Exchanging your local foreign currency in the UK or Australia is a critical matter, especially if you find reading and making rates calculations a little challenging. But before going into reading and calculating rates, you, as an international student, should familiarise yourself with the UK’s and Australia’s national currencies.
The British Pound (GBP - £) is the UK’s local currency and it is made up of 100 pence (p). It is referred to also by Sterling or Sterling Pound. In slang, they are often called Quids and pee is the slang for pence. The coins are 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2. Notes come in £5, £10, £20 and £50. Australian Dollars (AUD - A$) is Australia’s national currency and its coins are 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents and one and two dollar coins. The notes are A$5, A$10, A$20, A$50 and A$100. Bear in mind that some international banks use the dollar sign for the Australian Dollar without the A, so when in doubt, ask.
1- Contact your local bank before travelling and find out what are the foreign currency exchange rates. Your bank is more likely to offer better rates, and may not charge a fee for currency exchange. You can also ask about the banks that exchange foreign currency for free and call them too. In brief, do some research, compare currency rates and go deep!
Bonus topic: Cost of Living in Australian Cities blog article.
2- Wondering what is the best place to exchange currency before a trip? It is for sure not the airport. High service fees will apply and the airport exchange rate will not be the best either. So, never exchange currency at the airport.
3- Look at the total cost, not just the rate. If it’s tiresome, use XE, it is one of the best websites for calculating exchange rates and total costs. Avoid paying high fees and commission rates, so it is also worth a try to check the exchange rates at the post office. You can also try getting a currency conversion App.
4- Avoid exchanging in touristy areas near attractions and landmarks or in city centres. Like airports, they will be using high service and conversion fees and unattractive exchange rates. A trip to a less populated area is worth it when it comes to saving more dough!
5- Know when to use your credit card and when to use your debit card. Withdrawing cash at a foreign ATM will make you pay overly-priced foreign-transaction charges. Use your Credit Card for large purchases and Debit Card for cash withdrawals. Make sure you know the international fees you will be charged when using any of them.
By now you’re probably asking “Where can I exchange currency for free then?” Here’s a useful blog article on the Best Student Banks in Australia to help you out.
In a nutshell, when dealing with significant amounts of money, it is better to look at all the catches that might force you to spend more than estimated.
Share with us your currency exchange experience as a student!