The great airport currency rip-off


With frantic packing and a never ending to-do list before we jet off on holiday, currency exchange often gets left until last.

Yet buying your currency at the airport adds a huge chunk to the cost of your trip, according to new research from Which?

When exchanging £500 of currency, Travelex at Manchester airport – home of the worst airport exchange rate - gives travelers just €517.52, a loss of over €50 compared to the best online rate at International Currency Exchange (ICE).

While airport bureau de change might be convenient, this comes at a price as they rely on last minute travelers desperate to buy currency and hike up their rates accordingly.

Avoid airport currency
Researchers at the consumer group checked exchange rates at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and Manchester over a six-week period to compare prices between online, high street and airport providers. Airport bureaux de changes offered persistently low rates, worse than high street outlets and much less than you can get by ordering your currency online.

The variation in rates is astonishing. For £500, Which? was quoted an average of €540.52 by ICE at Heathrow, €523.39 by Moneycorp at Gatwick and just €517.52 by Travelex at Manchester. This compares with online rates of €569.82 from Moneycorp and €567.63 from ICE for currency ordered online for home delivery, or even collection at the very airport bureau de change that offer such an abysmal deal to walk-up customers.

Which? highlights that Travelex and American Express only require four hours notice for advance online ordering, so it's possible to cut things fine and still get a good deal.

Good high street rates
For those who prefer to buy their foreign currency face to face, there are good deals to be found on the high street but it still pays to shop around.

The Post Office remains the most popular supplier, despite offering less in the £500 survey (€551) than Co-op Travel (€559.89), Asda Money (€559.08), Tesco (€558.93) and several other well-know outlets.

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