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5 Essential Tips for Currency Exchange at Airports

- Published on 26th March 2024

5 Essential Tips for Currency Exchange at Airports

The rise in year-round travel means that the demand for currency exchange has never been higher. To feed this demand, the currency exchange market operates a series of different providers, from cost–effective online operations to accessible high street chains and airport concession stands.

But which offer real value and deliver the widest range of currencies for a broad array of destinations, and which are out to charge through the nose for their service?

If we were to ask a selection of consumers where they exchange their currency, first to the currency of their destinations and then back into British pounds after their holiday, most would probably name airports and post offices as the most convenient options. In this blog, we’re focussing on airports specifically – sharing five tips on maximising the value of your currency exchange at an airport.

1. Watch out for fees

The first and most important thing to remember when accessing any currency exchange service is fees. Currency exchange is a business sector of its own, and as a result, most suppliers and providers need to charge a fee to sustain their business model.

Airport exchange counters are notoriously costly when it comes to fees, charging a percentage of your total exchange value in fees. Tip 4 dives into more detail about how to avoid this – but when it comes to fees, our advice is to be aware of what they are before confirming your exchange.

5 Essential Tips for Currency Exchange at Airports

2. Consider using an ATM at the airport rather than visiting the currency counter

Another tip worth considering is using an ATM to draw funds in the local currency rather than heading straight for the currency counter. While ATMs will also charge a fee, this will often not be as high as the fees linked to airport exchange counters—and you may also find that the exchange rate that comes directly from the bank via an ATM is more favourable.

3. Compare rates

You need to watch out for more than just fees when exchanging currency at an airport. In addition to the upfront fees charged to customers, airport exchange rates are often less favourable – essentially meaning that you get less ‘bang for your buck’ when compared with the rates offered through other providers.

As part of your pre-exchange research, we recommend looking at the cost and rates linked to currency exchange in your hometown airport and the airport upon arrival at your destination. Sometimes, you will find that one is more favourable than the other.

5 Essential Tips for Currency Exchange at Airports

4. Exchange smaller sums where possible

In tip 1, we discussed fees and the need to be aware of them when exchanging currency at an airport.

One of the best ways to minimise fees is to exchange small amounts where possible. If you will need a larger sum throughout your trip, then you will need to weigh the total cost of multiple smaller fees with one single sum. However, for those travellers who tend to exchange more than they need, knowing the high cost of fees is a good reason to cut down on currency exchange where possible.

5. If you’re reading this – use it as a sign to plan ahead!

While airports undoubtedly offer convenience and ease regarding currency exchange, they are not known for offering the best value – whether you’re changing currency for your trip or back into pounds when you return from your holiday.

If you’re reading this in advance of your trip and planning a currency exchange on your return to the UK, consider this a sign to access one of the leading online service providers rather than the above options.

Leftover Currency is one of the most credible service providers on the market, offering online market-leading exchange rates and efficient service. From the major currencies to lesser-known local currencies (and even a wide selection of currencies that have fallen out of circulation), Leftover Currency invites customers to send their cash and have the value returned in their native currency via bank transfer or a charitable donation.

Airport counters and Bureau de Change facilities will always be needed, delivering convenience and quick access to local currencies for last-minute travellers. But that convenience comes at a cost, with airport counters and similar providers charging high fees and offering low exchange rates in terms of financial value compared with what you can find online.

We hope this helps you plan your next journey – both before and after your trip!

As always, if you come across a currency that you haven’t seen listed on the Leftover Currency website, let us know. We are always looking to expand our services and support for travellers in popular and lesser-known destinations!


Mario Van Poppel

Mario Van Poppel is the founder and director of Leftover Currency. What started as a hobby, collecting world banknotes, evolved into a fulltime job, running a successful online bureau de change. Mario is still a collector of pre-Euro banknotes and a member of the IBNS.