Best places to exchange currency in Madrid

TransferWise content team
28.02.17
4 minute read

The capital of Spain is a popular destination for tourists. More than half a million people visit Madrid in one month alone, and over 100,000 foreigners live in the city. Tourists loves this city - it’s full of history, museums and food, which means every minute money is being spent. But where can you exchange currency when you visit Madrid?

Before exchanging your money

There are plenty of exchange currency bureaus available at both the Madrid Barajas Airport and the Atocha train station, which is one of the two main transportation hubs in the city. Be mindful of the first exchange currency you encounter, as it’ll most likely be a tourist trap.

1. Know the real mid-market exchange rate

You’ll find that exchange bureaus often charge more depending on the location, especially in central places like Callao and Puerta del Sol. So, before you exchange any kind of money, make sure you check the real exchange rate through an online currency calculator. This rate is sometimes called the interbank exchange rate, or the mid-market exchange rate. If you know the interbank rate, you can know how much you might overpay.

Avoid the currency exchange desks you find in stores and shops - most of them charge hidden fees. The fees can be as high as 20% of your withdrawal, and it all comes from your wallet without you even knowing it.

2. Exchange rates continually fluctuate

Every exchange rate has a base currency (foreign currency) and counter currency (domestic currency). Most exchange rates are floating - meaning they are determined by the market forces at your destination.

Changes in market inflation and interest rate influence the exchange rate. Government debt and terms of trade also play a role. Moreover, these factors change almost on a daily basis. Make sure you take the daily exchange rate into consideration before you exchange your cash.

3. Research your home bank’s partnerships

Depending on your home bank, you may have an international banking partner. Sometimes, banks will have a partnership (sometimes called affiliate) with another bank abroad to offer you smaller ATM and exchange fees.

Nowadays, many banks have a European affiliate bank to make a tourist’s life easier. Madrid banks such as Sabadell, AAA  and Citibank España might be able to offer lower exchange rates. Deutsche Bank España and Lloyds TSB Bank are all aimed at foreigners and have branches in Madrid.

4. Refuse ATM offers to be charged in your home currency

When you use an ATM, you’ll probably see the option to see the transaction charged in your home currency rather than the local one. Don’t fall for the trick (the ‘service’ is called Dynamic Currency Conversion or DCC). If you choose to be charged in your home currency, the ATM provider will almost always give you an unfavourable exchange rate. Make sure you always choose to be charged in the local currency - that way, your bank back home will give you an exchange rate. And a much better one, at that.

5. Avoid exchanging your money at airports and hotels

The currency exchanges you find at the airport might feel convenient, but there’s a price to pay for the convenience. The same rule applies for your hotel. While you’ll find private currency exchange desks in larger hotels, they will take a huge cut of your withdrawal as a ‘service fee.’  The best thing you can do for your wallet is to not fall victim to the trap of convenience; almost any ATM will offer you better rates than hotels and airports.

5. Use up your money before you leave

It’s expensive to re-exchange your money at the end of your trip. It’s probably not worth the effort for small bills and change. So if you find yourself stuck with a large bag of coins, figure out a good way to use it. At that point, you’ve already exchanged the money once, so don’t pay additional money to re-exchange.

Where to exchange money in Madrid

While the places mentioned below might charge you fees, they are known to offer the best currency exchange rates in Madrid and are used by plenty of tourists every day.

Currency Bureau Address Contact Information
Ria Money Transfer & Currency Exchange Plaza de Callao, 4, 28012 Madrid, Spain +34 915 22 90 73
Money Exchange Calle de las Infantas, 1, 28004 Madrid, Spain +34 917 61 71 70
Ceca Banca Calle de Alcalá, 27, 28014 Madrid, Spain +34 915 96 50 00
Maccorp Exact Change - Oficinas Centrales Calle de Orense, 6, 28020 Madrid, Spain +34 915 56 20 45

The bottom line

Don’t fall into tourist traps - you’ll find plenty of them in Madrid. Advanced research will save you time and money; start by knowing the real mid-market rate to avoid financial pitfalls.

For fast and convenient Euro, your best option is finding an ATM run by a trusted operator. ATMs are usually available 24 hours a day, and the safest ones are operated by large banks and public institutions. You might pay a surcharge, but you’ll still save money compared to predatory exchange bureaus or airport exchanges.

When using ATMs, make one large withdrawal every few days, instead of stopping at the ATM several times a day.  That way, you’ll save on transaction fees.

Finally, there’s one way to guarantee the best exchange rates if you have a bank account in Spain or know someone who does. Use TransferWise to transfer money using the real mid-market rate - all of the bank transfers will happen locally, which cuts out those nasty international fees.

TransferWise is the smart, new way to send money abroad.

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