Poor exchange rates and high fees cost Britons £640m on holidays in Europe last year

New research by credit experts TotallyMoney reveals Brits lost £640m on their holidays in Europe last year due to high transaction fees and poor exchange rates. The annual Financial Awareness Survey 2019 commissioned by TotallyMoney and carried out by OnePoll asked 2,000 UK adults about their spending habits before and during a holiday abroad.

  • £437m was lost on holidays in Europe in the past year due to poor exchange rates and fees when spending cash
  • A further £95 million was lost through using debit cards abroad, and over £7 million using pre-paid cards
  • Brits using their primary credit card as opposed to a travel credit card paid out over £100 million extra on fees and exchange rates
  • Only a small number of people (8%) use travel credit cards while abroad
  • Over £80 million could have been saved in the past year by avoiding expensive exchange rates at the airport
  • More than half (58%) don’t know you can avoid high fees by paying in the local currency

The survey highlighted over half of people (51%) use cash abroad. If everyone changed their exchanging habits, nearly €500m more could have been spent in Europe last year.

Brits using their debit, credit and pre-paid cards while holidaying in Europe last year paid an extra £103 million in fees and poor exchange rates.

For a lot of people, exchanging currency is based on convenience, rather than value. But, this decision is wasting millions of pounds.

Another error is exchanging cash at the airport. Changing money before arriving at the airport could save over £80 million. This works out as a staggering £55.25 per person.

TotallyMoney CEO, Alastair Douglas, believes planning could be the key to saving money on holiday. He said: “Summer holidays are a highlight for so many families, and lots of planning goes into creating the perfect trip. Unfortunately, lack of financial planning means people are losing money.

“Poor exchange rates at the airport and using the wrong card abroad mean people end up spending more money than they need to. Understanding the fees involved can help people have a bit more spending money in their pocket.

Douglas explains that using a travel credit card could be the best solution: “Cards with no overseas transaction fees are perfect. It also means you don’t have to carry loads of cash around with you. The TotallyMoney credit card eligibility checker can help you to find cards you’re likely to be accepted for before your holiday.”

Here are five tips to make your money go further on your holiday this summer.

Get a travel credit card

The TotallyMoney financial awareness survey 2019 found that just over a third of people (37%) are aware you don’t have to spend on your credit cards every month. This means a travel credit card can be saved for each holiday. Keep it with your passport and it’s ready every time you travel.

The best travel credit cards charge no transaction fees while abroad. But, even with a poor credit history, you may be eligible for cards with a low overseas transaction fee. This will be cheaper than using your debit card while away. TotallyMoney’s free eligibility checker lets you see what cards you are likely to be accepted for before you apply.

Find the best currency exchange rate at a specialist travel bureau

Airports are known for their lousy exchange rates. They know it’s the last chance for people to change money before jetting off. This Summer, visit a specialist travel bureau to change your cash. These places often offer the best rate on the market and can make your cash go further while away.

Always pay in the local currency — you will receive the best rate

Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) — being able to withdraw or pay using your own currency abroad — gives a poor exchange rate. Yet, over half of people (58%) are unaware of this and opt for the familiarity of Stirling.

Unsuspecting tourists may find lenders and retailers favour this type of transaction as they get more money.

Alarmingly, 16% of those surveyed opted to pay in Pounds, while 17% claim they never had the option of choosing the local currency.

When given the choice of currency by retailers and restaurants, always choose local currency.

Check how much your bank or lender charges for transactions abroad

Many of the fees charged on credit and debit cards abroad are extremely high. Despite this, over one in ten (13%) use their primary credit card for most of their payments on holiday.

Before jetting off, check with your lender how much it will charge for overseas transactions. If the fee is high, it’s worth finding an alternative option — such as a travel credit card.

Check how much your bank or lender charges for withdrawal fees abroad

Not to be confused with transaction fees, withdrawal fees occur when using a credit card at an ATM. This charge will occur both in the UK and abroad.

But, certain cards may charge ATM withdrawal fees, plus fees for withdrawing abroad — meaning you pay even more for withdrawing cash overseas.

If you like paying in cash while on holiday, make sure to bring enough to spend and exchange it at a competitive price before arriving at the airport.

NGDATA enables marketers to design and deliver data-driven, individualised campaigns in minutes, not weeks

NGDATA today announces a new platform that transforms marketers’ ability to tailor campaigns to individual consumers, enabling them to set up data-rich, insight-driven customer campaigns in minutes rather than weeks.

