The Best Ways to Exchange Currency in Australia
Do you need to exchange currency for a holiday or need help sending money overseas?
This guide will show you how to track down the best exchange rates and get the most money from your currency exchange.
In addition, this guide will show you where to get the most competitive exchange rates in each capital CBD and the the best way to take foreign currency overseas.
What you will learn in this guide
5 cheaper ways to buy foreign currency
1. Buy foreign currency online
Buying foreign currency online is quickly growing in popularity for three reasons:
- The exchange rates offered online are often better than in-store
- A currency converter is available online for transparency
- There are now thousands of pick-up locations. This makes it easier to buy than travelling into the city
- You can get it delivered to your home or office
It’s not all good news, though. Buying foreign currency online using a credit card can incur more bank fees. We recommend paying via Bpay or a bank transfer to avoid these charges.
It’s also important to buy it ahead of time. When you buy foreign currency online, it can take a few days before you are able to pick the cash up.
Is it safe?
As with all online purchases, it really comes down to the company you are buying the foreign currency from. The Currency Shop is safe and secure and is partnered with the 2 largest foreign exchange companies in Australia – Travelex and Travel Money Oz.
2. Head into the city and use a specialist money exchanger
This is cheapest way to buy currency, particularly if you are buying larger amounts of US dollars (USD), Euros (EUR) or British Pounds (GBP).
Getting the best foreign exchange rate comes down to how to the competitiveness of the outlet. In the main city centres, there are more businesses selling currency that compete against each other and they can provide the best rates if you shop around.
The downside of using these specialist money-changers is that they don’t have a great amount of available cash available in less common currencies, such as Thai Baht (THB) or Singapore Dollars (SGD).
They also ‘run out’ of the most common currencies on busy days, so make sure you call ahead to ensure that you aren’t wasting your time.
Can you exchange foreign currency at an ATM?
No. You can only use your card to withdraw foreign cash from specific ATMs usually located in major city-centres. Companies like Travelex have multiple ATMs in convenient locations to withdraw foreign currency. This is usually convenient for transactions under $500.
Find the best places to exchange money
Looking to exchange currency in a store? Use these city and suburb guides in the links below to help you get the best exchange rates:
3. Through a bank
Contrary to popular belief using an Australian bank to buy your overseas holiday cash isn’t always the most expensive option. In fact it can sometimes be the cheapest way to buy it.
Foreign exchange rates from banks for common currencies, such as the US dollar (USD), Euro and British Pound (GBP) aren’t particularly competitive when compared to other currency exchanges. However they can be the best option for other currencies such as the Chinese Yuan (CNY) (also known as the renminbi) the South African Rand (ZAR) or the Malaysian Ringgit (MYR).
To work out if a bank is the cheapest way to buy your currency, make sure you compare exchange rates.
Can you exchange foreign currency cash at a bank?
Yes. However banks deliver this service in a variety of ways and can differ in terms of:
- Currencies available
- Amount of money available
- Location of cash pick-up
Usually banks offer foreign exchange services in specific branches located in your city-centre or they offer an online service to order cash and collect from a nominated branch at a time you can choose. If the currency you need isn’t available, banks can order it in. But you need time for it to arrive and it can take up to 5 business days.
Can you exchange foreign currency cash at a post office?
There are two ways you can exchange money at the post office. Firstly, there are a number of Australia Post offices that have an American Express Currency Exchange centre in them. This is very helpful if you need to buy or sell currency in a hurry.
4. From a friend
We do not recommend buying currency from a friend, but buying the left-over currency from someone else's holiday can be a good option. It’s known as peer-to-peer or p2p. Basically you arrange to buy your currency from a friend and work out an exchange rate that you both agree on. The reason it’s so cheap is because you are avoiding the costs, charges and margins of using a bank or money-exchanger.
The risks are that your friend has old or counterfeit notes, that they are not safe and you may not have any recourse if the transaction doesn’t go ahead as agreed. For all these reasons, it is not a method of exchanging money we recommend.
