Heathrow Currency Exchange: Should you exchange money at the airport?

TransferWise
07.03.19
5 minute read

Taking a dream trip somewhere exotic? Travelling for work? Or maybe you’re lucky enough to be jetting off on a last minute city break. You’ll need some local currency for wherever you’re headed.

Visiting an airport currency exchange can seem like a convenient way to sort out your travel money. However, the exchange rates and fees on offer at Heathrow might not be the best out there.

A little bit of advance planning can help you make the most of your money - and getting a good deal doesn’t have to be hard work. With TransferWise you can open a multi-currency account, and get a travel money card to make ATM withdrawals and payments in the local currency, while you travel.

Read on for all you need, to help you decide if Heathrow Airport currency exchange is the best option for you.

How to convert currency at Heathrow Airport? Can you order currency online?

Currency exchange within Heathrow airport is offered by Travelex. There are over 30 different Travelex locations across the Heathrow terminals, and it’s possible to order currency in advance and collect it as you pass through the airport. It’s also possible to get currency conversion on the spot for some major currencies - but it’s worth knowing that the currency exchange rate offered for purchases made in the airport won’t be the same as the one you get when you order online.¹

You’ll want to check the rates available before you choose a travel money service - we’ll talk a bit more about why, later. But usually, the online rate given for advance purchases is the better deal.

If you would rather, you can also buy a travel money card from Travelex, to pre-load your foreign currency before you travel. You can then use the card for ATM withdrawals and to make purchases when you’re abroad. You can order a card online before you travel, or you might be able to purchase at some of the bureau de change at the airport.¹ However, there are extra charges for some of these services - more on that below, in the fees section.

All of the currency exchange desks within the airport are operated by Travelex - but it is also possible to get foreign exchange at the branch of International Currency Exchange (ICE) situated in ‘Heathrow Airport London Underground Station’.² If you’re going to the airport using public transport, it might be smart to check out the travel money rates and fees available here, too.

Finally, if you need to get either British pounds or euros for your trip, you can also choose to use an ATM within Heathrow Airport to withdraw cash directly from your account using your Visa, Mastercard or Amex card.³

Need holiday money, or looking to exchange currency for your next trip? TransferWise may be able to save you money

Planning your next trip, and wondering how you are going to be able to spend in the local currency of the place that you are visiting - but also get the most value for your money? TransferWise might be able to help with this.

Rather than getting your travel money when you’re in the airport, why not check out TransferWise’s free borderless multi-currency account and free debit MasterCard. And give it a try.

You can open a borderless account online for free, and get a linked debit card to make spending overseas easy. You can then spend in the local currency almost anywhere in the world.

Banks and currency conversion providers often give you a bad exchange rate to make extra profits. TransferWise is different. Its smart new technology skips hefty international transfer fees by connecting local bank accounts all around the world. Oh, and TransferWise gives you the most fair exchange rate out there, the mid-market exchange rate.

It couldn’t be simpler - and because you’ll avoid many of the costs of regular airport currency exchange services, you may find that you have more to spend on yourself while you’re travelling.

Now, back to what you came here to read.

Exchanging your money at the airport may sound convenient - but are you really getting the best exchange rate?

Before you choose the best way to get your travel money, it can help to understand a bit about the exchange rates available. Travelex offer different exchange rates for online orders, and currency exchange arranged at the airport⁴ - so how do you know if you’re getting a good deal?

Exchange rates change all the time⁵, so use a google search or an online currency converter to get the right rate for your currency pairing. What you’ll find is the mid-market exchange rate, which you can compare against the rate you get from Travelex. This is used as a benchmark because it’s the rate banks use when they sell currency to each other. However, it’s not always the rate which is applied for regular customers, exchanging travel money.

In fact, banks and currency exchange services often add a markup or spread to the exchange rate they offer customers. This can mean that you get less than you expect when you switch your currency.

If you’re looking for the best available deal for your currency exchange, it’s good to know that it is possible to get the mid-market exchange rate if you know where to look. TransferWise always use the mid-market rate, with just a low and transparent fee to pay.

What are the fees to exchange currency at the airport?

If you’re buying your travel money at Heathrow, you’ll want to know the costs. Here are the prices for some common exchange services - you can find more online, on the Travelex website.

Service Travelex fee
Currency exchange for collection at Heathrow Airport Possible exchange rate markup + collection fee + card fee, if applicable Collection fee as follows:
  • Exchanging under £100 - £4.99
  • Exchanging between £100 to £299.99 - £2.49
  • Exchanging over £300 - free
A card processing fee might be added by your card provider if you pay using a credit or debit card⁶
Buy Back guarantee: allows you to sell back unused currency at the rate you bought it £3.99⁴
Travel money cards - getting a card First card is free, £5 for an additional card
Travel money cards - loading money Foreign currency top ups - free Topping up using pounds - 2% of load value
Travel money cards - using an ATM in the UK Fee charged depends on the currency you hold - £1.50, or €1.75 for example
Travel money cards - foreign exchange fee, applied for spending in a currency you don’t hold on the card 5.75% of amount spent
Travel money cards - inactivity fee £2 a month after 12 months of inactivity⁷

Getting your travel money in the airport might be convenient, but it may not necessarily be cheap. However, it doesn’t have to be a choice between convenience and great value. If you know you’re jetting off shortly, on a family holiday, business trip, or romantic weekend, make the most of your money with some advance planning.

You could consider opening a TransferWise borderless account to exchange your currency simply online, and spend it easily while you travel, using your debit MasterCard. You’ll also get currency exchange which uses the mid-market exchange rate, which can mean you’re left with more to spend on yourself.

Sources used:

1.https://www.heathrow-airport-guide.co.uk/travel-money.html
2.https://www.iceplc.com/click-and-collect/heathrow
3.https://www.heathrow.com/airport-guide/terminal-facilities-and-services/currency-exchange
4.https://www.travelex.co.uk/faqs#fees-and-charges
5.https://www.travelex.co.uk/offers/price-promise
6.https://www.travelex.co.uk/travel-money
7.https://www.travelex.co.uk/travel-money-card/faqs

All sources checked on: 07-March 2019


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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