Tuesday, October 9, 2007

DON'T GET POUNDED AT THE AIRPORT!


Ok everyone. Learn from my mistake! Don’t exchange your money in an airport.
The last time I went to England my husband handled all those details. And, him being a type A, choleric, fire element personality, he did everything early and on schedule.
My daughter was due to leave the country in five days. I intended to go to the bank on Thursday, but things got crazy, so I decided I’d go on Friday. Didn’t make it then, either. So bright and early Monday morning My daughter and I sauntered into the bank and told them we needed to exchange dollars for pounds.

"Fine," said the banker. "How much?"

She handed over $800.00 and the banker took out a sheet of paper and started writing. Then smiled and said, “Your pounds should be here in a couple of days.”
“A COUPLE OF DAYS?" I gasped. "She’s leaving tomorrow!”

“Not to worry,” said the banker. “You can exchange currency at the airport.”

We both breathed a sigh of relief. And that was good because we were going to need the extra oxygen.

The next morning we checked and rechecked to make sure she wasn't forgetting anything and finally made our way to the airport. She was all smiles, I faked it. After a cherry "fair well" I watched her till she disappeared behind security. When I got to the car I cried all the way home. I don’t know what it is about putting my babies on jets that breaks me up so. Okay, okay, so she’s twenty-five.


When Olivia arrived at George Bush International in Houston, she went to terminal D to exchange her money. At this time the current exchange rate was 1 to 2.04.


She asked the lady at the desk what their fee was to exchange money. She told her $5.00.
Olivia handed over her $800.00 and the lady returned to her 350 pounds!!! We calculated she'd get 392 pounds. Olivia called me, panicked. I asked her to read the receipt and found the ratio they used at the airport was 1-2.24.


“What’s the number there?” I said. “I’m going to call and see what’s going on.”

I spoke with the lady at the airport and she said that was their going rate.


“Oh,” I said, “then your fee is not $5.00 but $47.00.”
“No, it’s $5.00.”
“But, you charged a ratio of 2.24.”
“Well, yes, that’s our conversion.”
“But the current conversion is 2.04.”
“But that’s the conversion we charge.”
"So, it's a hidden fee, right?"
"No Ma'am."

I could see that this conversation wasn’t going to save my daughter any money. But, at least I can get some satisfaction in warning all of you future travelers, DON’T EXCHANGE MONEY AT AIRPORTS!
Let's face it. Everyone wants to make their money. I just ordered my pounds and the bank charged 2.14. But that's better than the airport. And, the bank didn't charge an additonal fee!

In fact, in any foreign country, whenever possible, use an ATM or exchange in banks. Make sure that it is a bank. Not a place with a sign in the window advertising currency exchanges, or else you will pay big time.


I’ve gotten a lot of opinions on how much money to take. The consensus is that you :


  • Take around 200 pounds, more or less depending on how long you are staying, to pay for food, pubs, and anywhere charge cards are not accepted.

  • Take a debit card. Use it at ATM machines and when travelers checks are not accepted. The beauty of a debit card is that it is easy to cancel if lost or stolen.

  • Use a credit card. That way you immediately get the current exchange rate. Who knows, you may catch it down 1/1000th of a cent! Check with your credit provider to see what they charge for overseas purchases. And use a card with milage rewards for your next trip!

Once you are in Britian, you will get pockets full of coins. Strange looking coins. The last time I was in England my daughter, Olivia and I were at an internet café. When we finished I held out a palm full of coins and told the guy to take what we owed. Pollyanna that I am, I assumed he would be honest. And he probably was. But when we got outside my daughter let me have it. Apparently, that was not the most intelligent thing I’ve ever done. Who knew? I had silver coins in a gold circle, pences, two pences, five pences, all kinds of pences.

Well, after I got my dressing down I realized she was right. Now I know what each coin represents. You should too. So go to: http://24carat.co.uk/britishcoinagesystemframe.html

Now, let’s review:
· Go to the bank early for pounds
· DON’T EXCHANGE AT AN AIRPORT
· Exchange at a bank, use an ATM, or a charge card. (preferably one with miles rewards for your next trip!)
· Study the country’s coinage.

Next up, packing for your trip!


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