Frank Sinatra once claimed that it's very nice to go travelling, but it's so much nicer to come home. That's a noble philosophy, but clearly old Blue Eyes had a team of assistants to deal with that most frustrating of administrative tasks - exchanging overseas currency back to legal tender in the UK without spending a small fortune on fees.
Of course, it's tempting to approach this the same way we exchange our sterling for euros, dollars or Thai Baht before jetting off on holiday; a token search to get a rough idea of what exchange rate that we may be looking at, then popping to the closest Post Office or branch of our bank and completing the transaction. With the pound in something of a precarious position against other currencies, however, it pays to be a little more precise in your
transaction in the current financial climate.
More often than not, the internet is the way to go on this front; many currency sellers and buyers will offer a preferential rate online that can be collected from a high street location, especially when compared to customers that 'dropin' and look to make their transaction same-day. Also check the small print of the provider that you purchased your currency from, as some may offer a buyback scheme at the same preferential rate you agreed when you took out the exchange.
If this is not the case and you're going to have to undertake a new transaction, remember the golden rule when selling international currency; the rates are reversed. Let's use a hypothetical example of planning a trip to the United States and seeing two exchange rate ratios; one offering $1.6 for every £1, and a second providing $1.2 for each £1.
Obviously the first offer is a fantastic deal and should be snapped up without a second thought; 1 into 1.6 would see £500 return $800, as opposed to the $600 you'd receive at 1 into 1.2. Upon your return, however, you'll be looking for more bang for your buck. As a result, if you set foot back in Blighty with $100 still burning a hole in your pocket, a ratio of £1 for every 1.2 dollars would net you £80; take the offer at 1.6 and you'll receive just £40.
At the risk of adding further jargon to the equation, you should also look into the wholesale rates (interbank) that banks charge between themselves. A cursory glance at any number of specialist websites should give you some kind of indication of what to expect and what is deemed a fair deal. If you're not desperate to get your cash back immediately, it may pay to observe the market for a few days and ensure that you are completing the transaction at a time that will have the greatest benefit for you.
You may also be able to negotiate with specialists if you are dealing with substantial amounts. No bank or bureau de change will be interested in quibbling over small sums of €50 here and $75 there, but you may be able to gain an extra 0.5% on your offer if you are a regular traveller and you have some serious cash to trade. Just pick up the phone to your trader of choice and ask the question - you have nothing to lose.
Once you are happy that you have found the ideal trader for your needs, however, there is nothing to stop you enjoying the benefits of a preferential rate. Just be sure not to forget that golden rule - when it comes to selling currency, bigger is never better.
List of the top brokers who buy left over travel money: