Betting in Foreign Currencies

Latest posts by Man of Mystery (see all)

Many bookies offer a selection of currencies, allowing you to bet without the problem of currency exchange. But sometimes an offer appears (or you wish to use a bookie for arbing) where your currency is not accepted. There are always charges involved with this and the aim of this post is to help you be aware of them and avoid them if you can. To avoid endless repetition I am going to assume your currency is GBP, but you can easily transpose GBP and Euros if your currency is Euros.

Which Currency?

Most bookies will allow you to bet in at least one of GBP, Euro or USD, and if you choose the same as your deposit method currency there are usually no currency fees. The only exceptions I have come across are some Australian bookies, who have accounts in various currencies but for some reason convert all deposits into AUD and back again into GBP during both deposits and withdrawals. You can get a nasty surprise when you find that more than the amount you deposited is taken (or less arrives) and this is definitely something to be wary of. The bookie which did this to me (in both directions) was the now defunct Sportsalive. Centrebet (also Australian) did not, but at the time they had a UK branch.

Basically if you find a bookie which only operates in one currency which is not the same as yours, you have 2 options – pay currency charges or leave it alone. (Personally my preference is to leave it alone, since the currency markets at present are volatile to say the least. However I realise that this is not particularly helpful!).

Exchange Rates

You can find upto date exchange rates between all the main currencies at www.xe.com. Be aware that some bookies have their own exchange rate which may not be the same. Bookies which offer free bets in “currency equivalent” may mean that you get the value of 25 euros for example, not £25 if your account is in GBP, and quite which value they use for the conversion is debatable. Gamebookers used to do certain free bets with a minimum qualifying stake in euros and had their own conversion calculator, which appeared to bear no resemblance to reality at all. I don’t know if they still do this.

Fees

All financial institutions will charge conversion fees, some larger than others. Moneybookers (now Skrill) used to be one of the better ones.

Their charges can be found on this page: https://help.skrill.com/en/Article/getting-started/fees/does-skrill-apply-any-foreign-exchange-fees

Banks are not good at publishing their charges in visible places on their websites, but they usually apply a flat fee, which in the case of First Direct appears to be £8. This would apply in either direction (I think) and would make a sizeable hole in the profits from a small free bet in a foreign currency. In one case I know of the currency conversion fee applied for a bank transfer to pay for a subscription to a website was £25!

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Avoiding fees

Its impossible to avoid all fees, but with a bit of forward planning you can avoid some of them. One way to do this is to have a NETeller account in Euros or Dollars and dedicate part of your betting bank to that. You then use it to deposit and withdraw from all bookies in that currency and only pay fees if you need to top up the bank or withdraw for some reason. The problem is that you can only have one NETeller account and one moneybookers account*, and moneybookers is useful in your own currency, so you have to choose carefully right at the start. Another option (which I haven’t explored) would be to open a bank account in a different currency, for example Euros, and again fill it with part of your betting bank. The drawback here is that a lot of Euro bookies do not accept debit card transactions anyway, and you might find that bank transfer fees were just as bad as currency fees, possibly worse.

*Skrill have a VIP system – see https://www.skrill.com/en/vip/benefits/ which allows multi currency accounts. You need to use Skrill a lot to become a VIP though – you may be offered VIP status if you request higher outgoing limits because you have reached yours. There are now different levels of VIP, the lowest requiring that you upload at least €6000 in 3 months. You are likely to need to provide a passport scan and recent utility bill.

Laying bets in other currencies

Obviously if your Betfair account is in GBP and you have just bet in Euros you can’t simply lay the usual amount in £. You need to factor in the currency conversion, or if the result goes the wrong way you could be seriously out of pocket. How you deal with this depends a bit on what your overall approach is. If you are an arber your priorities will be speed and keeping all your bets and bank together to gain as many Betfair points as possible, and you will probably decide that an approximate conversion rate with a slight underlay is the best strategy. If you are just concentrating on free bets, and you are likely to be doing a fair number of bookies in the same foreign currency, then you might decide to open a Betfair account in Euros (or Dollars). This used to be allowed, although Betfair have tightened up their rules on multiple accounts and you would need to ask. Whatever your commission rate on your main account, any new one will start again at 5%. However you will have the advantage of being able to use your spreadsheet/calculator in the familiar way, and if you have a NETeller account in the same currency you will avoid any currency fees.

Underlaying

One way to insure against being bitten by currency fees is to underlay your bets slightly. This means that if your bet loses you win less than you would normally do at Betfair, but if you win at the bookie you make more profit than you would have done due to the smaller lay, and this offssets the disadvantage of the currency fees. Its exactly the same principle as underlaying at the start of a big WR, where you are fairly certain that placing a number of bets at the bookie to complete the WR will cost you money. How much you underlay is personal taste and has to be done in the context of the odds on offer at the time.

The Final Position

Of course, the big unknown is what is going to happen to the exchange rates. When I ventured into Euros (I did Byrnes and arbed there for a while), the Euro was worth about £0.67. I backed 100 Euros and laid £70 and reckoned that was ok. But 3 years ago the currency was a lot more stable – if I had left my Euros in a NETeller account since then, I would have seen the value increase to nearly £1 per Euro, then drop back again to today’s rate of around £0.80. These are pretty big swings if your bank is of any size, and if you get caught having to convert back when the exchange rates have gone the wrong way it can be seriously expensive. If you were unlucky you could find that the individual currency fees would have cost less than the loss due to exchange rates changing, but on the other hand it could go in your favour. This uncertainty, together with the currency fees problem, are the reasons why I decided personally that cross-currency betting was not for me.

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