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How to use an online currency exchange

How to use an online currency exchange
Image source: Getty Images

Online currency exchange rates have fluctuated since the outbreak of Covid-19. Recent events have complicated using an online bureau de change, with the Post Office suspending its Travel Money service, and other stores closing completely. But many online solutions still offer the best rates. So here is a guide to using online currency exchange from your sofa. 

Sending your money

You might be sending money for an overseas property, or contributing to a mortgage abroad. Or you may own an international business, and make regular international money transfers. You may want to invest money abroad, or you may simply want to send a gift to a friend or relative. You should consider how you are sending money online. 

Does the person or business you are sending the money to have a bank account? Can they access their bank while most countries are in a lockdown? Whichever online currency exchange method you use, you should communicate with the person you are sending the money to. 

Consider professional advice

Are you looking to transfer or invest large sums of money? You should consider a currency expert who can assist you. They can offer further protection on your money, and competitive rates for more significant currency transfers. You should still do your own research on the following online currency exchange tips, even if you are looking for professional advice.

Check the real-time rates

To give yourself an idea of the currency exchange rate, use a currency converter. Google’s own currency converter is suitable for a fast and easy check on the current exchange rate, but to get the best deal online, you should check real-time rates. Websites like XE and Currency Convertor offer detailed information that can help you protect your money.

Shop around

You should always shop around for the best online currency exchange rates. Generally, all the major banks are less competitive than online bureau de change shops. Big bureau de change operators like Travelex still offers home delivery of cash. While the coronavirus crisis continues to affect the high street, remember to check that the bureau de change does not require physical pick-up.

Look out for hidden extras

Online currency exchange websites often offer attractive currency exchange rates, only to hide fees. You may discover you need to pay extra for same-day transfers, payment tracking and confirmation, and intermediary fees. Some banks may charge the recipient additional amounts, for processing the transfer of the funds. Watch out for any hidden charges, as those fees add up and you can lose a lot of money.

Look out for scams

While you should shop around, you should be aware of ‘too good to be true’ rates. Only use well established and reputable online currency exchange stores. Look up some classic foreign exchange scams (always an interesting read!) and avoid any schemes that do not appear trustworthy. 

Consider how long a transfer may take — is the best rate worth the delay in a volatile climate? 

Check the timescale for your currency conversion. Generally, a currency transfer should only take around 24 hours, and anything longer than that may be worth a re-think. You may end up paying for a long delay in transferring your money. Current online currency exchange rates change every day due to the economic fluctuations in response to the coronavirus. 

Online currency exchange for a one-off payment or ongoing transaction? 

Consider online banks and apps that offer discounted rates for online currency exchange. You might consider Transferwise, which is an online bank that provides a “fast, cheap” way to send money abroad. Transferwise is much more competitive than high street banks and offers convenience. Revolut is another option: this “radically better account” can transfer currency online at competitive rates and manage your money.

You might also want to check out the best travel credit cards on offer, as you can still use them as an alternative to an online currency exchange to make purchases.

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