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Currency Exchange Australia

Learn where to exchange currency, and everything else you need to know about currency exchange.

If you're planning a trip overseas, getting some cash in the local currency is probably somewhere on your travel checklist. While there are many different services you can use to exchange currencies, the exchange rates, fees and waiting times can also vary a lot between them. So if you want to weigh up your options, it's important to understand what currency exchange is, the different advertised rates and all the ways you can spend money in a foreign currency.

Where can I exchange currency?

From foreign currency booths at the airport to banks and even Australia Post, there are many different services that let you exchange currency. So it's important to compare your options before choosing which one you use.

To do this, start by checking the Reserve Bank of Australia website to get an idea of current market rates. Then compare the exchange rates from various providers to find the most favourable one. While most services will advertise that they don't charge fees or commissions on currency exchange, this could mean that they offer you a less favourable exchange rate and profit on the spread between the buy / sell rates and the wholesale market rate.

Did you know?

Despite the bargains advertised at currency exchange booths, often the most cost-effective way to buy foreign currency is to conduct your transaction online with a foreign exchange company. These companies tend to offer better rates and lower fees than you could find when you go into an exchange bureau. Travelex, which operates more than 100 exchange booths across Australia, also offers an online service which typically provides better rates.

What are currency exchange rates?

An exchange rate sets the value of different currencies so that you can convert money from one currency to another. The United Nations recognises 180 currencies and obviously you can't use all of them in all countries, which is why exchange rates exist.

Finder survey: How much do Australians think about the exchange rate when spending overseas?

Response
Often60.2%
All the time20.9%
Rarely17.41%
Not at all1.49%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1009 Australians, December 2023

Floating vs fixed exchange rates

A floating exchange rate is one that changes based on the market conditions. This means that when supply or demand changes, the exchange rate will increase or decrease with it. Countries that use a floating exchange rate include Australia, Canada, Japan and the United States.

A fixed exchange rate is set and maintained by a government, using a central bank to manage the process. The currency is then pegged against another major world currency (usually the USD or EUR) to work out the exchange rate. Countries that use a fixed exchange rate include Hong Kong, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and The Bahamas.

currency wide

Buy rates, sell rates, spot rates and wholesale currency exchange rates

Companies, governments, banks and other financial institutions buy and sell currency throughout the day. As a result, there are four key types of exchange rates: the buy rate, the sell rate, the spot rate and the wholesale rate. So which should you look at? It depends on what you're doing.

For example, if you're going on holiday from Australia to Canada and want to get some Canadian dollars, you need to look at the "sell rate" as you will be selling your Australian dollars to the exchange bureau. But if you've returned to Australia and have some Canadian cash to exchange, you should pay attention to the "buy rate" because the exchange bureau will be buying your Canadian dollars.

The "spot rate", on the other hand, is the exchange rate you'll be quoted before you buy or sell your money. This is set at the time of the transaction, because currencies can fluctuate from moment to moment.

What about wholesale rates?

Wholesale rates are used by governments and financial institutions when exchanging large amounts of currency. So you probably won't need to look at this type of exchange rate unless it's part of your job.

Why is the exchange rate I'm offered different from the rate I've previously seen?

The rate you see online or in the media is the wholesale rate offered to governments and financial institutions that are exchanging vast sums of currency in each transaction. This is similar to the bulk price a supermarket would pay when they buy 1,000 loaves of bread from a bakery. What you pay when you exchange currency is the retail price, which varies by exchange service and is marked up – similar to the one or two loaves of bread you would buy from your supermarket.

When should I exchange currency?

You can exchange currency at any time and trying to predict if the exchange rate will go up or down is nearly impossible. There are historical trends in currencies you can look at but market forces change constantly and your time could be better spent comparing exchange rates between providers.

Can I get currency sent to me?

In some cases, you could be travelling overseas and find yourself stranded without any cash. If that's the case and you need cash fast, money transfer providers like Western Union and MoneyGram make it possible for friends or family to send you money. Cash can be picked up from a Western Union or MoneyGram location within minutes and both of these companies have thousands of locations around the world.

Our table below lets you compare services you can use to send money abroad. Compare fees, exchange rates and discounts from different money transfer services, and when you have made your choice, click Go to site.
1 - 25 of 25
Name Product Filter Values Fastest Transfer Speed Fees (Pay by Bank Transfer)
TorFX
24 hours
$0
TorFX sends money overseas in 40+ currencies, with competitive rates for transfer amounts over $2,000.
Xe Large Transfers
24 hours
$0
Xe has fast transfers with low fees and a range of foreign currency tools.
OFX
24 hours
$0
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 50+ currencies.
Send Payments
24 hours
$0

