A couple of weeks ago, I spent a week in Brittany, France with 3 of my children (I have 4; the little one didn’t join!).
I’m originally from Canada, but I’ve lived in Surrey for about 15 years. I’ve explored the UK and the continent a bit, but once I discovered Brittany, it really stuck with me. A friend of mine bought a house in a small village on the coast, called Plouhinec, and invited me one year. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever had.
This summer, a house down the road from my friend suddenly became available due to a cancellation, and I immediately booked a trip. In addition to returning to Brittany and showing it to my kids, I figured I could do a little case study on how much I could save abroad by using my HyperJar card instead of my bank card (HSBC). Hey, I founded HyperJar — it’s always on my mind!
These are some highlights of our trip and savings.
The HyperJar card
There are a couple of things you need to know about using your HyperJar card abroad. First, you have to turn on ‘Spend Abroad’, by going to your profile, then ‘HyperJar Card’. This is a safety feature that prevents foreign hackers from using your card number when you’re in the UK. Of course, you can freeze your card whenever you like, too.
Second, when you use your card abroad and are given the choice to pay in the local currency, always choose the local currency. This way, HyperJar will perform the FX conversion, and you’ll get MasterCard’s best exchange rate with no extra fees. If you choose your home currency, the merchant’s bank will do the conversion, and you’re likely to get a poor rate plus fees.
My HSBC card uses a similar rate to HyperJar, but adds a 2.75% surcharge on every transaction, which makes it easy to determine the savings.
I also want to highlight the region of Plouhinec and Audierne here, because it really is a hidden gem. I doubt this post will cause masses of Brits to start travelling there, so it will still be tranquil and quaint for the lucky few who do.
The first thing we did was book a ferry from Portsmouth to Saint-Malo, being sure to get a cabin (when you have 3 kids, including a 6-year-old, the cabin makes for a more pleasant journey). It takes about 8 hours, and our trip over was overnight. When you reach Saint-Malo, it’s a 3-hour drive to Plouhinec and Audierne, which is next door.
We rented our house, a lovely one-bedroom with a large living space, for 400€, paid with HyperJar. (It would have cost 411€ with HSBC.)
The first day, we went down to a local beach. No open waters, just a few boats passing by, but a great place for jumping and doing flips. From there, we spotted another beach across the harbour that had a footbridge which also looked fun to jump from. We saved it for day two, and grabbed some delicious croissants and my son’s favourite, pain aux raisins (8.40€, or £7.16 as converted by HyperJar) before heading home for dinner with our friends.
But first, we needed to get some groceries. We went to the local Carrefour and spent 128.74€/£109.83 on a little bit of everything. A few days later, I used my HSBC card so I could have an official comparison. I spent 93.45€ which was converted to £79.83. Almost the exact same rate as HyperJar, but I was also given a 2.75% surcharge for the privilege of exchanging funds. That added another £2.20 to my bill, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but can add up over the course of a trip.
On day two, we went to the beach with the footbridge we could jump off. It was a huge hit with the kids (and me) so we ended up going there every day, even if just for an evening swim. We set ourselves goals to jump from higher ledges, and even my 6-year-old made the leap!
Before we left the UK, I bought an inflatable paddleboard on sale from Decathlon for £200. I’d bought some Decathlon H-Money in advance, so by the time of purchase, I saved a few more quid.
But I didn’t buy a pump (unaware it wasn’t included), so in France we had an inflatable paddleboard we couldn’t inflate. My son was desperate to use it, so we made the one-hour drive to Quimper and Decathlon to buy a pump. The drive was beautiful. Beautiful villages, perfect motorways, and Quimper itself is a gorgeous city.
We got to Decathlon, and found the pump for 40€. 268€/£225.86 later, we were on our way. (Here’s where I confess that I’m an absolute sucker for both sports kit, and my kids’ insistence that they needed those goggles, these shoes, that swimsuit, etc.)
I forgot to mention that my friend in Brittany lives in England most of the time and has a HyperJar account. This was extremely useful, as we set up a shared Jar during our trip to split meals and other joint expenses. We both loaded money in the shared Jar so either of us could spend from it. Or when I had to pay him back, a quick transfer to his HyperJar made things really easy.
The rest of the trip
The rest of the trip consisted of crepes by the sea, visiting a nearby surfing beach with gorgeous sand (Plage de Guendrez), the local aquarium and bird show (great fun — you can see how close we got to the birds), cycling around the hills of Audierne, visiting the local market in Pont-Croix, and an amazing hike to the furthest point of Pointe Du Raz (a personal highlight for me and the kids all loved it).
Each night, we shared dinner with our friend, and after a week we did the 3-hour journey back to Saint-Malo to catch the ferry back to Portsmouth.
In the end, including our accommodations (and not including the ferry), we spent 1121.49€. With HyperJar, this worked out to £948.68. If I’d have used my HSBC card, the total would have been £974.77. That’s a surcharge of £26.09, which is basically equal to a full family lunch or breakfast. Imagine going on holiday and having to pay for one of your meals twice, for no reason at all.
So I hope there are two useful takeaways from this post. First, Brittany and in particular the region around Audierne is a gorgeous place for a family holiday and second, if you’re abroad anywhere in the world, use your HyperJar card and spend in the local currency to save a load of unnecessary fees. Jar voyage!