This one holiday mistake is set to cost families more than £300 million this year

UK holidaymakers are wasting millions of pounds by exchanging their travel money at airports, with new research showing families could lose €374 million (£319.5 million) this year.

More than a third of parents swap their pounds for foreign currency just before flying, according to a report by travel debit card Currensea, losing an average of €89 (£76) due to “notoriously poor” exchange rates.

Only 22 per cent of travellers without children use a bureau de change at the airport, with the findings raising “concerns that time-poor families are set to lose out” due to overpriced currency exchanges, the finance and technology company said.

Currensea’s co-founder said getting your money’s worth should be a “priority” in the same way a hotel or flights are.

The research, undertaken at the beginning of March 2024, was based on 2,000 UK adults “weighted to be nationally representative”.

It found that almost a fifth of those asked still rely on cash when on trips, and that 51 per cent of parents of school-age children believe that airports are the cheapest place to get their money changed.

It’s also one of the last things to do before heading on a getaway, say 58 per cent of those surveyed.

For those who do use cash, any leftover foreign money could face additional fees when converted back into British pounds. Parents admit returning with an average of £77 in cash compared to £56 for those travelling without children.

“Securing value on your exchange rate should be as much of a priority as getting a great deal on flights and accommodation, yet families are wasting huge amounts by exchanging cash at airports rather than turning to low-cost options,” said James Lynn, co-founder of Currensea.

“UK holidaymakers are paying £2.7 billion in unnecessary foreign exchange fees every year – this is especially true for families heading off for a well-deserved holiday this Easter. They need to maximise their savings but relying on cash – especially from extortionate airport providers – is proving expensive for busy families.

“Holidaymakers should explore cost-effective card alternatives that avoid unnecessarily high foreign exchange fees and hidden costs.”

Other tips from Currensea include checking that 0 per cent commission services are actually offering the best deal, avoid overseas ATM charges (with some adding fees of around £5 for each transaction) and opting to pay in local currency if card machines give the option.

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