Send provides fee-free transfers via its 24/7 multi-currency payments platform with real-time quotes.
Revolut
Within minutes
$0
Send money with great rates and low fees in 30+ currencies.
Xe Money Transfers
Within minutes
$0
Xe has fast transfers with low fees and a range of foreign currency tools.
Instarem
Within minutes
From 0%
50% off first transaction fee from any country in APAC (outside India).
Minimum transfer of $250 and max transfer of $500,000
Wise (TransferWise)
Within minutes
From 0.43%
Wise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 50+ currencies.
TorFX
24 hours
$0
TorFX sends money overseas in 40+ currencies, with competitive rates for transfer amounts over $2,000.
Remitly
Within minutes
From $0
Remitly has quick, affordable transfers around the world, with both express and economy options.
WorldRemit
Within minutes
From $0.99
Use promo code 3FREE and pay no fees on your first 3 transfers. Conditions apply.
WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups.
Rocket Remit
Within minutes
From $0 to $5
Send money instantly to friends and family in over 45 countries using just your mobile number.
MoneyGram
Within minutes
From $1.99
MoneyGram has fast cash pick-up transfers to more than 350,000 agent locations worldwide.
SingX
Within minutes
From 0.5%
SingX offers the real exchange rate every time you make a transfer and can help you send money across the world.
CurrencyFair
Within minutes
€3
CurrencyFair has bank-beating exchange rates and fast transfer times on 15+ popular currencies.
OFX
24 hours
$0
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 50+ currencies.
Send Payments
Send Payments
24 hours
$0
Send provides fee-free transfers via its 24/7 multi-currency payments platform with real-time quotes.
MasterRemit
Within minutes
From $0
Get your 1st and 2nd money transfer for free with promo codes FIRSTFREE and MASTERFINDER!.
Send money in minutes at competitive exchange rates to the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.
Western Union
Within minutes
From $0
Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries around the world.
Qantas Business Money
Within minutes
$0
Limited time offer: Earn up to 125,000 bonus Qantas Points as a first-time converter. Ends 30 April 2024. Conversion limits and T&Cs apply.
Set up accounts in 11 different currencies and get rewarded for global business payments by earning Qantas Points.
Airwallex
Within minutes
$0
Streamline global payments in 60+ currencies. Send & receive securely in 150+ countries, with fast settlements & competitive rates. Simplify book-keeping & manage everything in one place.
TorFX Business Transfers
24 hours
$0
TorFX guarantees to match any competitor's exchange rate. Conditions apply.
TorFX sends money overseas in 30+ currencies, with competitive rates for transfer amounts over $2,000.
OFX Business Transfers
24 hours
$0
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 45+ currencies.
WorldFirst
24 hours
From $0
Open bank accounts in Australia, the UK, US, Canada, Japan and Europe. Send and receive funds with zero fees for large sums, including same-currency supplier payments.
Send business
24 hours
$0

Send provides fee-free transfers via its 24/7 multi-currency payments platform with real-time quotes.
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In other circumstances, you may be tempted to physically post some money overseas. While it is legal to send up to $10,000 out of Australia without requiring an International Currency Transfer Report from the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), this method is slow and incredibly risky, so should be avoided at all costs.

How should I pay for my purchases overseas?

Cash

Cash is still king in many countries, so exchanging some Australian dollars for foreign currency before you leave is a good idea. Foreign exchange services will offer most major world currencies and you can get it before you leave or pick it up when you arrive. If you're using cash in smaller countries, sometimes you're better off sticking with "hard" currencies (like the US Dollar and the Euro) rather than converting to the local currency. This is because hard currencies are often accepted in many countries around the world, their values rarely fluctuate and you can enjoy big savings when you don't lose a chunk of your money to poor exchange rates and agent commissions.

Credit cards

You can also use your Australian credit card when you're travelling overseas. But keep in mind that most credit cards charge an international transaction fee that usually adds around 2–3% to the cost of each transaction. So if you want the convenience of a credit card on your trip, look for one that waives these fees.

1 - 1 of 1
Name Product Foreign currency conversion fee Interest-free period Purchase rate p.a. Annual fee
Westpac Lite Card
0%
Up to 45 days on purchases
9.9%
$108
Save with 0% foreign transaction fees, a low interest rate for purchases and cashback offers through Westpac Extras.
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Depending on the card you choose, additional currency conversion fees may also apply, so read the fine print before you start swiping away.

Travel card

Another option for travellers is to load cash onto a prepaid travel card which you can then use for all of your overseas transactions. These cards allow you to load money onto your card in the currency(ies) of the destination(s) you're travelling to. However, make sure you're aware of all the fees that apply to prepaid travel cards.

