Sydney Airport currency exchange: Beware of high fees


Sydney airport is Australia’s busiest, with 4.3 million visitors passing through in 2017 alone. If you’re lucky enough to be headed there as part of a trip to Australia, you’ll need some money to get you started.

However, getting cash converted to AUD at Sydney Airport isn’t necessarily the best choice available for travellers. You could find there are better deals out there - which mean you can spend less on fees, and more on your holiday. Here’s how to avoid high charges when exchanging money at Sydney Airport.

Where to exchange money in Sydney airport?

You’ll have no problems finding somewhere to exchange money at Sydney airport. Global Exchange has 25 locations throughout the airport - including kiosks offering on the spot money exchange, and larger offices which have a fuller range of services¹.

There’s also a branch of Travelex, in T2 Domestic after you pass through security². Plan ahead, and you can order your currency online and collect on arrival, from Travelex, and selected locations of Global Exchange. This will get you better rates than simply turning up and buying your currency at the airport - although it might still not be the best deal available overall. More on that later.

If you’d rather withdraw your cash from an ATM, these are available too, and there are several ATM’s of different banks and providers to choose from³. If you’d rather talk to a bank representative face to face, than ANZ⁴ and Australia post⁵ have shops on the airport as well.

Should I exchange money in Sydney airport?

Airport exchange services tend to not offer the best available exchange rates. A captive market, and a lack of genuine competition means that they often choose to markup their rates and make a healthy profit. Unfortunately, that means you lose out. You might get more AUD for your money, ordering currency in advance, or withdrawing from an ATM upon arrival.

Even better, get a small amount of cash for your immediate needs, and then get the rest of your money exchanged in the city where you have a broader choice of providers, and - usually - a more competitive rate.

Watch out for hidden fees in the exchange rate

You’re on holiday and you don’t want to worry about money. But a little bit of planning can save you a lot of cash - and leave you with much more in your pocket to enjoy your trip.

That’s because the exchange rates offered in places like airports and hotels are often not very good value. Instead of offering the mid-market rate - that’s the one you’ll find on Google - they markup the exchange rates they offer, to cover their own profits.

This means they can then claim to offer fee free, or zero commission exchange - but it’s not transparent, and usually isn’t good value. Don’t fall for an exchange that says it’ll provide a service for free - check the rates on offer, and make sure you’re getting the real exchange rate for your money.

Use a currency converter to check the airport exchange rate

Exchange rates move up and down all the time - but it’s easy to find out the real rate for your currency pairing using an online currency converter. You can then compare this to the rate your bank or exchange service is offering, to make sure you’re getting a fair deal.

What is the best place to exchange money?

As we mentioned above, converting your cash at the airport is usually an expensive choice. If you really have to get some cash before you head into the city, you could consider ordering a small amount in advance for collection at the airport - which usually means you’ll get a better rate, or withdrawing local cash at an ATM.

ATM withdrawals tend to come with reasonably fair fees and exchange rate - as long as you avoid dynamic currency conversion (DCC). DCC is where you’re asked if you want your transaction - at an ATM, store or restaurant for example - to be charged in your home currency or the local one. Choosing local currency is always the best option. This means your home bank will choose the exchange rate used for the transaction, rather than the ATM or card terminal operator.

Another great choice if you’re visiting people in Australia, is to send money in advance to a friend or family member with a local Australian bank account. Do this with Wise, and you’ll get the best exchange rate available, with just a low upfront fee, and you can withdraw the cash from fee-free ATMs once you arrive in Australia. Or, of course, if you’re planning on staying in Australia in the longer term, you might want to open your own Australian bank account for day to day use.

If you have to exchange your money on a regular basis and to different currencies, or if you also need to receive money in Australian or US dollars, or in euros or British pounds, you could consider opening a borderless multi currency accountwith Wise. The borderless account lets you manage your money in over 40 currencies. You always convert between currencies with the mid-market exchange rate for a fair fee, and you can transfer your money via local payment methods. This is a lot cheaper than having to make an international transfer, as this way you can easily avoidthose intermediary bank fees that come with international transfers.

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

There are a few ways you can make sure you’re getting a good deal on your currency exchange in Sydney.

  • Do some research before you leave - it might be cheaper to exchange money at home rather than waiting until you arrive in Australia
  • If you’re using an ATM, avoid DCC - see above - and check before you leave, if your home bank have any partners in Australia which offer cheap or free ATM withdrawals
  • Check the exchange rates and fee applied by any exchange service or bank, using a comparison service for transfers, or an online currency converter
  • Only change what you need - and spend all you change. Otherwise you’ll get hit by fees a second time when you have to convert your money back to your home currency.

You don’t want to be worrying too much about money during your trip to Australia. And with a little advance planning you shouldn’t need to lose any sleep over high fees for currency conversion. SImply follow these tips and ideas to make sure you get a fair deal, and then you can relax and enjoy your holiday.


¹ (June 27, 2018)

² (June 27, 2018)

³ (June 27, 2018)

⁴ (June 27, 2018)

⁵ (June 27, 2018)

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