Brisbane Airport currency exchange: Beware of high fees


Brisbane Airport is Australia’s largest by land size, and welcomed over 23 million passengers in 2017¹. If you’re headed there soon, as part of a trip to Australia, you’re going to need some money to get you started.

With some 480 businesses based out of Brisbane Airport, you won’t struggle to change your cash to AUD there¹. However, converting your money at Brisbane Airport isn’t necessarily going to get your the best deal out there.

Here’s how to avoid high charges when exchanging money at Brisbane Airport.

Where to exchange money in Brisbane airport?

Brisbane airport offers currency exchange services through Travelex. There are 11 separate Travelex currency exchange stores throughout the airport, in both departures and arrivals². There are also ATMs available from Travelex, which dispense cash in different currencies such as USD, EUR and NZD⁴.

Although Travelex run all the different currency exchange options available at Brisbane Airport, you could find that you’re charged different fees - and get access to a different exchange rate - depending on which service you choose.

For example, you can book your currency in advance and collect it at a Travelex store, which typically comes with a better exchange rate than if you do an on the spot conversion when you arrive. The ATMs, too, come with different exchange rates and charges, compared to visiting a Travelex office in the airport. Getting your currency at the airport is seldom the cheapest option - more on that in a moment - so it certainly pays to do some research in advance, so you can avoid paying over the odds for your conversion³.

Should I exchange money in Brisbane airport?

Airport currency exchanges serve a captive market, and aren’t subject to any real competition. That means they can get away with offering a poor deal, and often choose to markup their rates to increase their profit. If you need to buy AUD for your trip to Queensland, you might get more for your money by ordering currency online in advance, or taking your cash out directly from an ATM upon arrival.

Another option is to exchange only a small amount of cash at the airport for your immediate needs, and then exchange the rest of your money in the city. That should mean you have more providers to choose from, and - usually - a better exchange rate.

Watch out for hidden fees in the exchange rate

Your holiday is no time to stress about money. However, investing a little time in advance to do some research can save you a lot of cash - meaning more in your pocket to enjoy your trip.

Places like airports and hotels offer currency exchange services which are convenient, but they’re often not very good value. That’s because they might take the mid-market rate, and add a markup to increase their profits.

They’ll then often claim to offer fee free, or zero commission exchange - but in reality, their profit is all wrapped up in a poor exchange rate. That’s not transparent, and usually isn’t good value. Don’t get ripped off - make sure you’re getting the real exchange rate for your money.

Use a currency converter to check the airport exchange rate

You’ll need to know the real exchange rate for your currency pairing, so you can check that the rate being offered to you is fair. You can do that easily by looking up your currency pairing using an online currency converter.

What is the best place to exchange money?

The airport is usually an expensive place to exchange money. That said, if you really need some cash as soon as you land, you might choose to order a small amount in advance and collect it at a Travelex office at the airport. This usually means you’ll get a better rate compared to an on the spot conversion.

Another option is withdrawing local cash at an ATM when you arrive at Brisbane. You’ll usually get reasonably fair fees and exchange rate when you’re using an ATM - but you should make sure to avoid dynamic currency conversion (DCC).

DCC is where you’re asked if you want to be charged in your home currency or the local one. It’s sold as a service because you won’t need to figure out the cost conversion yourself. However, if you choose to pay in your home currency, you’ll often find a poor exchange rate is used, so you pay more than you need to. Choosing to pay in local currency is always the best option.

If you’re visiting friends or family during your trip to Australia, you might also consider sending money in advance to someone with a local Australian bank account. If you use Wise for this international payment you’ll get the best exchange rate available, and pay just a low upfront fee. You can then simply withdraw the AUD cash from fee-free ATMs when you need it, to dodge international cash withdrawal fees altogether.

Alternatively, if you’re lucky enough to be relocating to Australia on a more permanent basis you might want to open your own Australian bank account for day to day use.

Another handy tool if you’re converting money often is a borderless multi currency account from Wise. This smart new account lets you manage your money in over 40 currencies. You can hold your money in several different currencies in the same account, and then switch between them using the mid-market exchange rate, and with just a small transparent fee. You can also generate local bank details so you can receive money in major currencies like Australian or US dollars, euros or British pounds, via local transfer methods. Using local bank details means you avoid the need to make an international transfer and you also avoid the pesky intermediary bank fees that come with international SWIFT transfers. You can also get a linked Wise debit Mastercard, which you can use your AUD balance to pay directly for goods and services, and beat ATM fees entirely.

How to avoid paying high fees on your money exchange in Brisbane airport

Here are a few more handy tips to make sure you’re getting a good deal on your currency exchange in Brisbane.

  • Use a comparison service for transfers, or an online currency converter to quickly and easily check the exchange rates and fee applied by your chosen exchange service or bank
  • Check in advance if it’s cheaper to exchange money before you leave, or after you arrive in Australia
  • If you plan on making ATM withdrawals, check if your home bank has a partner in Australia which lets you get cheap or free ATM withdrawals
  • Don’t change too much money. You really don’t want to get hit by fees a second time when you convert your remaining AUD back to your home currency.

If you’re headed to Queensland for a holiday, the last thing you want is to be worrying about money. You shouldn’t need to lose any sleep over high fees for currency conversion, if you just follow these tips and ideas to make sure you get a fair deal. Then all you need to decide, is how best to spend your time in the Sunshine State.

1. (July 23, 2018)
2. /July 23, 2018)
3. (July 23, 2018)
4. (July 23, 2018)

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