Travel Money Guide

The world of foreign exchange and travel money is an ever-moving market, and when you’re looking to buy travel money you’ve probably noticed numerous acronyms and terms that you may not have heard of.

We don’t want confusion preventing you from making the right choice, so to help you make the right decision and get the best deals, we have put together a list of questions about travel money terminology. 

What is an ATM?

In the UK we generally call it a cash machine.  ATM stands for Automated Teller Machine, it’s where you can withdraw cash with a debit, credit or prepaid currency card.

What are ATM Cash withdrawal charges?

An ATM Cash withdrawal charge is the amount you are charged by your debit/credit/prepaid card provider when you use your card at the ATM. It is often a percentage of the amount withdrawn and is usually higher overseas.

What are commission charges?

Commission charges are charged by the company that you use when you are converting your pounds ( £) into a foreign currency, as a fee for their service.

What does Currency Exchange or Foreign Exchange mean?

Currency Exchange is the term for buying the currency of another country using your own country’s currency.  The terms currency exchange and foreign exchange mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably.

What is a Dynamic Currency Conversion?

A Dynamic Currency Conversion is used when you use a credit or debit card abroad, some retailers will ask if you want to pay your bill in UK Pounds or in the local currency, this allows you to have more of an idea of the cost.  

Be warned though, often a retailer will apply a higher exchange rate for this convenience.  Our tip, as they don’t always ask, make sure you check your bill before entering your PIN. If you don’t want to pay the dynamic conversion, just ask to be charged in the local currency.

What does Exchange Rate mean?

The exchange rate is the amount of one currency you can exchange for another.  For example, the GB pound sterling (£) exchange rate tells you how much a pound is worth in a foreign currency.

For example: If the pound sterling to euro exchange rate was 1.14, you would get €1.14 for every pound you exchanged.

Exchange rates fluctuate regularly and differ from one company to another, so it is important you shop around and compare the rates (Compare Travel Cash does all the hard work for you!) this makes sure you find the best rates and gets you the most travel money.

What is a Currency Converter or Exchange Rate Converter?

A currency converter or exchange rate converter are two names for the same thing.  It is a tool which will estimate how much foreign currency you’ll get for your GB pound sterling (£), based on the current exchange rates.

What is foreign exchange?

Foreign exchange in its most basic of terms is the exchange of one currency for another or the conversion of one currency to another.  Foreign exchange is often abbreviated to FX or Forex

What are handling fees?

Handling fees are often charged by the seller to carry out the exchange into foreign currency. This can be different for each seller, this is usually a set amount.  Sometimes handling fees can include postage if you are buying from an online currency supplier.

Holiday money or travel money what does it mean?

Holiday money and travel money are the same, it is the local currency you use when you pay for things abroad, as opposed to pounds sterling.

Is the International exchange rate different to an exchange rate?

No, The international exchange rate is just another term for exchange rate and is the amount of one currency you can exchange for another. For example, the GB pound sterling (£) exchange rate tells you how much a pound is worth in a foreign currency.

What are prepaid travel cards?

Prepaid travel cards, also known as currency cards, allow you to load them before you go abroad then use them as you would a debit card to spend or withdraw cash as you wish. And because they’re pre-loaded, it allows you to keep tight control of your spending. Most also allow you to lock in a rate in advance.

What is sterling?

Sterling is the currency of the United Kingdom. (Pounds and pence) ( £)

What are travellers’ cheques?

Travellers’ cheques are used a lot less frequently nowadays since the ease, access and popularity of debit and credits cards.  Travellers’ cheques are pre-printed, fixed-amount cheques which are safer than carrying cash as they can be replaced by the issuer if lost or stolen. When paying with a travellers’ cheque you’ll be asked to sign for the purchase and you’ll receive change in cash.

Is there any term you feel we have missed out? Let us know and we can add it to our list.


Jason is the founder of Compare Travel Cash, and has worked in the financial industry for the majority of his career.