Tuesday, 22 July 2014

5 Money Saving Tips For Exchanging Currency

So the summer holiday season is upon us, if you're heading abroad it's easy to get hit with extra fees and expensive exchange rates when changing up your money. 

Everyone should know the places to avoid when changing up cash. It's worth remembering that the worst places to exchange money is at an airport - it's a captive audience and they take advantage of this. Also some credit cards and banks can add fees when you buy on your card.

Your best bet is to bring a credit card that won't charge currency exchange fees and some cash for backup, just in case. You should make as many purchases as possible on your credit card, as you'll then be protected against fraud. As we all know, when you lose cash or it gets stolen, you won't get it back. Lost credit cards, or fraudulent charges are easily replaced or restored.

Basically, in 2014 walking around with loads of cash and a money belt is as archaic as a pager!

Here are five tips to maximise your money:

1. Smartphone Apps

Before going on holiday, grab your smartphone and download a currency converting app. That way wherever you are, you can open the app and see if you're getting a good deal on the money your exchanging. You simple type in the amount you want to exchange and it calculates the figure in the new currency. There are several free apps available including XE Currency and GlobeConvert.

2. Double Check Before You Exchange

Be wary of currency exchanges that say they don't charge fees or advertise really good exchange rates. Often, they will offer a worse exchange rate to make up for the low fees or have caveats that they only tell you about on exchange. Ask how much you'll be getting for your cash before you exchange and then assess whether you're getting a good deal. It's also worth remembering, going to a currency exchange in the country you're visiting makes it more likely you'll get a better deal than doing it at home.

3. Get the Right Card

As I said above, it's important to get a credit card that doesn't exchange a fee for foreign currency exchange. Some can even charge a 2 or 3 percent fee for every purchase made with a foreign currency. However, there are many that don't. There are many comparison sites online which you can find with a quick perusal of Google.

Not sure if your card charges a fee? Call and ask.

If your card does have fee's, its probably worth applying for one that doesn't charge. Some cards even offer air-miles or points towards future trips.

Another benefit: credit cards often will offer exchange rates that are an average over the past month. That could be helpful if you are travelling to place where the currency is volatile.

Finally: call your credit company before travelling, that way they know you're going and won't leave you stranded without access to money - because they think you're being defrauded.

4. Hotel No Go

Sometimes hotels and other businesses like restaurants ask if you want to convert your bill into your own currency, ALWAYS decline. The exchange rate is often terrible, always pay the bill in the country's own currency and let the credit card to the exchange.

5. Check Your Debit Card 

As with your credit cards, make sure your bank doesn't charge you if you use your debit card abroad. For example, some banks charge a fee for using a foreign ATM as well as a percentage for currency exchanges. It's always best to call your bank and check to see what fees apply to your account, then you know whether it is a good idea to use your card or not.

Friday, 11 July 2014

4 Free Ideas for your Kids Summer Holiday

The summer holiday season is upon us, all parents know that entertaining the kids for the whole six weeks can be a stressful and expensive business. Bearing that in mind, we thought we'd write a post that compiles some free activities and days out that can occupy you and the kids for the day.

1) Free Toys

Every month in Lego stores across the UK you can take children aged between 6 and 14 to build sessions which are free to attend. These sessions are great fun, you don't have to book (although stocks deplete quickly, so get there early) and the best thing is that the kids get to take their creations home too. 

These sessions take place after school on the first Thursday of every month, between 4pm and 6pm. So there will be a few opportunities to go over the summer. At every session, the children are given a new model to build.  

Click here for more details. If you've never been to a Lego store before, it is a new religious experience for children and Lego enthusiasts alike. Although Lego stores are lots of fun, they can be expensive places if you have Lego obsessed kids. If you are going to spend however, make sure you sign up to Lego's VIP Programme: Lego’s equivalent of the Tesco Clubcard.

2) A culture trail at the museum

Museums - especially the big, old ones - are full of excitement for children of all ages. More sedate art galleries are perhaps best saved for older children but like so many places these days the flagship city museums have a relaxed policy towards children and welcome visitors of all ages. Not only that but many museums are free of charge - including some great ones in the capital, such as the British Museum, National Gallery, Natural History Museum and Tate - so if you find the experience is lost on your children you won't have wasted any money.

But most children will be fascinated by the varied collections - think dinosaurs, Egyptian relics, Roman coins and stuffed animals! Furthermore, your local museum may also fun specific activity days or culture trails for children, to help the exhibits really come to life, and some have special areas for children, with books, toys and colouring sheets. Your local museums are just a Google search away. 
3) Visit the farm

If you live in the city it doesn't mean your children can't experience a day at the farm. There may be a city farm in your city - Bristol, for example, has several and London has a whopping 17! They're usually free of charge and you and your children can wander around, looking at and feeding the animals.

Some farms have nice cafes attached, or play areas, and there may be a programme of activities or opportunities for children to take part in feeding time. Details of local farms can be found here.

4) Free Online Guitar Lessons

Finally, if the weather is rotten this weekend, could free guitar tuition be the beginning of something special? I know from experience that although there are lots of guitar tutorial videos on YouTube, most are aimed at adults and are, shall we say, somewhat dry…
Kids Guitar Zone is dedicated to teaching children how to play guitar, with free video tutorials set out in an easy-to-follow format. Lesson 1 begins with the parts of the guitar; by Lesson 10, students are playing ‘Wild Thing’ and ‘Gangnam Style.’ The lessons are all led by the same, friendly teacher and some are accompanied by free PDF downloads. (Thanks to Latest Free Stuff for the spot.)