Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Currency Cards - A safer way to carry money abroad

Currency cards are becoming more and more popular with tourists travelling across the globe. They offer a safe and secure way of carrying lots of money and can be replaced if lost or stolen. A prepaid card can be topped up easily online or via SMS and unlike paying with credit or debit card you can only spend the money you have and not dip into an overdraft (authorised or unauthorised!!)

Travellers visiting areas notorious with pickpockets, don't want to carry large amounts of cash in their wallets. All prepaid currency cards use chip and pin security and if your card is stolen your money will be replaced. 

What currencies are available on a prepaid card?
The main currencies available are:

£ British Pounds
€ Euros
$ US Dollars
$ Australian Dollars
$ New Zealand Dollars
$ Canadian Dollars
Swiss Francs
South African Rand
The Post Office


Fair FX

Caxton FX


Benefits of using a prepaid card
  • Unlike travellers cheques, a prepaid card will fit conveniently into your wallet and does not require additional identification for use, allowing you to keep your passport safe and not on your person.
  • Secure - Chip and pin security gives you peace of mind that should your card become lost or stolen it cannot be used easily.
  • Fast replacement - If your card is lost or stolen
  • Competitive exchange rates - Most providers are currently offering better exchange rates for prepaid card customers than rates available for travel cash.
  • Budgeting - No overspending. You can only spend the funds you have on the card.
  • Easy to top up. Prepaid cards can be topped up online by you or a family member or friend giving you access to additional funds quickly when you need it.
Travelling to a country with a currency not on the list above?
If you are travelling to a country which does not use one of the currencies available on a currency card you can load a card with British pounds. Your money will be converted into the local currency each time you make a withdraw.  This method enables you to still benefit from the safety aspects of using a prepaid card but the downside is that you will have little control over the exchange rate you will receive. 

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Changing face of the British High street - The closure of many bank branches is imminent

Over the next decade 6,000 High street bank branches are set to disappear as more and more customers use online banking facilities. Bank branches currently account for around 60% of banking costs including salaries, rent and maintenance. With a growing number of customers using telephone and online banking, local branches are becoming obsolete.  
In 2012 348 banks and building societies closed within the UK and experts are predicting this number to escalate in the coming years. Property advisory firm Jones Lang LaSalle have warned that by 2020 half of the banks within Europe will face closure.   
Currently in Britain there are 11,600 bank branches on the high street. With the predicted closure of so many how will this affect local towns in the future? A particular concern is how the closures will affect the elderly..... Those most likely to be without home internet and who struggle with automated telephone banking services and foreign call centres. Even for those confident in using online banking facilities when a problem occurs many find it far easier and less stressful to get the issue resolved in branch than over the telephone. Many people also enjoy the social aspect of going into their local bank branch and speaking to a member of staff face to face.

HSBC has announced branches in Cheshire, Newport, Yorkshire, Gwent and Leicestershire will shortly be closed, bring the total number of closures since June to 25. RBS and Natwest has closed 60 branches and Barclay's has closed 30 this year   

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Mo Farah supports campaign to stop the closure of money transfer services

One of Great Britain's top athletes, the Olympic Gold medalist Mo Farah is helping to raise awareness about the issues people in the developing world will face now that Barclay's Bank has withdrawn facilities for money transfer agencies. He is backing a campaign started by MP for Bethnal Green and Bow Rushanara Ali to save money transfer agencies that help to provide a lifeline to some of the poorest people in the world.

Barclays bank has withdrawn remittance accounts for money transfer companies due to money laundering scams and the difficulty in policing the movement of money from the UK overseas.  In May after a review of their current anti-money laundering policy Barclays found that 250 companies did not meet their current criteria. 80 of these companies are still active in the remittance sector and were given 60 days notice that Barclay's would no longer be providing facilities for them to operate.

Over 25,500 signatures were handed in to 10 Downing Street on a petition which included Mo Farah asking for money transfer agencies to be protected.

In Somalia Barclays was the last UK bank to provide money transfer services to the country where it is estimated around 40% of the population rely on money coming in from remittance firms. Oxfam have reported an estimated £3.2 billion has been sent in aid via agencies from the UK with £109 million transferred from the UK to Somalia.

If residents of the UK are no longer able to send money to the developing world using local remittance firms they will use alternative methods which will cost more meaning the most venerable are likely to receive much less financial help. 
Large remittance firms such a Western Union and MoneyGram have not been affected by Barclays policy review. They still offer money transfer facilities to countries such as Somalia but are far more expensive with hefty transaction fees of up to £20 and provide uncompetitive exchange rates.

People desperate to get money to their loved one overseas may use unregulated dangerous and alternative methods that could see them losing their cash.

A meeting has been held with the British Bankers Association, the UK's economic secretary Sajid Javid, the UKs financial regulators, representatives from a number of major high street banks and representatives from money service businesses to try and find a resolution and help to ensure the safe provision of remittance services going forward. A spokesperson has described the meeting as "very constructive" and a review is taking place to see how those affected by the changes can be supported.