NGDATA’s Intelligent Engagement Platform (IEP) has been engineered to overcome the challenges of turning huge volumes of data into individually tailored campaigns which create a unique experience for each customer.

Traditionally many organisations have struggled to stitch together data from various sources to gain a true picture of consumers. What’s more, brands often lack the tools needed to connect every customer interaction across a growing range of channels, making it difficult if not impossible to adapt interactions with timely and accurate data. Finally, businesses in every sector are facing a chronic shortage of data science skills needed to turn data into actionable insight that result in revenue.

The Intelligent Engagement Platform enables any marketer to supercharge their omni-channel interactions with rich and comprehensive insight on the unique Customer DNA of each individual. The IEP provides a simple and intuitive user interface that enables marketers to design and manage holistic, contextualised and individually-relevant campaigns at the push of a button. An evolution of the NGDATA CDP (Customer Data Platform) product, the IEP builds on these capabilities to further develop self-service analytics, orchestration capabilities and ‘out of the box’ use cases to facilitate faster time to market.

“Customers expect a highly personalised relationship with brands, but all too often businesses are drowning in data and unable to get the right message to the right person at the right time,” said Doug Gross, CEO at NGDATA. “Turning data into insight has traditionally been a job for specialists, and it can typically take around a week to set up a new customer-focused campaign with all the relevant metrics.

“NGDATA’s Intelligent Engagement Platform makes it simple and fast for any marketer, even those without data and technical skillsets, to design and implement customer-centric campaigns for a huge range of use cases to deliver on marketing goals. What we’ve added with the IEP is an intuitive push-button approach to using this insight to achieve specific goals.”

The new capabilities enable marketers to set up and manage individualised customer experiences in minutes, and to visualise audiences and measure consumer sentiment in real-time. They can also refine metrics as they go, ensuring the most accurate, relevant and timely experiences are recommended automatically by the IEP. The extensive possibilities presented by the IEP include ‘out of the box’ solutions to solve common marketing pain points, such as: driving customer acquisition in financial services, increasing the average transaction value in retail, and running customer retention and loyalty programmes in telecoms and hospitality contexts.

Geert Van Mol, CDO at Belfius, one of Belgium’s top ten banks and long-standing NGDATA customer, adds: “The new NGDATA platform will put customer analytics and AI in the hands of our marketers and will help our marketing organisation to play in a whole new league by delivering the most effective and hyper-personal customer engagement in real-time on a daily basis”.

NGDATA’s Intelligent Customer Engagement Platform is centred on three core capabilities:

  • Unified Customer View, that provides a holistic, contextualized Customer DNA.
  • Real-Time Omni-Channel 1:1 Interactions, enabling marketers to supercharge channel and execution systems with real-time actionable insights into individual customers, thereby maximizing targeting precision.
  • Self-Service Analytics and Machine Learning, including capabilities such as audience clustering and lookalike modelling to discover, analyse and predict emerging opportunities from customer data. This enables marketers to deliver more relevant customer experiences.

Hanley Economic BS expands intermediary support team

Hanley Economic Building Society has expanded its dedicated intermediary support team with the addition of Kate McKeon as an Intermediary Sales Assistant.

The expansion of the team will enable the Society to offer a more individual approach to enquiries and better support them all the way through to completion.

The role will see Kate engage with intermediaries through Hanley’s online chat facility, as well as being an integral part of the broker helpline. She will also provide additional BDM support and provide a vital link in supporting a variety of intermediary partners.

David Lownds, Head of Marketing & Business Development at Hanley Economic Building Society, commented: “The intermediary market is an integral, and growing, component within our future plans and this bolstering of our dedicated intermediary team is a further step forward in meeting the needs of more advisers across the UK and taking our support proposition to the next level.”

CreditEnable a winner in Inaugural ‘Inclusive Fintech 50’ Competition

CreditEnable, the integrated market place that connects SMEs and Banks, has won a place in the inaugural, 2019 ‘Inclusive Fintech 50’ Competition.

CreditEnable is a global credit insights fintech whose award winning market place helps SMEs prepare for and secure debt at competitive rates from lenders who previously lacked the ability and metrics with which to assess them. It uses numerous proprietary technologies in AI to help tackle one of the world’s most dysfunctional credit gaps, estimated at over $4.5 trillion.

