Unless you don’t have another choice, avoid exchanging currency at the airport!

If you do, you can be certain of one thing: you lose money when exchanging at airport forex bureaus. Understandably, there are instances where you have no other choice but to bite the bullet and reluctantly exchange your valued currency at the airport. That is the exception. In practice, there are many reasons you should avoid exchanging currency at the airport. Let us look at four of these:

1. The Rates Are Exorbitant

In reality, there is a set baseline rate for buying and selling currency. The conversion rate you see after doing a search for currency conversion rate indicates the baseline exchange rate. However, the actual exchange rate you get at forex bureaus is calculated to cushion them from the cost of doing business. The difference between the baseline exchange rate and that charged by forex bureaus and banks is called a spread.

However, further variations exist from one currency exchange bureau to another, and those at airports are extremely punitive. The operators at airport forex bureaus understand that since you are out of options, you will pay whatever rate they set. That is why the exchange rates at airports are inflated. Avoid them at all costs.

2. Those “Special” Offers Are Not Special at All

Currency exchange booths at airports are notorious for taunting “special” offers and other value packs such as the deal-of-the-day promotions. Before you are swept off your feet by such sweetened offers, remember those special deals are based on an inflated base rate. Therefore, in reality, you are not getting a special offer.

This is a gimmick to deflect your attention from the inflated rate and make you feel as though the bureau is bending over backwards to help you. To understand just how punitive these special offers are, compare them with currency exchange rates at the regular bureaus and at your local bank. The truth will set you free.

3. The Displayed Rate Is Not the Real Exchange Rate

Have you ever noticed the advertised rates at airport currency exchange booths are not the same as those charged when exchanging your currency? Many forex bureaus at airports use a software that scrambles numbers in a bid to hide their rates.

Although they say this is a security feature, one wonders how scrambling the numbers that would help you make a quick decision could be a security feature. The only reason one can think of for scrambling exchange rate numbers is to hide them from you. They know they are charging you more than they should, and they go to great lengths not publicize the fact.

4. Yikes! There Are Hidden Fees

Asking an airport forex kiosk whether they charge extra fees is like asking Usain Bolt if he can run. The only difference is that the forex kiosk at the airport will lie to your face. However, they do it so convincingly that unless you carefully scrutinize your receipt, you won’t immediately see the section labelled ‘service charge’. Well, they do not actually call it a fee, but it is a fee nonetheless disguised in a different label. The bottom line is you will pay more than you would at regular exchange bureaus.

Only consider exchanging currency at airport exchange booths as a last resort. To avoid the exorbitant fees charged by these kiosks, make plans to exchange your valuable currency at bureaus and banks located anywhere but at airports. The airport forex booths may taunt you with their “special offers” and value packages that claim, “no fees charged”; however, the reality is a scrutiny of your receipt will reveal a completely different picture. Do whatever you can to avoid exchanging your hard-earned currency at the airport.

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Mo is a seasoned traveller and an adventurous spirit who dreams of visiting every country around the world. When he's not travelling, you might find him writing and cataloguing about his recent trips.