What's the best way to buy over the web in foreign currencies?


(Jon) #1

Increasingly I find myself wanting to buy things on the web that are only priced in non-GBP currencies (mainly US dollars and Euros). Thus far, I have just used my debit card, but I am aware that my bank probably doesn’t offer a competitive conversion rate. I am with Lloyds (not enthusiastic about them, I’ve just never bothered to switch).

For example, in December I bought something for EUR 54, at a rate of 1.13136. I tend not to check the rate at the time, I just run with whatever they are offering (I just looked this up from my internet bank statement). This cost me £47, and Lloyds additionally charged me a Non-Sterling Transaction Fee of £1.42 (marked as “2.99%”, presumably of the purchase amount) and a Non-Sterling Purchase Fee of £0.50.

I can write off poor rates infrequently, but in the future I may make foreign currency purchases on a recurring basis (e.g. renting a server priced in USD on a monthly basis). Is there a better payment system for this? How can I determine what the rate is prior to making a purchase, and how can I tell if the rate is competitive?

I shredded whatever credit cards I had ten years ago, but am willing to get one again, or a payment card of some kind, if that helps.


(Mike Elsmore) #2

I’ve been using Curve (https://www.imaginecurve.com/) & Revolut (https://www.revolut.com/) for. I have my Curve card setup for any repeating non-GBP payments like my Digital Ocean or AWS charges, but for one off or high infrequent stuff (like random Teefury purchases) I’ll use my Revolut card as I have a virtual card that I freeze and unfreeze as purchases happen.


(Jon) #3

Dear me, I have a lot to learn - I had to search for TeeFury as well :blush:

Thanks for the tips - will take a peek.

Do you happen to know if I need to use an Android/iPhone app with either of those? I am still on a steam-powered phone, and would be quite happy to use a web app instead.


(Mike Elsmore) #4

Ah, every solution I know if uses an iOS or Android app. The only thing I’ve been introduced to previously that may work (but I can’t say as I’ve never used it) is https://entropay.com/


(Tom English) #5

For the odd non-GBP payments I make (usually certain VPS offers) I tend to use paypal.


(Jon) #6

A fair point, @Mr_Tom. Do you know if PayPal’s FX rates are reasonable? I’ve used them before for things, but same as with my current account, I don’t check whether I’m getting a good rate for low-value items. I seem to recall they don’t have an additional handling fee, which is a start :slightly_smiling_face:.


(Tom English) #7

To be honest, I’ve really only glanced at what it says is the exchange rate on the page before committing and it usually seems about right.
I don’t think there are extra fees for the conversion and comes out the bank as a GBP transaction.

I have got a large(ish) bill to pay in EUR this week so will have to remember to check what it says is current rate compared with the rest of the internet.


(Tom English) #8

Just paid something via PayPal and on the checkout page PayPal said 1GBP=1.08EUR.

I googled “1gbp to eur” and google is saying 1GBP=1.13EUR.

Not sure if that’s reasonable or not. Worked out about £4 dearer using PayPals rate.


(Alex Russell) #9

Revolut’s rate, right now, is 1.1281.


(Jon) #10

Following this up, I had assumed that Lloyd’s debit card rate was not published. In fact it is, if one digs a bit in their website. The information sits in the general account T&Cs (page 5 at the time of writing). The important bit:

Using your debit card to make a purchase or other transaction (not a cash withdrawal) in a currency other than sterling.

The amount is converted to sterling on the day it is processed by Visa using the Visa Payment Scheme Exchange Rate. We will charge a non-sterling transaction fee of 2.99% of the value of the transaction and we will charge a non-sterling purchase fee of £0.50 per transaction which is not applicable if you use a Platinum or Premier account debit card.

I’m fishing around for a cheapie 1G VPS, and the best ones seem to be 5 USD/month, from the likes of Digital Ocean, Linode and Vultr. None of them are willing to deal in non-USD currencies, unfortunately.

This purchase makes use of Visa rates, and the calculator here allows me to add the 2.99% (it’s not too explicit about the raw rates, but it could be worked out). I get this:

5.00 United States Dollar = 3.66 Pound Sterling

I think this means the 2.99% is included in the above, so with the 50p Lloyds surcharge, that’s a princely £4.16 per month (which is less than I spend on a similar UK server anyway, as it happens). I’ll try this on my debit card “for science” and will report back. I can always change the payment system if it adds surprise charges.

So it looks like low-value transactions aren’t penalised greatly for the lazy option of my own bank card. However, for larger sums, the 2.99% could become more significant, so I will still try to find another card with better rates.


(Daniel Hollands) #11

I have all my foreign transactions go via my Revolt card. To give you an idea, back in Feb I had a $5.79 transaction from Heroku, which translated into £4.15. I don’t know if the exchange rate was particularly high that day or something, because it doesn’t sound all that much different to what you’re quoting from Lloyds.