Inclusive Fintech 50 is a competition designed to recognise early-stage fintechs driving financial inclusion in both emerging and advanced markets around the world, especially those helping innovate for underserved customer groups in credit, insurance, payments and remittances, infrastructure and personal finance.

Along with a detailed scoring methodology, a judging panel of industry leading founders and investors (see here) rated applicants to the competition across inclusiveness, innovation, traction, and ability to scale. There were 400 eligible applicants that applied over a six-week period.

Says CreditEnable CEO and Founder Nadia Sood; “Moving excluded people, communities and sectors into the financial mainstream is one of the most urgent challenges facing developed and emerging societies alike, and the biggest opportunity for fintechs to address. I am proud to have won a major award in such a hotly contested area and want to thank the judges and organisers of the Inclusive Fintech 50 for their important initiative and for our commendation”.

Says the analyst team behind Inclusive Fintech 50; “CreditEnable demonstrates the power of technology and smart solutions for solving problems in the SME credit market, an important segment for driving economic growth and prosperity in many countries. We’re excited to recognize CreditEnable’s success to date, and will continue to watch the firm as it enables lenders to more easily reach and service SMEs with appropriate and accessible products”.

Credit card providers slow cuts to interest-free terms

The latest quarterly Moneyfacts UK Credit Card Trends Treasury Report, which studies the UK personal finance market (Unsecured Personal Loans, Credit Cards and Overdrafts) and is due to be published later this week, reveals that providers have continued to cut the length of interest-free purchase and balance transfer terms on credit cards, albeit at a slower pace over the past quarter.

Indeed, the average interest-free term on purchases has fallen to 331 days, a drop of just four days over the past three months, in comparison to the fall of 14 days recorded in the previous quarter (December – March 2019). The drop in interest-free balance transfer terms has also fallen at a slower pace, a drop of just seven days over Q2 2019, in comparison to the fall of 30 days in Q1 2019.

Rachel Springall, Finance Expert at Moneyfacts, said: “While the pace of cuts to 0% credit card deals has slowed over the past quarter, there is still a noticeable difference with the generosity of lengthy interest-free terms compared to previous years. As it stands, the average interest-free purchase term stands at 331 days compared to 360 days in June 2018, whereas the average interest-free balance transfer term has fallen to 532 days, down from 595 days in June 2018.

“On balance transfer cards, it appears to be that the top deals have little to define them, with the top 0% deals offering a term of 29 months, the majority of which charge a 3% fee (expect for the market-leader MBNA which charges 2.75%). Traditionally, there would be much more competition with pricing balance transfer fees when the longest 0% deals sat alongside one another, but today this doesn’t seem the case. A year ago the longest deals were offering a 0% interest-free term for 36 months and the fees varied, with the lowest set at 1.99% and the highest at 2.80% over this term.

“As it stands, borrowers not only have a shorter time to repay their debts before interest applies compared to a year ago, but they may also pay a higher upfront fee when choosing the longest 0% balance transfer cards on the market. Still, it is important that consumers consider these offers instead of incurring consecutive interest charges. If someone made a purchase of £3,000 on a typical credit card and made just £100 in repayments per month, the debt would linger for over three years and cost them £970 in interest*.

“Consumers either looking to move their debts or make a purchase still have many options to choose from, but they would be wise to scrutinise any upfront costs first. As with any debt, customers must ensure they set up a fixed repayment plan to clear their debt before any 0% offer ends.”

*Credit card repayment based on £3,000 purchase, based on an interest rate of 18.9% APR, minimum fixed repayment of £100 (thereafter a minimum of 1% plus monthly interest or £5, whichever is higher) and would take three years and four months to pay back, costing £970 in interest over this term.

Newbury Building Society join Equity Release Club retirement lending panel

Newbury Building Society has today become the latest lender to join the Equity Release Club’s retirement lending panel.

Members of the Equity Release Club, the distributor for equity release and later life advisers, will now be able to access the Newbury’s range of mortgage products for later life customers including its Retirement Interest Only (RIO) product.

Newbury’s RIO mortgage is a five-year discount, currently available at 3.45% and offered up to 50% LTV. It is available to those borrowers aged 60 or above, retired and in receipt of a pension or other ongoing income.

The RIO can be used for purchasing or remortgaging the client’s residential home and comes with a minimum loan size of £50k (or £40k for existing borrowers transferring into the product). The Newbury lends in both England and Wales and the minimum property value to secure the RIO is £125k.

