to good old pound sterling afterwards.
Now, as I said before, timing is everything. Thanks to half the population of the UK we're heading for economic oblivion (aka Brexit). Whether it's because they believed some sneaky politicians with extreme agendas (both nationalist and socialist), or "the good old days" viewed through glaucomic eyes clouded their viewpoint, or they had a misplaced/prejudiced fear of "foreigners", or (like all political graduates*) they failed to grasp very basic economics, or they hate kids, or..... well, whatever the reason, we're royally screwed. But we'll have blue passports again. Woo.
So, a few weeks before travelling I monitored the exchange rate. It had of course declined over the last couple of years, and, whilst still generally on the downhill, it was steady-ish. So, with about 3 weeks to go I decided to buy.
Lesson 1 - Trust is Important
After a bit of shopping around, it seemed the best rates were online but either encountered delivery fees or/and meant buying in advance from brands I hadn't heard of and had no way of trusting.
I had bought dollars once at a great advance rate from a company who I hadn't heard of but they looked trustworthy, then I instantly regretted it. A quick post-purchase Google suggested the reviews were mixed and that the company may not be on a sound basis. I emailed straight away asking to cancel the purchase and to my amazement they refunded entirely. Surprising as a month later they went out of business. Phew!
Lesson 2 - Bargaining with my Loyalty
I like a bargain. I'll happily spend hours looking around for the option; Looking at coupon sites, and cashback sites (I use Quidco and have got a few hundred quid back over the years), comparison sites... You name it, I'll check it.
On this occasion there was little to differentiate the deals I was looking at. As well as rate, convenience was a factor, so being able to park at a supermarket collect my cash and go was a big factor.
Banks are notoriously stingy. Less so nowdays, but still there's always that likelyhood of hidden fees. So, if the rates look good I prefer supermarkets. The rates between Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury's were similar, though Sainsbury's was the only one to offer loyalty points. They offered a special rate for Nectar card holders, which made the rate ever so slightly better (without it, their rate was not as good.) Plus a few Nectar points would be earned for the transaction too (only about 5 points per £100, and as each point has a value of £0.005 it's not really worth it, though to be honest, Nectar is not worth it at all nowadays.)
As yet the Nectar points haven't appeared on my account, though it does say that it could take 60 days to appear.
|See - I told you it was cold!|
Lesson 3 - The Law of Sod
Having purchased Euros the exchange rate decided to climb over the next few weeks, ending up about €0.05 higher before we left. So, for every £100 we would've got an extra €5. That's more than an extra bouteille of pop in EuroDisney!
Lesson 4 - Read the Small Print
So, here's the crux of it. Whilst looking for rates of exchanging Euros back to GBP I noticed a few places offered to buy-back based on the purchase rate if you bought from them.
Be careful here, because this might require paying a guarantee fee which could end up being more than the potential benefit a rate-match would bring.
Hmm, I thought. I recall Sainsbury's mentioning buy-back when I bought my currency. So, I checked the website and indeed they did "buy back". Merrily I made my way to the nearest Sainsbury's and asked the exchange cashier what the buy-back rate was for Euros that I had purchased from them. Gleefully she pointed to the rate board and told me it was the same rate as everyone else, €1.2875. No special buy-back rate then. Grrr! It was worse than any rate I'd seen anywhere else.
Lesson 5 - Be Persistent
I could've settled for the poor rate Sainsbury's offered me. However, I felt I could do better. Afterall, I had already seen that Tescos and Asda already had better buy back rates (around €1.27), and I could always chance it with the online boys.
I was in the city already and heading towards the bank. As I walked past M&S shop window I spotted their rates - no harm in looking. €1.2571. Yippee - the best yest. Okay, I'm going to Barclays anyway. No harm checking. €1.24050 - Get proverbially in!
Yeah, I could've swanned around and checked a few more banks, after all, Barclays ain't the most generous, but I was pleased to find something considerably better than Sainsbury's. Kerchinng! It went straight in to my account too.
However, I do regret not looking in to the buy-back situation a bit more and considering buying from somewhere with a buy-back offer based on purchase rate. Another lesson to learn for next time!
*Seriously, the worst people to be engaged in politics in any way are students/graduates of politics. Ideologies don't work in the real world. Politicians need a grounding in economics, business, civil services and any other aspect of life that government touches. A staunch admiration for the model of communism within an isolated system or the ability to memorise the works of Karl Marx (as fascinating as they may well be) have as much practical use as a university degree in watching Coronation Street.
Some kind of personality test wouldn't go amiss either to ensure we stop the Trump's, Farage's and Corbyn's of the world before they even get started. Find out what your MP studied, investigate how politically active they were as a student, what have they done before entering politics, and assess really what they stand for and how realistic this is before giving them your vote.
Looking for more stuff to read? Why not check out this article on buying Fortnite presents pop over to one of my other blogs, Majato Scribes (stories, poems etc), Original StarWars, Random Stuff from My Life in the 70s,80s and 90s or the utter weirdness of Pocket Picture Taker.