Travel: No cash? No problem

By Sarah Marshall and Kathryn Bromwich, Press Association

Sunday, 11th May 2014, 7:00 am
Norwegian houses in Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Picture: PA Photo/Renato Granieri.
Norwegian houses in Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Picture: PA Photo/Renato Granieri.

It’s two days into your holiday, and that optimistic £100 that was going to fund your entire trip has vanished on lazy lunches, cold beers and comedy fridge magnets. Oh well, you think, you’ll just get more money out.

But tackling an ATM abroad can be an ordeal. You entrust your card to the machine, frown at the foreign words on the screen, and jab some buttons half at random.

If luck is on your side, you’ll get your cash and card back, minus a hefty transaction fee of up to £5 and a less-than-favourable exchange rate.

But in the worst-case scenario, the card could be swallowed up by the machine, leaving you cash-less and card-less.

Finance abroad is a minefield: cards get blocked, overdrafts overspent, and wallets nicked. Fortunately, nowadays there are more ways than ever to safely access your money when travelling.

To avoid walking around with a wallet-full of cash (hello, pickpockets), try a prepaid currency card. This won’t charge you for card transactions or (usually) ATMs - but look out for hidden “start-up” and “inactivity” fees if you wish to use it again for your next holiday. On the plus side, prepaid cards are not linked to your main account, so are safer in case of theft.

If you’re unsure about how much money to take, you can apply for an overseas credit card (debit cards often charge £1.50 per transaction). However, a loading fee of around 2.75-3% will usually apply, and you will need to pay the full amount off by the end of the month to avoid considerable interest rates.

Be wary of card protection policies (CPP): card-holders are already legally entitled to protection in case of fraud, so there is no need to spend extra money on this.

Fancy the old-school approach? Head to your local Post Office for travellers’ cheques. These are accepted in most tourist destinations and cities, although if you’re heading somewhere off the beaten track, they will be difficult to exchange. Commission charges of 2-3% are also the norm, but if you study the exchange rates ahead of time you can usually get a good deal. Make a note of serial numbers, too.

If you somehow end up wallet-less and someone back at home is able to help, they can wire you emergency money. Money transfer companies such as Moneygram offer this service within 10 minutes to most countries in the world (there is no charge to pick up). Otherwise your benefactor back home can use Paypal, sending the money as a “gift”.

Make sure you tell your bank in advance that you are going abroad, specifying dates and places: if they see transactions in an unusual location they may see it as suspicious and block your card.

Where there is an option to be charged in pounds or local currency, always choose the local currency - this trick is known as dynamic currency conversion (DCC) and hidden fees abound.

Finally, to minimise the risk of your card being eaten by an ATM, make sure you only use machines physically attached to a bank or bureau de change - and, where possible, do it during business hours.

:: BOOK A BREAK AT CHATSWORTH

Spend the summer in stately surroundings and book a holiday break in one of eleven historic cottages owned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire’s Chatsworth estate. The stone-built properties, with wood-burning stoves, farmhouse kitchens and views of the Peak District, are part of a former dairy on the edge of Chatsworth’s Shottle estate and former barns in Wetton village. All are now available to rent through Sykes Cottages, who expect the cottages to be in big demand. A week’s rental of Manifold Farmhouse, which sleeps up to 10 in five bedrooms, costs from £718. Visit www.SykesCottages.co.uk or call 01244 352300.

:: FAMILIES DRIVEN TO ARGUMENTS

With a couple of bank holiday weekends on the horizon, the roads are likely to be choc-a-bloc with traffic, but while taking the car may be the most economical option for families, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee a harmonious weekend away.

According to research from 1st Central Insurance, the average family lasts just 33 minutes on the road before getting into an argument - one in six argue over what to listen to on the radio, while a third of mums claim they find their partner’s comments about their driving more stressful than the kids arguing in the back seat.

Staying at home suddenly seems quite appealing...

:: TRIED AND TESTED

What is it?

Monster PowerCard, £34.95, www.amazon.co.uk

Is it any good?

A number of hotels now advertise digital detox breaks and have even banned Blackberrys on the beach - but in reality, most of us would feel naked leaving home without our smartphone.

With Wi-Fi connections readily available all over the world, racking up a huge phone bill is no longer a concern, and travelling with a mobile means you can easily stay in touch with friends and family.

But not all technology is infallible; at some point smartphones run out of battery. The Monster PowerCard is a good lightweight solution for those who don’t want to carry bulky charging units around with them.

It’s the same size as a credit card, so easily pops into your wallet, and gives immediate charge - lasting up to five hours.

If you’re feeling really flash, Harrods stock a limited edition 24K gold plated edition for £1200!

LATE DEALS

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SVALBARD: Abercrombie & Kent (www.abercrombiekent.co.uk; 0845 485 1146) offers 11 nights onboard an expedition cruise (full-board) through the Norwegian high Arctic, accompanied by a polar bear expert, from £6795pp (two sharing) - saving £800pp. Includes charter flights from London.

NEWQUAY: Bay Hotels (www.bayhotels.co.uk; 0844 811 9404) offers a weekend break (three nights) at the Bay Beresford Hotel (half-board) from £99pp (two sharing). Valid until May 31.

MALDIVES: Best at Travel ( www.bestattravel.co.uk; 0207 849 4025) offers seven nights at the five-star Coco Bodu Hithi (B&B) from £1499pp (two sharing) - including two free nights and 10% discount. Includes flights with Turkish Airlines from London Gatwick. Valid for travel until Oct 31.

NEW YORK: Hayes & Jarvis (www.hayesandjarvis.co.uk; 01293 735831) offers three nights at the two-star Econo Lodge Times Square (B&B) from £499pp (two sharing) - saving £189pp. Includes flights from London Heathrow with United Airlines and a city tour. Departs January 12 2015. Book by May 6 .

DUBLIN: Stena Line (www.stenaline.co.uk; 08445 768 768) offers two nights at the four-star Croke Park Hotel (B&B) from £285 (two adults and two children). Include ferry travel from Holyhead.

ALGARVE: Destinology (www.destinology.co.uk; 01204 821 419) offers seven nights at Pine Cliffs Resort (B&B) close to Albuferia from £619pp (two sharing) - saving £160pp. Includes flights from London Gatwick. Valid for travel until May 14. Book by April 30 .

PAPHOS: Destinology (www.destinology.co.uk; 01204 821 419) offers seven nights at the five-star Annabelle hotel (half board) from £795pp (two sharing) - saving £420pp. Includes flights from London Gatwick. Valid for travel until October 30 . Book by April 30.