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Countdown to Article 50: should you buy your holiday money now?

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

The government will invoke Article 50 tomorrow, officially paving the way for the UK to leave the EU. Brexit has already caused radical movements to the pound so what can we expect this week and is it best to buy foreign currency today?

Following the Brexit vote in June, the pound plummeted around 12% against the euro and around 18% against the dollar from pre-referendum highs, severely dampening the exchange rate for Brits heading abroad.

As we’ve come to see, any political or economic announcement mentioning Brexit has a notable effect on the value of the pound. So, as the UK government prepares to invoke Article 50 tomorrow, what will happen to the value of the pound?

Three currency and foreign exchange specialists give their views on what the momentous day means for the already-battered pound:

‘Hedge your bets by booking half now, half later’

Caxton FX’s currency markets analyst, Alexandra Russell-Oliver, says: “While the UK’s leaving the EU is an unprecedented situation, one thing we can certainly expect is further volatility, both this week and in the coming months as the UK negotiates what looks set to be a “hard” Brexit.

“Exactly what the pound’s reaction is will depend in part on market sentiment at the time. Is the triggering seen as a reminder of the uncertainty that lays ahead? Or do markets breathe a sigh of relief, with one key step out of the way and the path forward looking a little more certain?

“In the former situation, we could see the pound weaken again against both the euro and the dollar. In the latter, sterling could push to new recent highs. Either way, volatility will continue – not only do we have the UK’s Brexit negotiations, but there are also the upcoming elections in France and Germany and uncertainty over US fiscal policies and the timing of the next interest rate hike to consider.

“During volatile times, it’s always worth considering taking advantage of any gains in your favour. You can also hedge your bets by booking half now, half later. That way, whether the rate goes in your favour or against you, you’ll benefit from the higher exchange rate on at least half of the amount. As the pound has recently made gains, particularly against the dollar, it could be worth taking advantage of that movement.”

‘If you’re happy with the rate on offer, buy your currency now’

Ian Strafford-Taylor, CEO of FairFX, said: “The pound has experienced a tumultuous eight months since the Brexit referendum. Even though the Brexit negotiations could last up to two years, the triggering of Article 50 hails uncertainty and this continues to rock currency rates as currency is very sensitive to market volatility.

“The official start of Brexit negotiations this week could weaken the pound or, as this event has been anticipated for some time now, the reaction could be muted. Predicting currency movements is near impossible so the only thing that consumers can do is be proactive when it comes to travel money. The key is to plan ahead. If you’re happy with the rate on offer, buy your currency now. That way you’ll guarantee how much you get for the pound even if you’re not travelling imminently.

“We have customers who routinely top-up their prepaid cards whenever the pound improves or ahead of major political and economic events purely to lock-in the rate which means you have control over your spending and won’t get stung by poor rates should the pound fall.”

‘Get your money exchanged before Article 50 is triggered’

CEO of International Currency Exchange (ICE), Koko Sarkari, says: “It is wise to get your money exchanged before Article 50 is triggered on Wednesday 29 March. Although the foreign exchange rate on the pound isn’t likely to drop as heavily as some have predicted, it is still a good idea to buy your foreign currency in advance, to ensure that you are not affected by the lower rates we might see over the coming weeks.

“When abroad a ‘split purse’ method may be the best way to go. This means that you don’t rely on one payment method, but instead have the option of cash or card when you’re away. You can pay by card when the rate is good, and cash when it’s bad. This way you will get the most for your money and can return any cash you don’t use on your return with your buyback guarantee.”