Is Travelex Safe?
Launched in 1976, Travelex has grown to become one of the leading specialist providers of foreign exchange services. Travelex operates across the entire foreign exchange spectrum in over 20 countries. The group now runs a network of over 900 ATMs and more than 1,100 stores at both in-airport and off-airport locations around the world and has built a growing online and mobile foreign exchange platform. It also processes and delivers foreign currency orders for major banks, travel agencies and hotels. In addition, the group sources and distributes significant quantities of foreign currency banknotes for customers on a wholesale basis including central banks and international financial institutions. The group also has a small offering of remittance and international money transfer products around the world. Our review focuses specifically on Travelex money transfer which is currently only directly available under the Travelex brand in Singapore and Australia.
Prior to Thomas Cook going into liquidation, Travelex also ran Thomas Cook travel money services. These bureaux de change dealt with travel money and not remittances, unlike Western Union and Moneygram.
At various stages of its growth, Travelex has been more and less involved with overseas money transfers. In July 2011 for example, Travelex sold its Global Business Payments division to Western Union for £606 million.
Travelex has changed ownership a number of times throughout its existence. It was originally launched by Lloyd Dorfman and headquartered in London. In 2005, Apax Partners bought a majority stake in the company, with Dorfman retaining a 30% stake in the business. In 2014, Apax Partners sold its majority stake to UAE-based Indian businessman B. R. Shetty, a move at the time which valued Travelex at approx £1bn. Shetty was also the owner of UAE Exchange, a UAE-based money transfer business. In 2019, Travelex, UAE Exchange and a number of other financial service businesses were placed into a holding company called Finablr, paving the way for an IPO on the London Stock Exchange. In 2020, Travelex collapsed into administration with PWC being appointed administrators and restructuring the business. The ‘New Travelex Group’ was then bought out by Barings LLC and Vector Capital. Barings LLC claiming a 56% share of the newly formed group and Vector Capital a 14% share. The ‘New Travelex’ will be made up of businesses that will constitute over 80% of the 2019 revenues of the ‘Old Travelex’, but with a significantly lower cost base.
Travelex has also been known for its community involvement and sponsorship deals. For example, there’s a hall inside the Royal National Theatre in London named “the Dorfman Theatre”- a change of name granted to Lloyd Dorfman for a £10m donation to complete refurbishment works. In the past, Travelex was also known to sponsor the national Australian cricket team and the national opera house.
It should be noted that over recent years, Travelex has encountered its fair share of criticism and negative media coverage. Much of this was driven by its old parent company Finablr but also because of cyber attacks revealing potential security flaws in Travelex’s operations.
Travelex was held to ransom by hackers in January 2020 after a cyber attack forced it to turn off its systems, a move which also brought Travelex’s white-label online travel money services for ASDA, Sainsbury’s and Tesco to a halt. It took a £25m hit after its systems were encrypted by Sodinokibi ransomware on 31 December 2019.
Finablr was suspended from the London Stock Exchange in March 2020 when it was discovered the firm sought undisclosed financing of £81m. The move signalling a collapse for Finablr when a hidden debt pile of £1.3 billion Travelex was held to ransom by hackers in January after a cyber attack forced it to turn off its systems. It took a £25m hit after its systems were encrypted by Sodinokibi ransomware on 31 December 2019.
Travel money, money exchange, cash withdrawal and prepaid currency cards are the heart of Travelex’s consumer-facing businesses. Travelex allows individuals to order the currency they need online for their very best rates. Individuals can then pick up cash in store or get it delivered to their home.
The two online options for travel money include:
Cash delivery to your doorstep: Free delivery for orders above £600, with next day delivery. For orders between £100 – £299.99 a £7.49 fee is charged, for orders between £300 – £499.99 a £4.99 fee is charged and for £500 – £599.99 a £2.99 fee is charged. You can also view a travel money rate comparison here.
Travelex Money Card: Use a multi-currency card (already pre-loaded with cash that you have purchased online or via the Travelex app). Existing ‘Globe Cash Passport’ customers can also still use their card until it expires, although this product is now closed to new customers..
Using a multi-currency card you are likely to cost about 2% in markups when loading or top-upping the card. Globe Cash Passport induces a fee of fixed 2.49% per transaction but doesn’t force you to forecast your expenses and the currencies you’ll be using.
For non-UK residents: Travel Money and Cash Passport are available, but the Globe Cash Passport option is not available.
MAS (Singapore), ASIC (Australia).
Travelex has long been known as one of the largest foreign exchange companies in the UK and indeed the world. Recent events show us that even a firm with this level of history and reputation can still encounter difficulties if it’s the hands of the wrong ownership. The old adage of being ‘too big to fail’ perhaps did save Travelex here though. Even when a number of other Finablr companies came crumbling down, there was interest in the revenue generating divisions of Travelex. Whilst the operation has been somewhat slimmed down in 2021, Travelex now has the capital and support to focus on becoming a growing company again.
📝 In July 2020, PwC were appointed administrators of Travelex to complete the restructuring of its debt. In August 2020, Travelex restructured to form the ‘New Travelex Group’ which was acquired by Barings LLC (A $354+ billion global financial services firm now owning 56% of New Travelex Group) and Vector Capital (a leading private equity firm owning 14% of New Travelex Group).
In April of 2021 Travelex has launched a new digital remittance service with Nium (a payment infrastructure) which is available in Australia and the South Pacific (Press Release).