Holidaymakers Forget the Sum in Summer

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Post Office research finds poor Foreign Exchange Rate Maths Costs UK Travellers £288 Million • More than a third of adults are unable to convert foreign currency • 44 per cent don't work out how much things cost when shopping abroad • Countdown maths expert, Rachel Riley, provides foreign currency conversion tips and calculations

It's not always practical to carry a calculator around but most mobile phones have calculator functions, so make the most of this when figuring out the foreign exchange rate, particularly if buying expensive items, and work out how much you are spending before you purchase.

More than a third of UK adults (38 per cent) are unable to convert from a popular foreign currency into sterling and are losing out on a staggering £288 million a year in foreign exchange rates as a result.

Despite household budgets being squeezed, a new report by the Post Office® reveals that 44 per cent of people don't work out the foreign exchange rate for how much things actually cost when they are abroad and one in three people (27 per cent) go over budget when they travel.

Such is our dislike for foreign exchange rate maths, one in five people (17 per cent) prefer holidaying in places where they understand the foreign currency, and nearly 1.5 million people actually avoid places with unfamiliar foreign currency because they find it too confusing and stressful to work out the exchange rate.

Despite Turkey's growing popularity as a holiday destination, the Turkish lira topped the list for confusing foreign currency, 49 per cent of people were unable to convert it into sterling. And a surprising number of people struggled to convert the most popular and widely used types of foreign currency - 35 per cent did not convert US dollars accurately and 26 per cent struggled with the euro exchange rate.

Rachel Riley, Countdown's new resident maths expert said: "Working out how much things cost on holiday doesn't have to be time consuming or confusing. To help avoid overspending, make a note of the foreign exchange rate when you buy your currency and use my easy to remember formulae for working out some of the most popular currencies.

"It's not always practical to carry a calculator around but most mobile phones have calculator functions, so make the most of this when figuring out the foreign exchange rate, particularly if buying expensive items, and work out how much you are spending before you purchase."

Sarah Munro, head of Post Office Travel Services added: "At a time where budgets are being stretched, it's more important than ever to keep a reign on holiday spending. To make the most of your pound make sure you do your research before you go. Check out the foreign exchange rate and do some research to find out how much things basic staples like drinks and suncream will cost when you get there.

Sarah continued: "Make sure you buy commission-free foreign currency in advance and avoid purchasing it at airports where you won't get the best rates and can be charged through the nose in commission; recent research shows that we waste £20 million a year by purchasing money at airports4. It is also advisable not to withdraw travel money abroad at ATMs as you will be charged and it can be difficult to keep tabs on your spending."

Top Tips from Rachel Riley and the Post Office for budgeting on holiday:

  •     Make a note of the foreign exchange rate - it sounds simple but many of us change our money and then forget the rate we bought it at. Keep a note in your purse or wallet and use this as your reference when working out how much things cost. Write the equivalents for £1, £5, £10 and so on and use as a rough reference guide
  •     Use your phone - make the most of the portable calculator that most of us have in our mobile phones, if you are struggling to work something out, you can do it quickly on your phone. For those who want something more advanced, you can buy special foreign currency converters and calculators
  •     Don't pay in sterling- don't be tempted to pay in sterling on your card or in cash as shops and restaurants can charge their own foreign exchange rate which is unlikely to be competitive. You can also get stung by added fees of up to 4 per cent.
  •     Bartering - in lots of popular destinations like Turkey and Morocco, bartering is part of the culture. Do your research before you go and if you're going somewhere where bartering is acceptable, don't be afraid to offer the merchant the price that you are willing to pay
  •     Try a pre-paid travel card - pre-paid cards like the Post Office Travel Money Card enable you to load your card with currency when the foreign exchange rate is good. You can then use this as you would your bank card and it helps act as your own budgeting tool to ensure you don't spend more than you have loaded onto the card. The Travel Money Card is completely separate from your bank account too so it's a secure way of taking money abroad.

Over 1,600 Post Office bureau de change branches offer the most widely requested forms of European foreign currency on demand (except the Hungarian forint and Estonian kroon, which can be pre-ordered).

All types of foreign currency can be pre-ordered for next day branch collection at all 11,500 Post Office outlets or online at Home delivery can also be requested online. Travellers to the eurozone can obtain euro foreign currency over the counter at more than 8,000 Post Office branches.


Notes to editors

All tables and Post Office research available on request
For more information, please contact:
Hayley Fowell
020 7250 2417

  • Respondents were asked to convert euro, US dollar, Egyptian pound, Thai baht and Turkish lira into pound sterling
  • £228 million figure based on the finding that 25 per cent of the population over-spends on holiday through miscalculating prices by an average of £24
  • All research unless stated otherwise is from Opinium Research. Opinium Research carried out an online poll of 2,022 British adults from Friday 12th to Tuesday 16th June 2009. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.
  • With an estimated 2.6 million UK airport transactions made annually, the volume of euro transactions was based on 80 per cent of outbound travel being to Europe, cross-referenced with the Post Office's own statistics which show that euro sales account for 70 per cent of foreign currency purchases. That lower figures of 70 per cent was therefore used to calculate euro wastage. The figure of £20, 329,400 was calculated by combining the minimum commission charge of £3 with the difference between the euro foreign exchange rate in UK airports and that at Post Office branches. An individual wastage of £11.17 per transaction was multiplied by 1.82m transactions (70 per cent of total transactions of 2.6m). The foreign exchange rate differential was calculated by taking the mean average from cost comparisons at eight UK airports on three separate days.


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Melanie Seasons
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02079279999 ext. 96
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