Guide to buying currency at the Post Office

Heading overseas and in need of some foreign currency? You have several options when buying cash at the Post office.

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You might be getting by in Australia virtually cash-free thanks to the plethora of contactless payment options available, but when you’re jetting across the globe it’s always a good idea to carry some of that country’s currency with you. Buying foreign cash is often the last thing on your to-do list before heading overseas and with so many options available it can be overwhelming.

While the Post Office can be a convenient option for buying foreign currency, you may get a better exchange rate through an international money transfer provider with a storefront. This how-to guide will explore your options when buying and collecting cash at the Post office.

Why buy foreign currency before you leave Australia?

People often leave buying foreign currency to the last minute, telling themselves they’ll just sort it out upon landing in their destination. While you can definitely do this, it’s much cheaper and easier to buy currency before you leave Australia and can save a whole lot of stress knowing you’ll have some on you when you arrive. It can be tempting to buy cash at the airport, however these foreign exchange providers are infamous for their high fees and bad exchange rates as they take advantage of ill-prepared and desperate travellers.

What options are there for buying currency at the Post Office?

There are three ways you can purchase foreign currency at the Post Office including ordering online, buying instant currency at American Express Currency Exchange Stores or ordering in-store. Let’s take a look at the process for each.

Ordering currency online, for collection at the Post Office

The benefit of ordering your currency online is that you can lock in exchange rates and collect your cash at a later date. It also saves you the hassle of going into a Post Office twice to order your cash and then going back when it’s ready to be collected. You can order over 60 currencies online, from the Euro to the Yen, and save money with no commissions.

When ordering online, your cash will be ready to collect from one of 3,200 participating Post Offices and you can find your nearest option by checking the Australia Post website. Your currency will be available to collect within 2-3 business days, so keep this in mind if you need cash the day before your flight. You need to order a minimum of AUD $500 worth of currency when ordering online, with a maximum limit of AUD $8,500.

Ordering currency in-store at the Post Office

If you find it easier, you can order and pay for your currency in any of the 3,200 participating Post Offices rather than ordering online. The advantage of this is that the staff are available to assist you with any queries you may have while also paying no commission fees. It’s a quicker option as currency is available to collect within 1-2 business days. If you live in a metro area you can order your currency before midday and it’ll be available for collection by 4pm the next working day.

This is convenient for smaller amounts as the minimum is only AUD$200 and the maximum is $1,500. However, the disadvantage of ordering currency in-store is that you can’t lock in exchange rates, which will depend on what they are that day. You’re only able to order 14 foreign currencies in-store, so if you need a currency that’s less common such as the Egypt Pound or the India Rupee you’ll need to order online.

Ordering currency at American Express Currency Exchange stores

If you need foreign currency instantly you can take advantage of the American Express Currency Exchange stores located in selected Post Offices throughout the country. These allow immediate access to over 60 foreign currencies with no minimum or maximum limits. However, there is an $8 commission fee for each currency that you purchase, so while this option definitely has its advantages it’ll be more expensive.

Let's look at the pros and cons of these three options:

Ordering online
  • Lock in exchange rates early
  • Collect cash in-store when it suits you
  • Order 60+ foreign currencies
  • No commissions
  • Order up to AUD$8,500
  • Still need to go in-store to collect cash
  • 2-3 business days for cash to be available
  • Minimum of AUD$500 required
  • Can only pay via BPay or over the phone
Ordering in-store
  • Minimum of only AUD$200 required
  • Staff assisted transaction
  • No commissions
  • Currency available within 1-2 business days
  • Can pay in-store via EFTPOS
  • Can only order 14 foreign currencies
  • May need to return to collect your cash
  • Maximum of AUD$1,500
  • Cannot lock in exchange rates earlier
AMEX Currency Exchange
  • Foreign currency is available on the spot
  • Order 60+ foreign currencies
  • No minimum or maximum order limit
  • Pay in-store via EFTPOS
  • Only available at selected locations
  • An AUD$8 commission fee applies per currency

How much does it cost to buy currency at the Post Office?

When ordering currency online or in-store at the Post Office there are no commission fees, but there will be service charges included in the exchange rates quotes. The price you pay for your currency will largely depend on the exchange rate for that day, so shop around with other providers to ensure you’re getting a competitive rate.

If you don’t need cash urgently keep an eye on the exchange rates offered by the Post Office for the currency and when you spot a good rate, order online to secure it. You can check the rates offered each day on the Australia Post website.

If you need the currency instantly and plan to use one of the American Express Currency Exchange stores, remember there is an $8 fee per currency you buy in addition to any service fees that may be included in the exchange rate.

What are the steps involved for buying currency at the Post Office?

  • Ordering online:

To order your currency online you need to visit the Australia Post website and fill in your personal contact and transaction details, plus the currency you need and the amount required. You’ll be asked to select the Post Office that you’re collecting the currency from. Confirm your order and pay via BPay online or over the phone with your unique reference number and the provided biller code within 24 hours of submitting your order. Australia Post will notify you when your currency is ready to be collected from your selected Post Office and you’ll need your receipt and a government issued photo ID.

  • Ordering in-store:

When ordering currency in-store the process is really simple. Head into the Post Office, tell them what currency you’re after and how much you need and pay for your currency by EFTPOS. You’ll also need a government issued photo ID when ordering currency in-store. You’ll be notified when your currency is ready to be collected and amounts over AUD $2,000 require two forms of ID.

  • American Express Currency Exchange:

Check the Australia Post website for a participating American Express Currency Exchange store near you. Place your order and pay with EFTPOS (savings or cheque account only) and pick up your currency instantly. You’ll also need a government issued photo ID for this option.

What are the disadvantages of buying currency at the Post Office?

The main disadvantage to carrying physical money with you out of the country is the risk of theft. Money is not able to be cancelled and reissued the same way as cards or travellers cheques, making it a less secure means of transferring funds.

Also, you're required to declare large sums of money at customs when travelling overseas. This generally applies to amounts over $10,000. Be prepared for additional processing time at the airport if you carry large quantities of physical cash.

What about buying foreign cash from my bank?

You do have the option of buying foreign currency through your local bank. You can either order online and pick up in branch, or order in branch. However, you will almost certainly receive a poorer exchange rate and have to pay a commission or transaction fee to do so. For example, Commonwealth Bank charges a commission of 1% of the transaction value when buying foreign currency in branch. and Westpac charges a flat $4 fee plus a 1% commission if paying via card*. Since banks do not specialise in foreign currency, they will also have less currency options available.

*Rates and fees correct at the time of writing August 2017.

Specialist foreign exchange providers

You may find that you can get a more competitive exchange rate at specialist foreign exchange outlets, such as Travelex and Travel Money Oz, than the Post Office. While Travelex is infamous for having poor exchange rates at airports, if you order and pay for your currency online and pick up in store, it offers some of the most competitive rates available.

This also may be more convenient for you if you can't get to a Post Office before you leave the country, as you know there will be a Travelex located at the airport. But remember, it's important to order in advance online if you want a good exchange rate.

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