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How to get the best exchange rate for your own Grand Tour

best foreign exchange ratesJust back from a weekend in Venice where I was supposed to be doing some research for a novel I’m writing – a kinda cloak and dagger thing set in 1618. I did scout a few locations but a more pressing investigation into wine and cichetti (Venetian tapas) kept interrupting.

This was my eighth trip to Venice and the first time I’ve found anything decent to eat. Overpriced pizza/pasta off greasy, laminated menus with surly service was the norm, in my experience. What a revelation then to find, around the back of our hotel, a little bottle shop where you get a snifter of local wine and a slice of baguette slathered with something yummy for a couple of euros.

Mr Minted and I were so enthused by our discovery that the rest of the trip turned into a cichetti odyssey. We moved from bar to bar, grazing on mortadella and salami, fish or aubergine croquettes, mini tuna mayo sandwiches and one particular standout: grilled polenta topped with Italian sausage. This last was at the highly recommended Dai Zemei, near the Rialto. Its name means “the twins” probably because it’s run by twin proprietors and adorned with photos of – guess what – pairs of twins.

Eating this way means standing up and sometimes there’s no loo – real negatives if you’ve been sightseeing all day. And it’s got to be paid for, of course. Luckily Mr Minted had pre-loaded his Revolut – another revelation to yours truly. I wish I wasn’t such a late adopter of all things technological: this pre-pay card wipes the floor with cash from the ATM abroad or lugging wads of notes over from UK.

The real appeal of Revolut is that you get the rate which banks charge each other for foreign exchange. You pay none of the rip-off charges rolled into tourist rates (although Revolut levies a small fee at the weekend because the money markets are closed). You simply load the card with pounds, dollars or euros before your trip and manage the whole account from your smart phone. You can take cash from an ATM at no charge (capped at a certain amount) and pay for meals and so on with the card wherever there’s a Mastercard facility.

You can use Revolut further afield than the US and Europe. If you’re paying in a currency other than the loadable ones, you’ll get the exchange rate at the exact time you pay. You can also swap your cash instantly between the loadable currencies. That means you can easily switch back into pounds at the end of the holiday or even (not recommended) indulge in a little forex trading of your own. Mr Minted managed to make seven pence in three minutes: jackpot!

If you’re going away at Easter, check out Revolut through its app now because it takes 10 days to arrive and there's a delivery fee. Similar cards are available from Monzo and WeSwap. Some credit cards such as Creation Everyday and Halifax Clarity offer fair foreign currency charges too. See the SMM guide to holiday money here.


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Wednesday, 24 April 2019