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The airport currency rip-off every business needs to know about

Businesses are always looking for ways to cut costs. Well, here’s an easy one – stop your business travellers from ever exchanging currency at airports.

Planning your currency is an important part of travelling for work and business travellers who don’t plan ahead could end up getting ripped-off before they’ve even stepped on the plane.

An investigation into exchange rates on offer at UK airports in July showed business travellers leaving their currency exchange until the last minute, and relying on airport exchange desks, could lose over £100 worth of Euros for every £500 exchanged.

Some airport currency exchange desks were offering as little as €0.89 Euros to the Pound, compared to live market rates of €1.117, our research found.

Of the 17 different currency exchange desks we compared, the worst offenders were the Moneycorp desks at Stansted, Southend and Southampton airports.

FairFX’s airport rate check – Euros:

Airport Provider Airport Euro Rate Market Euro Rate Difference in % Difference in £
Belfast ICE 1.0200 1.1171 -8.69% £43.45
Birmingham Airport ICE 0.9800 1.1171 -12.27% £61.35
Bristol Moneycorp 0.9670 1.1171 -13.43% £67.17
Cardiff ForExchange 0.9100 1.1171 -18.54% £92.68
Doncaster Robin Hood ICE 1.0300 1.1171 -7.79% £38.97
East Midlands Travelex 0.9200 1.1171 -17.64% £88.21
Edinburgh ICE 0.9625 1.1171 -13.84% £69.19
Gatwick Moneycorp 0.9439 1.1171 -15.50% £77.51
Heathrow T3 Travelex 0.9321 1.1171 -16.56% £82.79
Heathrow Underground T1-2-3 ICE 1.1060 1.1171 -0.99% £4.95
London City Airport Travelex 0.9200 1.1171 -17.64% £88.21
Luton ICE 1.0648 1.1171 -4.68% £23.40
Manchester Travelex 1.0940 1.1171 -2.07% £10.33
Norwich ICE 1.0800 1.1171 -3.32% £16.59
Southampton Moneycorp 0.9000 1.1171 -19.43%  £97.16
Southend Moneycorp 0.9154 1.1171 -18.05% £90.27
Stansted Moneycorp 0.8900 1.1171 -20.33% £101.64
Average 0.9786 1.1171 -12.40% £61.99

 

Travellers leaving their currency until the last minute can also get stung at airport ATMs. Most UK airports have ATMs dispensing euros and dollars which should be a good thing if you have a euro or dollar prepaid card. However, most of them charge you in pounds instead of your euros or dollars, and then hit you with double the conversion fees.

The value of planning ahead

Small businesses often don’t have a dedicated person to make travel arrangements, which leaves individuals to book their own travel. And according to 2016 research by Europcar, 44% of business travellers organise their travel plans just one week in advance.

But while it’s convenient to get currency at the airport, especially if the trip was a last-minute necessity, planning ahead is the only way to get the best value for your currency. Just imagine if you sent 10 employees on 10 trips, each exchanging £500 into euros at the airport. That small number of trips alone could amount to a loss to your business of £10,000.

Here are some simple tips to avoid losing money before employees have even left the airport:

  • Don’t leave it too late: Waiting until the last minute means you’ll have no choice about what rate you get. And if you leave it right up until you get to the airport, you’re likely to face the worst exchange rates in the country. Where possible, knowing what countries employees will be travelling to in the financial year allows you to plan ahead and purchase currency when rates are in your favour.
  • Set up a tracker: Follow the rate of the currency you require so you can buy when the pound moves in your favour. You can even ask us to set up a tracker and we’ll keep an eye on rates for you.
  • Use a prepaid card: Use a FairFX Corporate Card to get market-leading exchange rates when you and your staff travel overseas for work. The integrated expense platform also allows you to keep track of staff spending on their prepaid cards.

 

Check out our other currency management tips for business, so that you can avoid any other expensive mistakes.

7 top tips

 

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Miles Hobson

Miles Hobson

Miles oversees marketing communications at FairFX. He has a passion for travel and loves to explore new cities on foot to find their hidden gems.

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