Which? warns holidaymakers travelling overseas that "they could lose out on their foreign currency" if they make their exchange at an airport.
Researchers compared exchange rates offered at Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Manchester and Stansted over a six week period and found the exchange rates available in the airports were significantly lower than the rates available at the same time online or on the high street.
From the table above it is possible to see that Moneycorp have the most significant difference between their online and airport exchange rate. Exchanging £500 into Euros with Moneycorp would give you on average 518.42 Euros at the airport or 569.82 Euros if you bought online. That's a whopping 51.40 Euro difference. On BBC's Watchdog show recently they reported on similar findings and contacted many of the currency providers to find out why airport exchange rates are so different to the exchange rates available to customers online. The general response was that the cost of operating within an airport was greater and this had to be reflected in the exchange rates available to customers. However the lack of competition is also likely to be a significant factor. Traveler's arriving at the airport with no foreign currency have no choice but to buy currency from the airport Bureau de change.
How to get a better exchange rate at the airport
It is possible to avoid receiving the poor exchange rate shown on the currency board at the airport bureau. Better online rates are available to customers who reserve/buy online beforehand for airport collection. To secure your online rate you should reserve/buy online at least 24 hours in advance of your flight. Travelex and American Express only require four hours notice for advanced ordering enabling you to place your order on the day of your journey.
Online exchange rates
As well as reserving foreign currency for airport collection you can also buy online for home delivery or arrange to collect your travel money from a local branch days before you travel.
Our travel money comparison table allows you to see who is offering the most competitive exchange rate so that you can be sure to get the best deal.
Although high street exchange rates are generally better than airport rates, to get the very best exchange rate it is always wise to go online and arrange to reserve and collect. The main high street providers such as the Post Office offer better rates online.