Comparison shopping for travel currency

Comparison shopping for travel currency

Travelling to foreign countries is fun; exploring is what kiwis do.

Some of your trip costs can be prepaid, and much of what you will spend can be charged to your credit card. In fact travel cards are increasing in popularity as well. These are debit cards, pre-loaded with foreign currency, and are a great innovation.

But despite all this convenience, nothing beats having some travelling cash with you. And most people stock up at the airport, or make a quick, rushed visit to their bank branch just before they take-off.

But are you getting a good deal?

In fact, when the bank loads up your travel card, are you getting a good deal then as well?

How to know?

All the banks have rate boards displayed in their branch windows, so in theory you can compare. But that is far from convenient, and those rate boards don't tell you the effect of fees.

What you need to do is check rates and fees out on-line, before you go to the bank. But if you forget to do it then, you can always ask your teller to look on their browser for our tool - most banks give their front-line staff access to, because it is a key tool for them to stay on top of the competitive banking rate environment.

And you can now, in one simple place. Use this tool here,

or go to this page here >> where all rates are always up to date because we scrape the banks website every few minutes.

In a spot test at 2pm, Friday, January 14, 2011 we found that at that time, the best banks to buy from were Westpac or BNZ, and the second best bank was always ASB. ANZ or National never were in the #1 or #2 position, and were clearly the most expensive places to buy. Sometimes the differences were small, other times you could save over $40 by buying at the right place.

Here are the results of that spot test.

  FCY 100 FCY 1,000 FCY 5,000
US dollars Westpac Westpac Westpac
maximum saving $6.26 $3.93 $19.63
Australian dollars Westpac BNZ BNZ
maximum saving $6.26 $8.09 $40.45
British pounds Westpac Westpac Westpac
maximum saving $6.05 $2.52 $11.86
Euro Westpac Westpac Westpac
maximum saving $6.34 $5.22 $26.08

The savings listed in this table are after comparing the exchange rate each bank uses, and deducting their fees (which vary depending on how much you are buying). It is the difference between the highest and lowest cost. The institution listed had the lowest cost, including fees.

And to prove the point that these rates move a lot, here is the same spot test as at 10am, Saturday, January 15, 2011.

  FCY 100 FCY 1,000 FCY 5,000
US dollars Westpac ANZ ANZ
maximum saving $6.05 $4.28 $21.39
Australian dollars Westpac BNZ BNZ
maximum saving $6.43 $7.05 $35.23
British pounds Westpac ANZ ANZ
maximum saving $5.96 $9.76 $39.06
Euro Westpac ANZ ANZ
maximum saving $6.09 $3.14 $15.71

In this update, ASB was the second best in most cases, and the National Bank the most expensive - which seems odd, given that the National Bank and ANZ have the same owner.


We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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If you have an ASB internet account, they only charge you $5 fees. (You can order foreign currency online.) For smaller amounts this could tip the balance in favour of ASB over Westpac.

Who can afford to benefit from this?We are getting over Xmas!

Of course BNZ is best!

Travel Cards are a great idea, although I must say on occasion in the UK, they sometimes are not accepted (esp. Halifax ATMs or on some eftpos machines). You still need some real cha ching!

How does $ 2.50- p/litre of petrol affect you, travelling with your car forward and back to work once or twice a day ? What kind of changes are you considering if petrol even goes higher ?


on Jan 12th morning I also did a comparison of some of the trading banks as regards transferring 300k from AUD to NZD and got these results

National  = 384,393

Westpac = 384,269

ANZ = 382,555

Using a non bank party called ClearFX the transaction would have generated NZD 388,193.

Wholesale rate at the same time would have produced  NZD 398,004.

Exactly right. When moving cash between countries (ie not for simple FX cash transactions) you would be mad to use the big banks.There are a range of non bank FX companies such as ClearFX,, etc which will move money at rates closer to the interbank.

Might I suggest Bernard that you review these companies and what they offer? It would be a useful service.

The best option in these troubled times...move the loot fast out of harms way...stay oncall and take advantage of 21st century systems...the days of being a pawn to a banker are long gone thank more "please may I take some of my money from my account?"


If you were looking at transferring that amount you should be easily able to get your bank to match the rates offered by those other companies.  End of the day its easy profit for them, and they aren't going to through that away!

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Gandhinagar Gujarat