Member Advice on Money
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Review of "Member Advice on Money"
Having been on holiday recently to Barcelona in Spain the only thing that disrupted and upset us was something we'd bought with us from the UK: Traveller's Cheques! I'd now strongly suggest that if you're considering travelling in Europe that you do not use these as your source of money.What they are:
The universally accepted safest and most convenient way of carrying money with you on holiday is the travellers cheque, designed to be available in all major world currencies, easy to use, refundable and accepted worldwide at thousands of locations. If you have any unused travellers cheques, you can keep them for your next trip and they are valid forever.
Why we chose to use them:
It was quite a debated subject before we went on holiday, should we take all Euros, rely on hole in the wall machines in the city or take Travellers cheques? We came to our decision to take a small amount of euros for travel with us and £500 in travellers cheques after looking at our own bank's web site to see how easy it would be to use ATMs and what charges there would be to use them.
When I ordered the cheques over the phone it was all very easy, so some credit to Barclays. I found the phone numner of their web site easily and was advised to order them in Euros by the staff as I told them I was going to Barcelona but was not given any further advice. They arrived the next day at a branch of my choosing which made it easy for me to pick them up. Also they offer them on a 0% commission basis and will take them back for no fee if you're a customer of theirs.However, once in Spain it was not easy to exchange them without being ripped off! A whole morning of our honeymoon was unfortunately turned into a nightmare situation of going from one bank to another with these retched things! We read the information that comes with the cheques which advised us to sign each cheque but not to do the second signature until actually exchanging them. We then assumed that the best place to take them to would be a bank but were told again and again that it wasn't even possible. We knew we could change them at the tourist bureau de changes but knew there would be a high commission rate and assumed by taking them to a bank we would not incur such a high cost. We were tied because we can't speak Spanish so it was difficult to understand why we couldn't change them, but one teller did say it was because of the VISA sign and would have been changed if they were American Express?! We persevered through long queues and finally found one that was prepared to exchange them, but only 150 euros worth of them. I think it boils down to the fact that they don't make any commission on the cheques themselves so it's not worth their while. This bank in fact only charged us 1 euro for the exchange but we were still stuck with 600 euros to change and didn't relish the idea of going to the bank everyday to do this - and what if we needed more than that amount in one day? Eventually we were worn out, bickering and I felt awful because I was the one who had got the cheques in the first place so we decided to take them to a bureau de change outlet and see what their exchange rates were like. They ranged from 8% upwards to about 15% so we found the lowest one we could and changed the majority of the rest of our money up and ended up with a bit less holiday money. I don't feel that it's acceptable to pay roughly the equivalent of £40 to get at our own money.
To make matters worse we then hopped on a tourist bus which took us on a trip around Barcelona and guess what we saw? 2 Barclays banks on the way!! You can imagine our surprise that Barclays had been unable to provide this information either on their web site or when I had directly asked. We even went to one of the branches a few days later to change the remainder of our money which was a minor 100 euros and oh how easy it all was and of course free of charge. What a difference it would have made if we had had this information, which in this day and age is very easy to provide. I had tried my best to find out the locations of any ATMS or branches but the information was just not there (unless it was me).I felt that this was a Barclays problem as much as a general problem with travellers cheques and have since written to the bank to express our annoyance at their lack of help. It doesn't change the fact though that unless you can find your own bank within a foreign city you will be unlikely to exchange cheques easily at a bank for a reasonable price and this totally opposes the universal view that this is the easiest way to carry money abroad. It's far easier to use you bank card these days even if there is a commission charge on top. I have since looked into it and found that it would probably be quite a small charge say £1.50 for every £100 withdrawn and is so much easier.
It was such unnecessary strain put on us and we felt that we had been stranded by our own bank. Travellers cheques obviously do have their pros, if they're stolen you are not out of pocket and the concept is excellent, (although I've never had the occasion to find out how easy it is to actually get your money back). They are available for 0% commission which is good and even better when you don't have a problem changing them, but unless the problem of where they can be exchanged is addressed they will remain out-moded, old fashioned and the least convenient option to use in today's travel.20.09.06 - NB: Following my letter to Barclays they really surprised me by replying very promptly and as a goodwill gesture giving us £50 back for the amount of charges we paid! The reason they gave for this is that I should've been informed better of their banks in Barcelona when I rang to order the cheques, but they still haven't explained why it's not possible to change them at any other banks.
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Listed on Ciao since: 03/10/2000