In addition to its RIO mortgage, Newbury also offers its full residential and buy-to-let mortgage range to persons aged 90 and is able to use a manual underwriting process to look at a wide range of complex situations.

Gary Little, Commercial Director at AIR Group, commented:

“There’s no doubt that the mutual sector continues to embrace the later life lending market, in particular offering RIO products which might be suitable for clients coming to the end of their residential mortgage, and who have the income to continue paying interest into their retirement. At the Equity Release Club we want to ensure that all our members have access to the wide range of providers and products that make up the later life market, and adding the Newbury Building Society to our retirement lending panel broadens our offering in this area. Increasingly, we’re seeing growing demand for later life lending, whether that be RIOs or equity release, and it’s highly important that advisers are able to recommend from across the wide range of product options available. We are looking forward to working with the Newbury and ensuring its proposition and adviser services connect with our member firms.”

Karen Smith, Sales Manager at Newbury Building Society, said:

“As a mutual building society, we listened to our members and broker contacts who expressed a need for a RIO mortgage and further accessibility to our standard residential mortgage book. People are living for longer and therefore, as a lender, it is our responsibility to ensure we are offering the right products at the right time. In addition, we need to ensure we arm our intermediaries with the best possible tools to help them reach their client’s goal. Not only does this include the launch of our RIO product, but also the increase of the upper age lending limit to 90 years old. We look forward to working with the Equity Release Club’s retirement lending panel over the coming months.”

The Moving Hub and Acquaint CRM announce strategic partnership

The Moving Hub, a leading conveyancing platform and case management system, has announced the formation of a strategic partnership with Acquaint CRM.

This move will allow new and existing users of the Acquaint CRM system access to The Moving Hub platform to connect with its extensive network of conveyancers and benefit from its unique upfront fee structure. The Moving Hub’s offering can also be white labelled, meaning agents can recommend conveyancing services through their own branding.

The Moving Hub is a conveyancing platform designed to help introducers such as mortgage intermediaries, financial advisers and estate agents connect to one of the largest panel of vetted solicitors across England and Wales. It is the first conveyancing platform to offer referral fees up front rather than on completion and is the first to consider the case capacity of each solicitor on the network so as not to overload and affect the quality of service.

Acquaint CRM is designed to help firms reduce admin levels to save time and develop their business. The system is designed to be scalable from a single user, to multi-user, multi-branch or even franchise models. Simple configuration allows business users to customise Acquaint and set permissions, views and security levels for their staff.

Peter Joseph, CEO at The Moving Hub, commented: Acquaint CRM is one of the market leaders in sales and lettings software and reflects everything that we, as a business, are trying to achieve. Technology is shaping the way a range of business needs can be supported and how value is being added across all links in the property chain. We believe this partnership between our systems will open up additional revenue streams for users, whilst better supporting service standards and client expectations.”

Grant Jaquest, Director, Bright Logic added: “This strategic partnership with The Moving Hub offers new and existing clients not only access to a simple to use and intuitive conveyancing platform but also to a raft of other service offerings. The property market is changing all the time, and we are always striving for ways to provide clients with opportunities to expend their offerings into new areas and meet their clients needs. This is the beginning of an exciting relationship and we look forward to working closely with Peter and the rest of the Moving Hub team.”

Increased focus on vulnerability ‘must lead to action’ from energy industry

The Money Advice Trust has today welcomed Ofgem’s new draft Consumer Vulnerability Strategy, which provides a strong focus for the energy industry on how to improve support for customers in vulnerable circumstances.

The draft Consumer Vulnerability Strategy, which is open for consultation until 8 August 2019, focuses on the five themes:

  • Improving identification of vulnerability and smart use of data
  • Supporting those struggling with their bills
  • Driving significant improvements in customer service
  • Encouraging positive and inclusive innovation
  • Working with partners to tackle issues that cut across multiple sectors.

In its strategy the regulator outlines concerns that suppliers are not doing enough for people in debt and outlines potential rules to ensure greater consideration is given to customer’s ability to pay.

Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, who served as a member of the Commission for Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances, said: “This increased focus on vulnerability in the energy sector is a welcome one, and shows that there is the will from the regulator to improve support for energy customers in vulnerable circumstances.

“At National Debtline, household debts, such as energy, are increasingly making up a significant part of the debt landscape.

