Commissioner's Blog: Buying foreign money

This announcement is for: 
ConsumerTravel agent

With Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard

Did you know you’ll pay more when buying foreign cash at the airport than at any other location? Also debit or credit cards are usually the cheapest option for buying things overseas.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) research, to help us with foreign money purchase decisions, found:

  • Consumers who bought USD200 in foreign cash in February could have saved AUD40 if they bought from the cheapest supplier at a non-airport location. And the big four banks are consistently more expensive, especially for common currencies such as Great British Pounds (GBP) or United State Dollars (USD).
  • A customer who used a debit or credit card from one of the big four banks with no international transaction fees could save AUD13 on a USD200 purchase, compared to using a travel money card. With international transaction fees it would be a saving of AUD5.
  • A holder of a travel money card from one of the big four banks withdrawing the equivalent of AUD100 in GBP from an overseas ATM in May 2019, who had not pre-loaded GBP onto the travel money card, would be charged AUD8.90 (almost 9 per cent of the transaction amount) in ATM and currency conversion fees.

Shop around for foreign money before you travel – loyalty to your usual supplier (big four banks) or a last minute purchase at the airport is going to cost more. Remember buying currency online in advance is an option.

Compare the total price including the exchange rate and fees. Just because a service is advertised as ‘fee free’ doesn’t mean it’s the cheapest option.

Think about best payment methods when travelling overseas – what’s accepted, certainty of price / total cost, convenience and what if it’s lost or stolen?

Beware travel money card fees as well as costs incurred for loading Australian dollars but paying in, or drawing out, another currency.

With credit or debit cards consider any interest charges and annual fees. Again selecting to pay in Australian dollars can be more expensive than choosing the local currency.


Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard, by CP Media
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard, by CP Media


Consumer Protection
Media release
20 Sep 2019

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