Luton Airport Currency Exchange: Should you exchange money at the airport?

TransferWise
30.04.19
5 minute read

London Luton Airport, or LLA, is a great way to get to all manner of destinations, from Madrid to Tel Aviv.¹ Whether you’re travelling for a holiday in the sun, a spur-of-the-moment weekend away, or a business trip, you will need to have money to spend in the local currency.

When you arrive at the airport, you might be tempted by one particular service that Luton Airport offers: currency exchange. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you’ll need to start paying for things in the local currency, which means that you’ll need to have access to some. And it may seem like the most convenient option to simply get your travel money at the airport as you wait for your flight.

But is it a good deal? This article will take a look at whether Luton Airport is the right place for you to get your foreign currency. It will also introduce you to one alternative option: a TransferWise multi-currency account, which lets you convert money at the real mid-market exchange rate, and provides you with a Mastercard you can use during your trip in numerous local currencies. But anyway, back to what you came to read.

How to convert currency at Luton Airport: Can you order currency online?

At Luton Airport, the company that handles currency exchange is International Currency Exchange, or ICE. They have 4 bureaux de change at the airport: one at Departures, two after check-in, and one at Arrivals. They’re all open the majority of the time , and the one before security is open 24 hours. At any of them, you can simply select the currency, pick an amount, pay, and collect your foreign cash.²

However, it’s generally worth planning ahead a little ahead. You can contact ICE in advance of your trip, and book some money to collect when you get to Departures. To do this, either call them on +44 (0)1582 730 700 or order online via ICE’s website.³

Why bother booking in advance? Because you’ll get a better exchange rate, and avoid having to pay commission.² That’s right - you’ll get a significantly worse deal if you choose not to order your money ahead of time.

ICE are also looking to introduce a new multi-currency Mastercard in the future, which will allow you to hold up-to 10 currencies, and spend abroad in the local currency.

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?

You’ll get one exchange rate if you simply turn up to ICE at Luton Airport without having reserved online, and another exchange rate - a better one - if you book in advance.

It’s therefore clear that ICE adapts its exchange rates depending on how you choose to get your money. Which means you’re not likely to get the mid-market exchange rate, which is the one the banks use to trade between themselves, and provide you the best value for money.

ICE isn’t alone in this. Most currency exchangers use market rates that are marked-up versions of the mid-market rate, and they simply keep the difference: that’s how they can afford to do offers like “0% commission” or “no fees”. Really, they’re just hiding the fee in a different place, where it’s less visible. But you’re still paying.

TransferWise always offers the mid-market rate on its transfers, which means you can always be assured you’re getting value for money when you send or convert money in a foreign currency. The fee is clearly stated before you make the transfer, and the exchange rate locks in, so you know exactly how much it will really cost.

What are the fees to exchange currency at the airport?

Here’s an overview of what you’ll be charged for currency exchange using ICE at Luton Airport.

Fee Information
Commission 0% commission if you have booked ahead, to collect at the airport.² You also don’t have to pay commission if you’re a student with valid ID³ You have to pay a commission fee, if you go to ICE at Luton Airport without having pre-booked.
Exchange rate ICE say that they offer competitive exchange rate, but this may not be the mid-market rate, plus there is a likely markup - or a higher markup if you don’t book in advance²

It may be convenient to exchange currency at the airport. Thanks to its deal with ICE, Luton Airport is no exception: you can get your currency with no prior planning at all, plus it’s a great way to distract yourself from the duty-free shop while you’re waiting for your flight. But this may not be the best way to get a good deal.

Even if you book ahead and get ICE’s better exchange rate and no commission, you should still check the exchange rate you’re offered against the mid-market rate. It’s easy to do - just look at the rate displayed on an online currency converter like Google, XE or TransferWise. If you’re being offered a different rate from that one, you could well be losing out.

And remember, there’s nothing forcing you to get your foreign cash at the airport. There are plenty of places you can do it before your trip begins. It can be much cheaper - and more convenient in the long run - to open a specialist account product like the TransferWise multi-currency account. Just top up your account with pounds whenever you need to, and then convert to the local currency wherever you’re going using the mid-market exchange rate. You can then spend using your linked debit card, or use ATMs to get cash then you arrive at your destination.

Getting your travel money at the airport can be an appealing option, especially if you’re in a rush and don’t have a lot of time to order your foreign currency in advance. However, you might well pay a premium for the convenience on offer. Take some time to plan ahead, so that you can focus on enjoying your time at Luton Airport - and, more to the point, enjoy your time away. Don’t let a bad deal on currency exchange stand in the way of a great trip abroad.

Sources used:

1.https://www.london-luton.co.uk/flights
2.https://www.london-luton.co.uk/airport-shopping/holiday-essentials/ice-currency-exchange
3.https://www.london-luton.co.uk/inside-lla/need-currency-or-have-some-to-sell
4.https://www.iceplc.com/click-and-collect/luton

Sources checked on 30-April 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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