“I am particularly pleased to see the regulator looking at strengthening support for customers facing payment difficulty and encouraging suppliers to be more proactive – something we have long called for.

“Following the recent report from the Commission for Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances, it feels like momentum is growing to improve practice across the energy sector.

“However, as last week’s report identified, significant work is needed to improve the consistency of support across the sector. It is now up to suppliers and the industry as a whole to act. There is an important role for the third sector to play and we look forward to building on our existing work with energy firms to access the advice and help they need.”

Cybera Survey Finds Retailers Struggling to Balance Customer Experience Demands with Essential IT Security Needs

A new survey by Cybera, the leader in SD-WAN Edge application and security services, has found that retailers are struggling to balance the challenges of delivering increased footfall, bigger basket sizes, and an enhanced customer experience with their fundamental technology and IT security needs.

Conducted in May 2019 at RetailEXPO 2019, the survey revealed that offering a differentiated customer experience (31 percent) and increasing footfall (28 percent) are the biggest challenges for retailers. In addition, another recent report showed that poor customer experiences cost British retailers up to £102 billion in lost sales each year.

Retailers are well aware of the need to positively differentiate themselves, with 83 percent of respondents in the Cybera survey citing that delivering an enhanced in-store customer experience is very important. The key to addressing all these new challenges is additional applications and services, the majority of which will rely on secure, stable, and scalable network technology. However, nearly one quarter (23 percent) of the respondents have not introduced additional services to their stores in the past 12 months.

The primary inhibitors included cost—25 percent said they thought it would be too expensive—followed by IT security concerns (19 percent) and a belief that their network would not support additional applications (14 percent). Moreover, many retailers noted the ever-evolving regulatory landscape—including GDPR, PCI, and the upcoming PSD2—as an added distraction. Nearly half (47 percent) said they were concerned about new regulatory demands, admitting it was time to review their technology and processes.

Interestingly, less than 10 percent considered IT security to be a key business challenge. This is particularly startling compared to the findings of the British Retail Consortium’s annual crime survey, which found that members are generally seeing a growth in the number of cyber-attacks, continuing previous years’ patterns. Nearly 80 percent of respondents in that survey said the volume of cyber-attacks and breaches had increased in 2018 over the previous year.

Cybera SVP and GM EMEA, Hubert da Costa, explained, “Retail technology and customer demands are constantly changing, but one thing that will always be critical is customer experience. The growth of IoT in retail is staggering and it threatens the ability to deliver a consistent, high-quality customer experience. All of these network-enabled devices are disparate, which means separate management and requirements. This IoT growth is challenging for retailers—many of whom operate remote, smaller-footprint sites managed by a staff with limited IT expertise. The solution is to leverage a network platform that enables them to deliver these new breakthrough apps and services quickly, easily, and without compromising their security.”

Lenders need to keep a close eye on borrowers who have spread themselves too thin

The latest Mortgage Lenders and Administrators Statistics from the Bank of England show that arrears are down but the number of high LTVs are up as is high loan to income lending, Mark Pilling, Spicerhaart Corporate Sales managing director, says that lenders need to keep a close eye on borrowers who have spread themselves too thin: “The latest Mortgage Lenders and Administrators Statistics reveal that the proportion of total loans in arrears fell slightly on the quarter to £14.4bn while the proportion of total loan balances in arrears decreased from 1.0% – which it has held for some time – to 0.99%; the lowest since the series began in 2007.

“It is good news that arrears remain historically low – and in fact are continuing to fall – but these statistics do not necessarily mean that people are no longer experiencing financial difficulties. In fact, it is more a sign that lenders are doing all they can to help borrowers who are struggling to avoid arrears and repossessions.

“Another thing to note from these stats is that borrowers are taking out bigger and bigger loans. The number of mortgages with LTVs above 90% increased by 4.5% (compared to 3.3% a year earlier) the highest since 2017, while the proportion of lending to borrowers with high loan to income ratios (more than four times their salary for single incomes and three times for joint) rose to 45%.

“This suggests that many borrowers are stretching themselves too thin, and if and when rates do rise, they may start to struggle.

“It is therefore important that lenders to look at all the cases on their books and if they have concerns about borrowers who are already struggling or are likely to down the line, to speak to them sooner rather than later in order to look at possible options. We work closely with lenders to manage their arrears and repossessions, to find solutions that best suit them and their customers.”