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Exchanging money at post offices

Everyone says use an ATM/debit card at bank machines. What about taking cash to the post office to exchange for pounds? Is it a good deal? How is it done?

Posted by
2515 posts

you can do it in the larger Post Offices but exchange rate is usually crap.
stick to ATm's

Posted by
4 posts

I don't have/want a debit card. Taking cash to a bank instead, will that get me better rates?

Posted by
8293 posts

You will be hard put to find a bank that will exchange your money if you are not a bank customer. In the UK your only hope is a Post Office probably.

Posted by
4 posts

Darn. Thanks for the advice. But post offices are still better than the exchange bureaux, right?

Posted by
4528 posts

Banks largely quit doing over the counter foreign exchange a few years ago. Best exchange rates are in London specialists forex offices if you are going through there, with the rate fixed online in advance. Regarding the High Street, Marks and Spencer is better than the Post Office but neither will beat an ATM with a decent bank.

Posted by
8889 posts

gatorbear, "I don't have/want a debit card". How do you get money out of your own bank at home? Do you go inside to the counter and hand over a cheque? I didn't think anybody still did that.
Or do you go to the cash machine (ATM) outside the bank and put in you card? If so, that is the card you need to get money in other countries. Tell your bank you will be using the card in Europe, so they don't block it as suspicious.

If you insist on changing cash (and that is the most expensive way of changing money), you best choice is to change your money at your own bank before leaving home. Changing "foreign" cash in Scotland will be difficult and expensive.

Posted by
31294 posts

gator,

Packing along a bunch of cash is probably not the best idea, as if it gets lost or stolen that's going to be a major problem for your holiday. Without an ATM card, it's going to make travel somewhat more awkward. Do you have any credit cards? One option might be to use a pre-paid debit card such as those from Travelex but those are not ideal either as the exchange rates or other fees are usually crap.

You'll never get a good deal by exchanging money at Banks. Keep in mind that if you have any cash left over from the trip, you'll get nicked again when you change it back. Accessing cash via ATM's is really the most efficient way as you only need to withdraw the amount that you need, while the remainder of your travel funds remain in your home currency. You could also try exchanging at AAA but I have no idea what their rates are like.

Good luck!

Posted by
11263 posts

"I don't have/want a debit card."

If you don't need or want one for your daily life at home, that's fine (I rarely use mine at home either). But please, please, please, get one for the trip, even if you don't use it for anything else and stow it with your passport when you're at home.

ATM's are simply the fastest, cheapest, and safest way to get cash while abroad. As someone said on another forum, there simply is no second-best way - all the other methods are far behind. They're either more inconvenient, more time-consuming, more expensive, or some combination of these.

Here are Rick's excellent money tips. Read all the links, and you'll be an expert: http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money

Posted by
4 posts

Okay, okay. : ) Thank you everyone for your advice. I will go to my bank and get a debit card. And yes, it will either be kept in my safe with the passport or chopped up when I return home. You all have been very helpful. Wish me luck and good travels!

Posted by
11263 posts

If you chop it up, you will just have to get another one for your next trip. Trust us, there will be a next trip, probably sooner than you think {g}.

But if you don't use it while at home, do keep track of the expiration date. As I said, I use my ATM cards rarely while at home, and one expired without my realizing it. Luckily, I happened to be in the bank for something else, and its expiration was discovered (long story), so I was able to get a replacement before my trip. My sister was not so lucky on one of her trips - because her debit card had expired, she had to use a credit card at an ATM to get cash. As you'll learn when you read Rick's money tips, this is for emergencies only, as it has MUCH higher fees than using a debit card at an ATM.

Have a great trip.

Posted by
16860 posts

My parents didn't get a debit card until they went to Europe, but now they rely upon it for travel. I've even seen my dad withdraw cash as close as the next state!

Posted by
4984 posts

An alternative to a debit card from your bank is a pre-paid travel card from AAA. They load dollars onto the card, and you can withdraw money from ATM's or use it at a merchant that accepts VISA cards, as if it was a credit card. The transaction is handled in whatever currency of the country you're in, so you can use it at home (dollars), in the UK (pounds sterling), or Bolivia (pesos), all with the same card, at the market rate on that day. When the card runs low, you can top it up again. It's an electronic version of the paper traveler's cheques that were how things were handled, oh, 15 or 20 years ago or so, but you're not committed to a single denomination nor currency.

Posted by
5562 posts

I'm another vote for the Debit Card. I know my Dad was reluctant too, but it really is the best way to go when traveling in Europe and in the US for that matter and he gave in too!

Pam

Posted by
8889 posts

Please enlighten me. Why the reluctance to get a debit card? Surely this is the first card you get when you sign up for a bank account. Without a debit card, how do you get your money out of your bank?

Posted by
2515 posts

I was one of the first people in Scotland to get an ATM/debit card about 40 years ago,we called thme Switch cards in those days there use was pretty limited at first, the bank would issue a list of ATM's available to you and at that time there was only about 25 in the country .The reason I got the card was that my branch of the bank was one of the first to get an ATM in Edinburgh.
How things have changed.

Posted by
707 posts

Gatorbear, I think you will be so pleased with your debit card when it comes to getting local currency. It's so much more convenient than the old way of exchanging trav checks at a bank. You don't have to remember to change money before the weekend, or interrupt your sightseeing day to get money. If you are nervous about using the card, use an ATM machine inside a bank.

Posted by
2515 posts

as someone has mentioned traveller cheques I just want to remind people that they are all but obsolete in Europe now.