1 - 3 of 3
Name Product Available Currencies ATM Withdrawal Fee Initial Load Fee Reload fee
Wise Travel Money Card
AUD,USD,CAD,EUR,GBP,JPY,NZD,SGD

2 free ATM withdrawals per month up to AUD$350, then AUD$1.50 and 1.75% per withdrawal

$0
$0
Hold and spend funds in more than 40 currencies, with competitive exchange rates and $0 fees for the first 2 ATM withdrawals (up to AUD$350) per month.
Qantas Travel Money
AUD,USD,CAD,EUR,GBP,HKD,JPY,NZD,SGD,THB,AED
AUD $1.95, CAD $2.00, EUR €1.50, GBP £1.25, HKD $15.00, JPY ¥160, NZD $2.50, SGD $2.50, USD $1.95, THB ฿70.00, AED 6.50
$0
$0
Load up to 10 foreign currencies or pay in Australian dollars around the world. Plus, earn Qantas Points on all eligible purchases.
Cash Passport Platinum Mastercard
AUD,USD,CAD,EUR,GBP,HKD,JPY,NZD,SGD,THB,AED
USD $2.50, EUR €2.50, GBP £2.00, NZD $3.50, THB ฿80.00, CAD $3.50, HKD $18.00, JPY ¥260.00, SGD $3.50, AUD $3.50, AED 10.00
$0 (via online) or $0 (via branch)
$0
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  • What happens to my travel card after I finish my holiday? You can apply for a funds redemption, which means you can transfer any left over cash from your holiday back in your bank account. Note that fees and charges may apply. Another option is to withdraw all your remaining balance from an ATM when you're back home.

Debit card

If you'd prefer to use your own cash with the convenience of a debit card, then you could opt for one that doesn't charge international transaction fees (typically about 2-3% of the transaction amount in AUD). You'll also need to look out for charges such as foreign ATM fees and check what services your bank offers if the card is lost or stolen.

1 - 4 of 21
Name Monthly fee Govt. Guarantee Own network ATM fee Card type
Suncorp Everyday Options Account
Apple Pay Google Pay
Monthly fee
$0
Government Guarantee
Own network ATM fee
$0
Card type
Visa
Go to siteMore Info
Up Everyday Account
Apple Pay Google Pay Samsung Pay Fitbit Pay Garmin Pay
Monthly fee
$0
Government Guarantee
Own network ATM fee
$0
Card type
Mastercard
Go to siteMore Info
Revolut Account
Apple Pay Google Pay
Monthly fee
$0
Government Guarantee
Own network ATM fee
$0
Card type
Visa and Mastercard
Go to siteMore Info
HSBC Everyday Global Account
Finder AwardApple Pay Google Pay10 Currencies
Monthly fee
$0
Government Guarantee
Own network ATM fee
$0
Card type
Visa
Go to siteMore Info
Earn 2% cashback on tap and pay purchases.


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Showing 4 of 4 results
  • Can I preload my debit card with foreign cash? No, cards issued in Australia (with the exceptions of multi-currency accounts) only hold AUD. When you conduct a transaction in a foreign currency, exchange rates will apply.

Once you're fully aware of the benefits and drawbacks of each approach to making purchases overseas, you can select the most cost-effective option for your spending habits.

Currency exchange services in Australia

You have a wealth of options at your disposal when you want to trade in your Australian dollars for foreign currency, including:

  • Bureaux de change. Foreign exchange bureaus are operated in airports and shopping centres by companies like Travelex.
  • Banks. You can purchase foreign currency from major Australian banks. It is advisable to call the bank and order your currency in advance to ensure they have the currency and the amount you need.
  • Online money transfer specialists. Wise, TorFX and other similar companies offer convenient exchange services online.
  • Prepaid travel cards. These cards, offered by major banks, airlines and a selection of travel money companies, allow you to load money onto a card in the currency (or currencies) of your destination(s).

The most popular currencies in Australia

The most commonly traded currencies in Australia include:

  • The US Dollar
  • The Euro
  • The Great British Pound
  • The Canadian Dollar
  • The Thai Baht
  • The Japanese Yen
  • The Indian Rupee
  • The Swiss Franc
  • The Chinese Yuan
  • The Hong Kong Dollar

Other more exotic and rare currencies may not be available from all online money transfer companies, so you may be better off visiting your bank or a bureau de change.

With all these options to choose from, it's clear that weighing up your currency exchange options is hugely important. Comparing the benefits, features and fees of different options will ensure that you get the most affordable rate and don't get any nasty surprises down the track.

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4 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    MustaphaFebruary 11, 2018

    I need to know if I can buy Australian dollar using my Oversea dollar card

      AvatarFinder
      RenchMarch 2, 2018Finder

      Hi Mustapha,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      Well, I’m not really sure though if your Overseas card can buy AUD, but best to check this with your issuing bank. Just to confirm, what type of card so you hold and from which issuer?

      Kind regards,
      Rench

    Default Gravatar
    NaluAugust 23, 2017

    I have 20,000 Taiwanese dollars in cash, what business offers the best exchange rate to convert back to Australian dollars in cash

      Default Gravatar
      ArnoldAugust 24, 2017

      Hi Nalu,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      I’m afraid I cannot specify a single business. But I can give you comparison options for foreign exchange rates. Here you can find businesses that offer services with high exchange rates.

      Hope this information helped.

      Cheers,
      Arnold

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