Guide to buying foreign currency

If you need to buy currency in the form of cash, there are several options to explore.

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There are many providers that allow you to buy and sell foreign currency electronically; however, sometimes you need foreign currency in the form of cash. You may simply prefer to have cash for an upcoming holiday, or you may need to make an international purchase with a merchant that only accepts cash. Whatever the reason, here’s what you need to know about buying foreign currency as cash.

How does buying currency work?

You can buy foreign currency through your local bank, though you may not receive the most competitive exchange rate. Specialist currency exchange providers with storefronts allow you to go in and physically buy cash in the same way that you would make any other purchase. You tell them how much of a particular foreign currency you need and they will tell you how much it will cost you in Australian dollars. You can also buy foreign currency at Australia Post.

The price in Australian dollars will be dependent on the exchange rate offered by the provider, so it is important to shop around to ensure you’re getting the best deal. These exchange rates change daily, so be sure to do a comparison on the day that you’re planning to buy the currency. It’s also important to check what, if any, transaction fees the provider charges since this will greatly impact the price you pay.

As these providers are selling physical cash, they do not have an endless supply and can run out of a particular currency towards the end of the day. If you’re buying a large amount of a particular currency, for example US$10,000, it’s best to call the provider a few days in advance to ensure that they will have the cash available for you to purchase. The same applies for currencies that are less commonly purchased.

The finder.com.au international money transfers guide

How do I buy currency online?

If you’re unable to get to a provider's physical store to buy the currency, or if you live in a regional location with no currency exchange providers, you can purchase the cash online and have it delivered to you. You may find that there are better exchange rates if you purchase online, although you will usually have to pay a delivery or courier fee. Alternatively, you can order and pay for the currency online and pick it up in store or at an airport at your convenience.

To buy currency online, head to the provider's website and create an account with your personal details. You will need to select the currency that you wish to buy and the amount that you need to see the price in Australian dollars. Again, this will be dependent on the exchange rate for that day as well as any transaction fees or commissions charged by the provider. Once this is set up, and if you’re happy with the price, you will be able to purchase the currency using your credit or debit card or via BPAY. Be aware that you may be charged an additional fee for credit card payments.

The currency should be available to be picked up or it will be delivered to you after a couple of business days. You may be able to opt for same-day delivery if you need the currency urgently; however, like anything that is express posted, it will cost you more.

What ID do I need to provide to purchase foreign currency?

Currency providers will need to confirm your identity before you can buy any currency, meaning you will need to provide photo ID to purchase cash either online or in store. A valid form of ID should be government issued, for example, your driver’s licence, your passport or your proof of age card. Your ID will need to include your photo, your full name, your date of birth, your residential address and the issue and expiry date.

What AUSTRAC regulations do I need to be mindful of?

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) is Australia’s regulatory body responsible for keeping Australia safe from financial crime, including money laundering.

There is no limit to how much currency you can buy and how much you can take in or out of Australia. However, If you are entering or exiting Australia with a large amount of foreign currency in the form of cash, under AUSTRAC regulations, you must declare it if it’s worth over AUD$10,000. You can do this at the customs gate when you’re at the airport. If you have currency over this value, you will need to fill out a declaration form and sign it, acknowledging that you have this amount of cash with you. It is against the law to divide the currency between several travellers to avoid having to report it, and if you’re caught doing this, you may be issued a penalty.

If you are not travelling with the currency but you’re mailing it overseas, you are still required to declare it if it’s over AUD$10,000. You are required to submit a report to a customs officer, a police officer or directly to AUSTRAC before the money leaves Australia or within five days of receiving it.

Tips for buying currency

  • Compare providers on the day that you wish to purchase the currency as exchange rates change daily.
  • Call ahead if you’re planning to buy a large amount of cash or a less commonly purchased currency to check that they have the cash available.
  • Consider your own bank for less common currencies, such as the South African rand, since these may not be available at many currency exchange providers.
  • Check what transaction fees and commissions the provider changes, or look for a provider that doesn’t charge any fees.
  • Steer clear of buying cash at the airport as the exchange rates are often poor and the transactions fees are high.
  • If you’re travelling with over AUD$10,000, you are required by law to declare it.
  • If buying cash online, use BPAY to avoid the transaction fees that come with credit card purchases.