Buying local currency in your destination country is the cheapest way to buy currency, particularly if you are buying larger amounts of US dollars (USD), Euros (EUR) or Japanese Yen (JPY).
Getting the best exchange rate comes down to how competitive the place you are buying it from is. In the main city centres, there are more businesses selling currency that compete against each other and they can provide the best rates if you shop around.
The downside of using these specialist money-changers is that they don’t have a great amount of available cash available in less common currencies, such as Indian Rupee (IDR) or Hong Kong dollars (HKD). They also ‘run out’ of the most common currencies on busy days, so make sure you call ahead to ensure that you aren’t wasting your time.
If you're coming from overseas and arriving in Australia, a key question we often get is:
Should you exchange money before going to Australia?
As we said previously, buying the local currency of your destination country is the cheapest way to buy currency. This means it's best to sell foreign currency in Australia to get Australian dollars (AUD). The only issue is if you need to sell foreign cash, your options in Australia are limited. Currently, there is nowhere in Australia that allows you to sell currency online. This means you have to physically go into a store.
How to get better foreign exchange rates
Quite often, ordering online is the cheapest and easiest way to buy currency. It usually takes between 2 and 5 business days before the currency is ready. However, there is a faster way to get cash if you use an online currency exchange service like S Money.
Order foreign currency online
The best way to buy foreign currency to take overseas
Ordering online for under $2,000 of foreign currency
If you need up to $2,000 in currency for a trip abroad or a holiday, ordering it online is usually the best option.
These days very few banks or currency exchanges charge a flat fee. This means the only difference in cost between one place and another is the exchange rate. In our experience, the difference between a good exchange rate, which you can get online, and the best rate you can find will only amount to a couple of dollars.
We favour the convenience of locking in a good exchange rate and picking it up close to your travel dates, rather than travelling all around town trying to save an extra 10-15 dollars.
Buy larger amounts in foreign currency like US dollars or Euros
If you need up to $2,000 in foreign currency for a trip abroad, buying it in larger amounts is the best option.
- Stores should give you a better exchange rate if you are exchanging a larger amount. Be aware not all online currency providers will. All banks also have a stock-standard rate no matter how much you are buying.
- You can negotiate a better exchange rate in person and on larger amounts of currency and this is definitely worth the effort. It is particularly useful if you are using a smaller currency exchanger in the city.
How to buy Fiji dollars (FJD), Philippine peso (PHP) and other ‘exotic’ currencies
If you’re heading to a country that doesn’t use US dollars (USD), Euros (EUR) or Japanese yen (JPY), then consider using either a bank or Travelex.
Smaller, independent currency exchangers like UAE Exchange and KVB Kunlun have great rates on US dollars and Euros but they don’t stock a lot of the less common currencies. As a result, they are less likely to have any available to sell to you and when they do, they don’t have great exchange rates. Travelex is good at stocking a large range of currencies. Again check their online rate. It’s usually better than what you’ll get in-store.
Getting foreign currency at the last minute
Travelex and S Money both offer 1 business day pick-up from convenient locations. However with Travelex, you have to pay by card which could come with additional bank fees. S Money is a great option if you want home delivery last minute, but you need to be located near the CBD.
If you can't buy in-store or have it delivered before you leave, you can buy foreign currency in the airport. We strongly recommend you buy the minimum amount you need from the airport and sort out the rest when you arrive at your destination.
Learn how to get a better exchange rate at an airport in Australia, just click on the links below:
Money exchange reviews
Travel Money Oz Review
Travel Money Oz have excellent service both in-store and over the phone. They have very good rates online, but store rates vary. There are no fees and ID is required for amounts over $1000.
Unimoni (formally UAE Exchange)
Unimoni (formally known as UAE Exchange) have friendly, professional service with some of the best exchange rates for cash. There are bank limits for eftpos and photo ID is required.
Travelex have an exceptional range of products, payment options and a good stock of currencies. Their foreign exchange rates are much better if you order online and pick up in-store.