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Brits in the dark about foreign currencies

Written by: Emma Lunn
Only one in four people could identify a New Zealand dollar bank note while 46% of Brits couldn’t identify the official currency of Turkey.

Research by travel money firm FairFX found more than a third (36%) of Brits don’t feel confident identifying different currencies, despite 68% travelling abroad at least once a year before the pandemic.

More than a quarter (26%) of those surveyed confessed to having a poor understanding about currencies, while almost one in 10 admitted to having no idea at all when it comes to foreign cash (9%).

FairFX found 41% of Brits feel their lack of understanding on different currencies is linked closely to the decline in cash and increased use of cards while abroad over the past few years. More than eight in 10 (82%) people also expect to shun cash when next abroad, citing concerns over hygiene and risk of catching Covid-19.

According to FairFX, more than two thirds (68%) of Brits travelled overseas at least once a year before the pandemic, with 18% doing so three to five times a year. But despite being a nation of travellers, when it comes to correctly identifying a krone from a krona, Brits didn’t fare well.

Although 74% of those aged between 18 and 34 were ‘very confident’ in their ability to identify currencies from around the world, when put to the test this age group didn’t do well in correctly naming the national bank notes they were shown.

Despite British tourists making more than 2.5million visits to Turkey in 2019, FairFX’s investigation found almost half (46%) of those surveyed were unable to identify the Turkish lira as the official currency. Almost one in five (17%) incorrectly thought the official tender was the euro, while 20% confessed to not knowing it at all.

Only a quarter (25%) of people were able to correctly spot the New Zealand dollar when presented with a 10-dollar bank note. Meanwhile, almost nine out of 10 people (89%) were unable to accurately identify the Danish krone when presented with a 100 krone note. In fact, two fifths (40%) mistook the bank note for another currency altogether.

More than half (56%) of Brits were also unable to correctly name the krona as the official currency of Sweden, with almost one in five (17%) incorrectly believing the country’s official tender is the euro.

While cash spending in the UK has steadily declined in recent years, more than three fifths (61%) of travellers still opted to use cash for at least some of their spending money when they last travelled abroad.

Only a fifth (22%) of Brits relied on credit or debit cards while abroad, potentially highlighting an increased awareness of the high fees charged for spending this way while overseas.

Ian Strafford-Taylor, CEO of FairFX, said: “Our research has highlighted that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on the way people are likely to use cash once they’re able to head abroad again. But it’s clear the steady decline of cash we’ve seen in recent years has also impacted our knowledge of different currencies used around the world.

“While taking a large amount of currency abroad may have once been the norm, people now favour card payments in day-to-day life and this has no doubt impacted our spending habits while abroad, too. Less awareness when it comes to spending overseas also leaves holiday makers at risk of being ripped off by hidden charges and poor rates, so it’s important Brits make sure they’re choosing the right payment method for them.

“Although the future of travelling abroad is still unclear, opting for a prepaid currency card for your next trip will help not only to ease worries about hygiene and safety, but could also help holidaymakers get the most for their money by avoiding hidden charges and taking advantage of better rates.”

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