Is It Cheaper to Exchange Cash or Transfer Money Overseas?

It can be cheaper to buy your currency abroad rather than at home, but it depends on your holiday destination.


We found that you could lose up to AUD $206.50 when exchanging cash at a money changer in store.

For most people going on a trip, getting currency exchange in cash is typically the most common method to take money overseas. But what if you have a bank account in the country of your destination? Whether you are going overseas for a long holiday, or you are planning to spend a couple of months traveling, this article will help you discover which option will help you save money.

Table of contents


Which option is cheaper?

Exchange rates compared

It is cheapest to transfer money overseas using an online money transfer specialist like OFX or Transferwise. No other way beats spending money like a true local.

Here we compare the exchange rate for AUD $5,000 to USD. The AUD/USD mid-market rate was 0.77 on the day we compared.

Money Changer In-Store Money Changer Online Online Money Transfer Bank Money Transfer
Exchange rate 0.7382 0.7432 0.7618 0.7205
How much you receive for AUD $5,000 US $3,691 US $3,721 US $3,850 US $3586.65


The best exchange rate was offered by online money transfer specialists. Companies like TorFX, OFX, World First and Transferwise take lower margins than companies like Western Union, Paypal and the banks.

Based on the information above, you could save AUD $206.50 if you send money through an online specialist rather than exchange cash.

Fees compared

It's important to note that though some places do not charge fees, their exchange rate margins are higher.


Money changer fees in-store vs online

Money Changer In-Store Fees Money Changer Online Fees
Travelex Logo $0 Travelex Logo
  • $0 (BPAY)
  • 0.72% (credit or debit)
Travel Money Oz Logo $0 Travel Money Oz Logo
  • $0 (BPAY)
  • 0.72% (credit or debit)


Online money transfer specialist fees vs banks fees

Online Money Transfer Fees Bank Online Money Transfer* Fees
TorFX Logo
  • $0
ANZ logo
  • 1% minimum $8
OFX Logo
  • $10 for transfers under $10,000
  • $0 for transfers over $10,000
CBA logo
  • 1% minimum $8
World First Logo
  • $10 for transfers under $10,000
  • $0 for transfers over $10,000
Westpac Logo
  • $4
  • 0.89% (credit or debit)
Transfer Wise Logo
  • 0.7% for transfers under $10,000
  • 0.5% for transfers $10,000 and over
NAB logo
  • $0
PayPal Logo
  • 0.5% to 3.3% depending on the country
Western Union Logo
  • Widely varied, depending on the country

*ANZ, CBA, Westpac and NAB in branch fees range between $18 to $32 per transaction.

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Who will benefit from a money transfer?

Although it is cheaper to transfer money overseas than exchange foreign currency in cash, this method may not benefit everyone. You will benefit from a transfer if you are:

  • Traveling with AUD $5,000 or more
  • Have a bank account in the country of destination you can transfer funds into


James and Kristy are from USA. They moved to Melbourne three years ago and left their bank account active back home. Every year they take a trip back home to visit family and need to exchange AUD to USD.

Recently, they discovered that they received more US dollars if they used an online provider like OFX to send money to their US bank account.

How to get the most out of money changers

If transferring money abroad is out of the question for you, here are some tips that will help you get the most out of money changers.

  • To get a better rate, order your currency online and collect in person
  • Money changers tend to sell popular currencies at a better rate. These include US dollars (USD), Euros (EUR), Japanese Yen (JPY) and New Zealand Dollars (NZD)
  • If you are buying more than AU$5000 worth of currency, you can negotiate a better rate
  • When buying a exotic currencies like AED, FJD, MYR, etc, be sure to call and check if they have stock
  • Try and avoid exchanging currency at the airport


See also: 7 Simple Tips to Buy Travel Money


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Helping You Save Money on Currency

Buying travel money or transferring money overseas can be expensive and confusing. So how do you make the best choice and get the most out of your money?

An easy way is to use a comparison table for either international money transfers or currency exchange. These tables list and compare the banks with other large foreign exchange companies.

We’ve also put together tons of helpful videosguides and reviews that will help you make the right decision. You can work out a cheaper way of converting currency while still keeping your money safe.