How do I compare my options?

Compare your foreign currency buying options with the help of finder.com.au’s comparison tables, product reviews and information guides. Remember, when comparing your options, the most important factors to look out for are the exchange rates offered, the transaction fees and the commissions charged by the provider.

More guides on Finder

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20 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    KIRBYSeptember 23, 2019

    Where can I get the rate for USD in cash in Sutherland Shire?

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JeniSeptember 24, 2019Staff

      Hi Kirby,

      Thank you for getting in touch with Finder.

      Currently, we do not have a specific page for currency exchange rates in Sutherland Shire. However, you may use our currency exchange guide on where you may get competitive currency exchange rates in Sydney.

      I hope this helps.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

    Default Gravatar
    JnJune 30, 2019

    I am travelling to Uzbekistan and have been told that I need to take brand new, non-creased, non-marked US dollars, to change to local currency once I get there. Could you suggest the best way for me to get new US currency in Australia? I have US dollars preloaded on a travel card, so would prefer to be able to use this card to buy the currency, however it seems that ATMs are not reliable through Uzbekistan. Many thanks for any suggestions.

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      FayeJuly 2, 2019Staff

      Hi Jn,

      Thanks for contacting Finder.

      Looks like we only have one money exchange service above. If you want to find out more information about the service, click on the blue ‘More info’ option to read our detailed product review. If you’re ready to use their service and to know more click the green ‘Go to site’ button to proceed with their website.

      You can also buy foreign currency through your local bank, though you may not receive the most competitive exchange rate. Specialist currency exchange providers with storefronts allow you to go in and physically buy cash in the same way that you would make any other purchase. You tell them how much of a particular foreign currency you need and they will tell you how much it will cost you in Australian dollars. You can also buy foreign currency at Australia Post.

      I hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Faye

    Default Gravatar
    SamApril 9, 2019

    Can I use a money exchange if I am under 18?

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JeniApril 10, 2019Staff

      Hi Sam,

      Thank you for getting in touch with Finder.

      You may use money exchange facility even if you’re younger than 18 as long you fulfill the required ID process that the provider has. They’d be more than happy to assist you with your travel money needs.

      I hope this helps.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

    Default Gravatar
    TonyNovember 22, 2018

    I have 5,000 euros in cash I wish to deposit directly onto a travel card. Is there a travel card in the market that I can acquire that I can deposit the euro cash directly onto without having to first convert Euros to AUD and where can I make the deposit? I am trying to avoid the exchange rate conversion fees.

    Thank you.

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JeniNovember 25, 2018Staff

      Hi Tony,

      Thank you for getting in touch with Finder.

      You may refer to our list of travel cards for Europe that holds several currencies including euros. You can use our comparison table to help you find the card that suits you. You can also contact the provider directly to check if you can deposit euros with them.

      I hope this helps.

      Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any other enquiries.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

    Default Gravatar
    ValerieOctober 13, 2018

    I am about to travel to Egypt, Jordan and Israel. I realise that they will exchange USD and euros. Could I not use my ATM cards and therefore only have one currency exchange cost? Would it be advisable to take a small amount of all the local currencies with me?

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JeniOctober 20, 2018Staff

      Hi Valerie,

      Thank you for getting in touch with Finder.

      It’s often convenient to take a combination of travel money cards with you when traveling overseas. Bringing a small amount of Egypt, Jordan, and Israel’s local currency is a good back-up option if your card does not work or you do not feel like using your ATM/travel cards while on holiday. Since these countries you are traveling to accepts both USD and euro, you may bring either USD or euro so you are charged just one currency exchange cost.

      I hope this helps.

      Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any other enquiries.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

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