Travellers beware… If you are departing or arriving at airports in the United Kingdom, you are exchanging your currency at rates that are almost 30 per cent below the market rates.
To gauge the real rate, take the medium rate between the buy and sell rates on the money changer’s airport screens. For example, the sell rate for euros below is advertised at 90 British pence and the buy rate at 1.41. That’s a huge difference. The real rate is half way between the two: approximately 1.15.
With some currencies the difference between buy and sell rates can be staggering. When we checked, Moroccan dirhams were selling for 6.87 to the pound but bought for less than half that: 15.74 dirhams to the pound. The real rate is approximately 12 dirhams to the British pound.
The money changers say the margins are due to the fees they need to pay to airport operators, but changing money at airports has long been a very profitable venture for these operators and a big losing one for the traveller.
Airport money changers can offer less rip off rates in some countries. But it’s always best to change your cash at a bank before you go, if you like arriving in a foreign place with cash in your pocket.
Words by Ian Cross