If you’re heading abroad from Australia, whether for work or for pleasure, you might find yourself needing to exchange some money to a foreign currency. But watch out: not every currency exchange service provides decent value - it’s always a good idea to compare your options carefully.
Australia Post - frequently known as Auspost - is a popular option in Australia. Like many national postal services around the world, Auspost offers various services to do with international travel, including currency exchange. Here’s all the information you need to decide if Auspost is the right option for you.
Banks and money transfer providers often give you a bad exchange rate to make extra profits.
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Auspost lets you buy travel money online, or order it at one of their branches around the country. They have over 3,000 branches that you can use to exchange money¹.
You can use their website to work out what it’ll cost. Simply key in the amount you want to convert, in Australian dollars, and select which currency you need. Once you’ve done that, the website will display a list of your different options. These might include a travel card, a cash passport and simply an amount of foreign cash, although not all of these are available in all currencies¹.
Auspost’s Load&Go Travel card lets you keep up to 5 currencies on 1 card, and you can use it like a Visa card. It’s a handy option if you want to use a card abroad - although watch out for the fees, some of which are listed below. There’s an expiration date, too - use the money within 3 years.
|⚠️ As of 1st of August 2018 you won’t be able to request a Load&Go Travel card as a new customer. If you already have one you’ll still be able to use the card for now².|
A more deluxe offering is the Cash Passport Platinum Mastercard. It’s a similar product to the Load&Go card, but up to 11 currencies are available, and various other perks are available like free wifi at certain international hotspots³.
Of course, you can also simply pick up some cash from Auspost. You can do this online or in store, and over 50 currencies are available. You might need to call back to collect the money - they quote 1-2 business days as the turnaround time if you go in store, or 2-3 if you order online⁴.
There are different charges depending on which of these services you use: here’s a quick summary. It’s not a definitive list - make sure to check directly with Auspost for the complete picture, especially for the 2 cards.
|Load&Go travel card²||ATM fees||AUD 2 each time you check your balance or get cash out|
|Conversion fee to a currency other than AUD, NZD, GBP, EUR, USD||3% of AUD transaction value|
|Transaction fee||AUD 0.09 per transaction, max AUD 0.90 per month|
|Cash passport⁵||Admin fee if you buy or (re)load it in store with the help of customer service||1.1% of load amount|
|Debit card load fee - if you top up your card with a debit card||AUD 5|
|Cash out fee - for cashing out, not at an ATM||AUD 10|
|Domestic ATM fee - only for ATMs in Australia||2.95%|
|Cash⁴||Commission fee||AUD 0|
|Minimum cash amount||AUD 500 - online / AUD 200 - in store|
|Maximum cash amount||AUD 5000 - both online and in store|
As mentioned above, the 2 cards are subject to various other fees too, so do check carefully.
And all three have various maximum and minimum limits, restricting the amount of cash you can deal with at any one time. For cash, the minimum limit might come as a shock: you have to exchange at least AUD 200 if you go to a post office, and a sizeable AUD 500 if you do it online. The maximum limit in either case is AUD 5,000.
You’ll see in the table above that for cash exchange, Auspost charges 0% commission. That sounds like a great deal - but read on to find out why it’s not quite as great as it sounds.
Exchange rates between any two currencies fluctuate all the time, as the markets change. But there’s one more variable to consider: the rate set by the service you’re using. Banks and independent currency converters are able to set their own rates, and most choose to “mark up” the average exchange rate so that the transaction is more profitable for them.
So you should always compare the exchange rate you’re offered, against the mid-market rate, which is an average of all the exchange rates currently in use. You can do that easily using an online currency converter, like the ones offered by Google, XE or Wise.
What do Auspost do? Well, the first thing to note is that their 3 available products all offer different exchange rates. That’s right - you’ll get a different amount of money depending on whether you choose to get cash, or use one of their 2 cards. Auspost aren’t entirely clear about precisely how they calculate any of these rates, although they do note on their website that “Exchange rates may include a service charge.” Which means that, while they don’t charge “commission” on their conversion service, they may charge you all the same - they just conceal the fee within the exchange rate¹.
Does it have to be like that? The short answer is, no it doesn’t. Wise, for instance, treats currency conversion a little differently. Whenever you make a transaction with Wise, it uses the real mid-market rate - the only rate that’s really fair to use. That means Wise is completely upfront about the fee it charges to its customers - you get the full picture, right from the start.
And with a borderless account from Wise, you can hold money in 40+ currencies and use virtual account details in AUD, USD, GBP and EUR, meaning you can pay and get paid like a local in any of those places. So if you’re often abroad or making international transactions, Wise could be the perfect solution. More and more transactions are being made virtually, after all - do you even need to get all that cash?
However you choose to exchange your currency, good luck - and watch out for the exchange rate.
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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