The 5 Cheapest Ways to Buy Currency for an Overseas Holiday

There is no single way to buy currency that is always the cheapest. It really depends on what currency you are buying, how much you need and where you are. This guide will show you how to track down the best exchange rates for your next overseas holiday.

Buy currency online

Buying currency online is quickly growing in popularity for two reasons:

·       The exchange rates offered online are often better than in-store.

·       There are now thousands of pick-up locations, saving you a trip into the city.

It’s not all good news, though. Buying currency online using a credit card can incur more bank fees. I recommend paying via Bpay to avoid these charges. It’s also important to buy ahead of time. When you buy currency online, it can take a few days before you are able to pick the physical cash up.

But is it safe?

As with all online purchases, it really comes down to the company you are buying the currency from. The Currency Shop is partnered with the 2 largest foreign exchange companies in Australia – Travelex and Travel Money Oz.

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 or Euros. 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 to offer the best rates. Shopping around will get you the best deal.

The downside of using these specialist money-changers is that they don’t have a great amount of cash available in less common currencies, such as Thai Baht or Singapore Dollars. They also run out of the most common currencies on busy days, so make sure you call ahead to ensure you aren’t wasting your time.

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.

Exchange rates from banks for common currencies, such as the US dollar and Euros 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 (also known as the renminbi) or the South African Rand.

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 I suggest.


In some cases, it is cheaper to buy your currency in the country you are going to, rather than converting it before you leave. Good examples are Bali and Singapore. Of course, it is a lot harder to find the best exchange rate when you are outside of Australia and you run a higher risk of being scammed.

As a rule of thumb, the further away you are travelling, the less likely you’ll find better exchange rates overseas. This is because the further away from Australia you go, the less common Australian notes and coins are. As a result, they are also less likely to give you a good exchange rate.

To work out if a bank is the cheapest way to buy your currency, make sure you compare exchange rates.