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Aussie travellers warned of exchange ‘tricks’ as borders open

·2-min read
Venice at sunset, inset: image of hand touching type pad on ATM.
Here's what you need to watch out for. (Sources: Getty)

Australians have been urged to remain vigilant as international borders open, with experts reminding keen travellers of the currency-conversion “tricks” that can become painfully expensive.

Fully vaccinated Australians can now travel overseas without exemptions, with 86 per cent of eligible Australians now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

However, travellers need to remember to be smart with their money while abroad, international money transfer and multi-currency card provider Wise Australia country manager Tristan Dakin told Yahoo Finance.

“Don’t get ripped off by poor exchange rates at an airport currency converter,” Dakin said.

“They know it’s a last-resort option and inflate the exchange rates and fees. It’s much cheaper to withdraw money from an ATM at your destination with your multi-currency card.

“If you really need foreign currency in cash, watch out for tricks like ‘0 per cent commission’ or ‘zero fees’ at cash converters.”

A better option is for travellers to Google the amount they’re planning to convert and assess whether they’re getting a good deal.

The closer the exchange rate offered to the exchange rate on Google, “the better”.

“Cash currency converters will try to scam travellers using crafty methods, such as marked-up exchange rates, fake currency notes, rigged calculators, fast counting and folded notes, ripping customers off and ensuring they aren’t getting the true amount from the conversion,” Dakin said.

He also advised travellers to double check their own banks’ offers, because they can also come with hidden fees and exchange rates up to 6 per cent higher than those seen on Google.

“On top of this, depending on the provider, bank travel cards can come with different fees such as initial load fees, reload fees, ATM withdrawal fees and even inactivity fees,” he said.

Always use local currency

When taking out money from a local ATM, or using a card to spend in restaurants or shops, travellers will often see confusing questions about methods of payment.

The solution is to always pay in the local currency of the destination they’re at.

“For instance, if you’re an Australian resident traveling to the UK, always choose the ‘pay/withdraw in GBP’ option rather than the AUD option on the card machine,” Dakin said.

“That’s called ‘dynamic currency conversion’ and merchants make a bit more by giving you poor exchange rates, sometimes up to 6 per cent, if you choose to pay in your home currency rather than the local currency.”

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