Alternatives to Airport Money Exchange With Lower Fees

February 15th, 2023

If you’ve ever flown out of the country, you’ve probably had experience with airport money exchanges. These exchanges charge high fees, and some of them have not even been open during the pandemic. If you’re traveling somewhere like Vietnam, the Middle East, or Africa, they may not even carry that country’s currency. There are plenty of reasons to not use these airport exchanges, which we will get into more in this article.

Thankfully, airport exchanges are not your only option for currency exchange when traveling abroad. There are plenty of different options which can be accessed at home from your computer or just down the road, each having far better exchange rates and lower fees than any airport money exchanger kiosk could offer.

Why Shouldn’t I Use Airport Money Exchanges?

These exchange kiosks have one advantage over any other exchange, and it is a captive audience. For many travelers, this is the only chance they will have to exchange currency before entering another country. This could be because of a variety of reasons and can be avoided.

Because of the captive audience, airport exchanges can basically charge whatever they want as far as fees. They have no reason to be competitive since they have no competition. Your other option at the airport might be an ATM, but not all banks will provide this type of automated exchange through an ATM, and those that do will charge even higher fees than an airport currency exchange.

Even currency exchanges that boast "no fees" will still charge you without knowing it. These exchanges hide their fees by building them into the exchange rate, offering you a poor rate compared to the real market exchange rate. Other companies may offer a higher exchange rate, but then they charge a fee on top of that and they hope you won’t notice.

What Are My Options?

Thankfully, there are plenty of other exchanges that offer much better rates with no hidden fees. These will all require some prior planning, however. Here is a good list of possible options.

Your Local Bank

Many banks offer currency exchanges with pretty decent rates. Different banks will require different fees and purchase minimums in order to exchange at their bank.

For instance, Wells Fargo offers in-branch currency exchange services. You can order foreign online, and the currency order will be shipped directly to the branch or delivered to your home. Their rates are barely below market, making it a great option for exchanging currency. They do require a minimum purchase of $200 worth of currency in order to exchange online.

Other banks offer similar rates along with online purchasing, but these require you to order your currency ahead of time. Planning ahead can save you some serious cash when traveling abroad.

Airport money exchange bank teller

Banks are one alternative to airport money exchange services.

Specialist Services

There are some specialist services that do offer currency exchanges at airports or at retail locations. Travelex and Western Union are a couple of examples of these services. These services do have fees, both hidden and not, which can change how much money you can take on your vacation.

One of the biggest pluses of these services is that you can send your money abroad. This means you can pick up your money at the location rather than having to wait for it to be shipped to you. Customers have varying experiences with these exchanges, and can sometimes discover hidden fees or poor security when it comes to sending money. 

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Exchange Currency at Your Destination

This is actually cheaper than airport rates and can be done through a couple of different methods. For better or for worse, cash is not the only acceptable form of currency anymore. Most people rarely carry cash in the US and Western economies. They simply use their debit or credit cards and online banking. A big plus of this is not having to exchange cash.

When traveling abroad, this is not always an option. Many countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia (particularly Vietnam), and even South America still prefer hard currency. If you have the option of paying with a credit card in the local currency, you get a decent exchange rate and the exchange is handled by your bank or credit card company instead of you.

If you need cash, you can always use a local ATM. You can get decent exchange rates at these ATMs, but you will pay an ATM fee, which can be charged both by the ATM owner and the bank doing the transaction.

Online Currency Exchange

If you are someone who plans far in advance, online currency exchanges offer some of the best exchange rates and deliver your currency right to your door. This is the best option to avoid the high transaction costs of using airport money exchanges.

As an online money exchanger, US First Exchange offers a range of popular and exotic currencies, while other exchanges may only offer the top international currencies. Many banks require you to travel to a branch to receive your currency. In times like these, this can be a major inconvenience.

At US First Exchange, we don’t require any interpersonal contact and cut out any middlemen, and we offer better rates than you’ll find at any airport money exchange. We deal in a range of currencies, including exotic currencies like Iraqi Dinar and Vietnamese Dong. You can order foreign currency online and have your money shipped straight to your door in 24-48 hours. All shipments are fully insured, and we promise the best exchange rates along with the lowest fees of any money broker in the US.

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