There are usually four types of prices institutions will offer you, and each comes with its own fees and ‘spread’.
When an institution buys foreign currency from you, they often have one rate no matter what you are selling (cash/currency, or travellers cheques, regular cheques, or doing an electronic-direct-to-account transaction).
But when an institution sells you foreign currency they will quote different rates
- T/T (= telegraphic transfers), which is the rate that will apply for electronic direct-to-account transactions
- Cheques (including travelers cheques) – this is often the rate used for ‘travel cards’ – ATM cards pre-loaded with foreign currency.
- Cash and currency. (Coin is almost never converted, except at some airport location.)
The spread is usually highest for cash, lowest for T/T. See separate information on the ‘spread’.
If you have a significant transaction – by that we mean something over $10,000 – you will find it very worthwhile to shop around for the best rate and fees. This is not especially straightforward as rate quotes usually only last a few minutes. You will feel under a lot of pressure to do-a-deal. However, doing a trial run an hour or so in advance can help identify the likely best place for that deal.