Passengers pay hefty premium to change their money at airports
Published 13/06/2011 | 05:00
CHANGING your money at the airport could put a dent in your holiday finances even before you leave the country.
A survey by the Irish Independent has found you pay a hefty premium for waiting until the last minute to change your money.
Purchasing stg£500 from International Currency Exchange (ICE) kiosks at Dublin, Knock and Shannon airports costs up to €38 more than from a bank or post office -- a difference of 7pc.
The cheapest service for sterling and US dollar purchases is An Post, which offers commission-free foreign exchange for these two currencies at more than 300 post offices.
The cost of buying stg£500 at ICE outlets was €618 compared with €579 at An Post and between €580 and €585 at the main banks, our survey found. That's because the ICE commission charge of 2.35pc is twice as high as the banks' 1pc, while it also offers a poor exchange rate.
However, its eight outlets in Dublin Airport are now the only exchange option available to passengers. Although Bank of Ireland has a branch in the airport, it is no longer permitted to offer foreign exchange as it did not win the tender from Dublin Airport Authority.
The price of buying US$500 is €368 at ICE, some €15 more than the €353 charged at post offices. The gap is even wider for Australian dollars, with AU$500 costing €398 at ICE, compared to €375 at Ulster Bank, €377 at AIB and €382 at Bank of Ireland.
ICE defended its high prices as reflecting higher costs of operating at major airports and said it was fully compliant with guidelines set by the Financial Regulator.
"Our airport services provide a convenience option for travellers where factors such as long hours of operation, providing a large variety of currencies and the higher cost of doing business at airports reflect a slightly higher cost," said ICE head of marketing Joanna Williams.
ICE plans to launch commission-free online pre-ordering and home delivery in Ireland later this year, as it already offers these competitive services in the UK and Canada.
Bank of Ireland said its Cork airport outlet offers the same rate as other BoI branches. The bank's sterling-dispensing ATM at Dublin Airport was removed recently but it plans to put in a new one within a month.
For those using their ATM cards to withdraw money abroad, the National Consumer Agency advises that in the eurozone this should not cost more than it does at home.