Melbourne Airport currency exchange: Beware of high fees


Ready for your Melbourne vacation? You packed your sun hat, your flip flops and your sunscreen, right? Now all you need is a little Australian cash to fund your trip. If you’re planning on picking some up at the airport when you arrive, there are some tips that will help you make sure you’re getting a good deal. Read on for the knowledge.

Where to exchange money at Melbourne airport?

Travelex operates seven money exchange counters at the Melbourne airport, both before and after you go through security. You can find them¹:

  • On Level 1 near check-in counter H
  • On Level 1 near check-in counter B
  • On Level G in front of the international arrival doors
  • On Level 1 next to the security screening area
  • On Level 1 opposite the TRS counter
  • On Level 1 between gates 2 and 4
  • On Level 1 near gates 6 and 10

You can order your Australian dollars online ahead of time to pick up either in cash or pre-loaded on a Travelex money card, or, if your home currency is a major global currency like US dollars , euros of British pound sterling, you can take cash to exchange at the counter. Available amounts vary by location, so it’s always a good idea to go online ahead of time and reserve the amount of cash you’d like to pick up.

If you don’t want to use Travelex, a number of Australian banks, including NAB and ANZ, have ATMs at the Melbourne airport, meaning you should be able to easily withdraw some AUD if you have a card without foreign conversion fees. Just make sure to choose to view your transaction in AUD instead of your home currency to avoid paying extra for dynamic currency conversion.

Should I exchange money on Melbourne airport?

You probably shouldn’t exchange currency at the Melbourne airport. You’re likely to find better rates in places without as much tourist traffic, so you may want to plan on heading into the city and then getting cash there. The one exception would be using an airport ATM — those usually dispense cash at a better rate, so if your home bank card is foreign transaction fee-free, this is a good option. Don’t forget to let your home back know you’ll be traveling abroad, though, in case they’ll block your card for security reasons.

Watch out for hidden fees in the exchange rate.

The main thing to watch out for when using currency exchange services is the exchange rate you’re being offered. Many of these counters advertise 0% commission, but that’s because they’re making their profits by marking up the exchange rates they offer you. That means the exchange rate you pay for is likely not the mid-market rate, or the “real” exchange rate you see when you Google the currencies.

Use a currency converter to check the airport exchange rate

Use an online currency converter to compare the rate you’re offered to the mid-market rate and see if you’re getting a good deal. You can also Google your currency pair, as this should also give you the mid market, or spot, rate.

What is the best place to exchange money?

The airport is likely not the best place to exchange money. Instead, hit an ATM or search for an exchange counter in the city, especially if it’s away from the usual tourist spots, where you’re likely to find better exchange rates. Or, better yet, use a service like Wise to send money to a trusted, local friend for you to pick up and get there. You’ll know for sure you’ll get the mid-market rate, and all you’ll have to pay is a small transfer fee that’s spelled out upfront.

And if you’re staying in Australia longterm, look into opening up your own local bank account, or a Wise borderless multi-currency account together with the Wise debit Mastercard.

How to avoid paying high fees on your money exchange in Melbourne

When you exchange money in a foreign country, the best thing you can do is check and compare exchange rates to look for the best deal. Make good use of that currency converter to save on exchanges. Also make sure you keep an eye on the fees, but with the caveat that it might be better for your wallet to pay a slightly higher upfront fee if you get a better exchange rate. And check with your bank before your trip — it might even be possible to buy some AUD there before you go, and since your home bank has an interest in keeping you as a customer, you might be offered a more competitive rate there.

No matter how you choose to get the AUD you need for your trip, remember to always compare rates and fees. Good luck and safe travels!

1. (July 10, 2018)

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