Perth Airport currency exchange: Beware of high fees


Perth is Australia’s fourth largest city, and Perth Airport is Australia’s fourth busiest airport. If your international trip is taking you to or from anywhere in the state of Western Australia, there’s a decent chance you’ll be passing through Perth Airport.

Whether you’re visiting Australia or traveling on, one thing’s for sure: you’ll need to get hold of some foreign currency. There are a million and one ways to do that, but you might think that the easiest way is simply to sort it out at Perth Airport. True, that can be a convenient option. But you might well not get a good deal. Read on to find out why - as well as for tips on what to do.

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Now, back to what you came here to read.

Where to exchange money in Perth Airport?

Travelex is the main company behind currency exchange at Perth Airport, and they have 6 different locations within the airport, spanning both departures and arrivals.

There are 2 ways you can exchange money with Travelex at Perth Airport. Firstly, you can order your your money online. Doing that means you can “lock in” the exchange rate you see on their site. You can then head to one of their airport stores to collect the money. If you do this, you’ll have the choice between getting cash, or getting an international money card.

The other option is simply to turn up and purchase your cash in one of the stores. Or you can just use one of the Travelex ATMs you’ll find scattered around the airport.

These two options might sound pretty similar, but don’t be fooled. You might not get the same exchange rate if you buy your foreign currency in store - it could well be a worse rate, that therefore costs you more.

So the best option is probably to order your cash online. Or, more accurately, that’s the better option. For the real best option, you might not want to exchange your money at the airport at all...

Should I exchange money in Perth Airport?

The thing is, by the time you’re in the airport, you’re running out of options to get foreign currency before your trip. Which means you’re a captive market. Which basically means that currency exchangers at the airport can charge more, and people will still pay, because they have nowhere else to go.

But actually that’s not quite right. There are plenty of other options available to customers these days - in the next section there’s an overview of some of the best ones. So there’s no real need for you to get stuck with a bad deal at the airport.

If you do want to go ahead and exchange money at Perth Airport, do bear the following points in mind.

Watch out for hidden fees in the exchange rate

Wherever you exchange money, you might see tempting offers for “zero fees” or “no commission”. Don’t fall for it. Almost always, foreign currency exchangers use an exchange rate that benefits them, rather than you.

The problem is that exchangers don’t have to use the mid-market exchange rate, which is an average of all the buy and sell rates currently in use between two currencies. Despite the fact that this is the only exchange rate it’s really fair to use, currency exchangers generally set their own rate, and pocket whatever the difference is between the mid-market rate and their own. So even if there’s no fixed fee, they’re still making money out of your transfer.

That’s why it’s always important to compare the offer you get to rates on offer elsewhere. At the airport, that’s especially important, because you’re particularly unlikely to be offered a decent deal.

Use a currency converter to check the airport exchange rate

If you use an online currency converter like the ones on Google, XE and The Wise provides, you can see the real mid-market rate, and find out what your Australian dollars are really worth.

If you’re not happy with the difference between that figure and what you’re being offered, it might be time to think again.

What is the best place to exchange money?

The short answer to this is pretty simple: probably not at the airport. For all the reasons discussed above.

It’s often better to order online and collect - and remember, there might be places other than the airport where you can pick the money up. There are places in Perth - or, most likely, wherever you’re traveling to - where you can do this. But even that isn’t always the best option.

It depends on your home bank, but it’s often the case that you can get a comparatively good deal simply by using your debit card to withdraw money at foreign ATMs. Find out what fees your bank charges, and give it some thought. Doing this has the added bonus that you can travel without a large amount of cash - always a safer option.

(Take care, though. Using foreign ATMs has one big risk attached to it, known as dynamic currency conversion, or DCC. If the machine offers you a choice between choosing to pay in the foreign currency or your home currency, always - always - choose the foreign currency. Otherwise the machine will convert the money for you at a truly awful exchange rate.)

There’s another option, if there’s someone in your destination country that you trust, such as a family member. If you use Wise, you can simply send some money to their local bank account, and they can give it to you when you get there. Wise always uses the real mid-market rate, with just a simple upfront fee to pay, so you can rest assured that you’ll get a decent deal this way.

If you’re in it for the long haul, of course you might want to consider opening a bank account.

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

Wherever you choose to exchange your money, here are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Prepare in advance. Bad planning comes at a premium - if you want a good deal on currency exchange, find some time a week or two before your trip and make a little plan for yourself. You don’t want to find yourself stuck at Perth Airport thinking you’re out of options.
  • Get a good deal on the exchange rate. Use a currency converter to make sure you’re not getting stung.
  • Don’t get out more than you need. Maybe you’ll need a little bit of cash to see you through your first few hours in your destination, but that might be all you need in advance. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you’ll probably still have options to get currency.

Good luck with changing your money at Perth Airport - or wherever you choose to do it. Just don’t let a bad deal ruin your trip.

Sources are accurate as of 18 October 2018

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