Lauderdale airport currency exchange: Beware of high fees

TransferWise content team
12.07.18
6 minute read

Florida’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport serves the Miami metropolitan area, and is the gateway to Lauderdale’s stunning beaches, impressive cultural life, and of course the Everglades. Whether you’re passing through Lauderdale on the way into the US, or taking a trip from Lauderdale to an overseas destination, you might be wondering about how to arrange currency exchange at the airport.

The good news is that there are several options when it comes to currency exchange at Lauderdale airport - although you’ll want to check out the costs involved before you commit to them. Here’s our guide to getting your travel money at Lauderdale without being stung by high fees.

Where to exchange money at Lauderdale airport?

If you decide to get your currency at Fort Lauderdale airport, you have a couple of different options. There are currency exchange desks in Terminal 2 and Terminal 4, and many ATMs, including multi-currency ATMs in Terminal 1, 2 and 3.

The currency exchange desk in Terminal 2 is in the Business Service Centre, before passing through security. It’s open 8am to 5pm, 7 days a week. The Terminal 4 currency exchange is in the Baggage Claim area, and is open 8.30am to 9pm, every day of the week.¹

Should I exchange money at Lauderdale airport?

Airport shops and services cater to a captive audience, and the lack of competition can mean that the exchange rates you’ll find aren’t the best. If you arrive at the airport and need some cash immediately, you might be best off exchanging only a small amount of money, and then waiting until you reach the city centre to exchange the rest. Alternatively, taking a small amount of cash from an ATM is usually a good way to net an acceptable exchange rate, so long as you watch out for Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC). We’ll look at that in more detail later.

Watch out for hidden fees in the exchange rate.

To decide if the exchange rate available at the airport is fair, it helps to know a bit about the mid-market exchange rate. This is the only real exchange rate, which is used by banks when trading currencies between themselves.

The mid-market rate matters, because many banks and currency exchange services say they can’t offer this exchange rate to retail customers. Instead, they add a markup - sometimes known as a spread - to the real exchange rate, and keep the difference as their profit. This isn’t transparent as it hides the real fees and can work out to be more expensive than it needs to be.

A great piece of holiday advice is to look very carefully at the exchange rate of any service which says it offers fee free, or zero commission currency exchange. They’re still a business, and have to make a profit somewhere - so if there’s not an upfront fee, the chances are that their cut is wrapped up in a poor exchange rate.

The good news is, that it is possible to get your currency exchange done using the real mid-market rate, if you know how. More on that in a moment.

Use a currency converter to check the airport exchange rate

To judge whether or not the exchange rate available at Lauderdale airport is fair, you’ll need to compare the rates on offer with the mid-market rate. The rate for your currency pairing can change frequently, so the easiest way to get an up to date rate is to google your currency pairing, or choose an online currency converter.

What is the best place to exchange money?

You do have plenty of options available if you need to exchange money in Lauderdale. Of course, you can use one of the 2 currency exchange desks available during working hours. Just remember to look carefully at the exchange rate available for your currency, to make sure there is no fee hidden there. If you don’t think the rate is fair, either change a small amount for your immediate needs, or choose an alternative.

For example, as we mentioned earlier, you can take some dollars from an ATM on arrival at the airport, or use a multi-currency ATM to make a withdrawal if you’re headed on a flight out of Lauderdale. ATMs typically offer fair exchange rates, although you’ll need to watch out for high international ATM charges, and DCC (Dynamic Currency Conversion).

DCC is where you’re using a credit or debit card overseas, and you’re asked if you would like to be charged in your home currency instead of the local currency. Banks and merchants say that this is a service to customers, but actually it can leave you exposed to extra charges. To get the best deal, always ask to be charged in the local currency - otherwise you may get a poor exchange rate and high fees.

If you’re headed to the US for a long period of time, you’ll probably want to get your own dollar denominated bank account. You can then make a low cost international transfer to your US based account, and withdraw the cash from fee free ATMs when you arrive. However, even if you don’t have a local bank account of your own, if you’re visiting family or friends who do, you could make an international transfer to cover your travel money, and then withdraw what you need from your friend’s account when you need it. Making an international transfer with TransferWise will always mean you get the real exchange rate, and just a low upfront fee.

A final smart option is to get a borderless account TransferWise - which has been licensed in 47 states so far - before you head out on your travels. You can also join the waitlist to get a linked multi-currency debit card available from 2019 for US residents. A borderless account lets you hold a balance in any of over 40 different currencies, and spend using the linked debit card. Simply top up the currency you need - or switch your existing balance to the currency you want - and you can withdraw up to the currency equivalent of $250 a month for free. After that there’s a small charge per transaction, or you can use the card to spend directly in stores and restaurants.

How to avoid paying high fees on your money exchange in Lauderdale

Whether you’re starting your trip in Lauderdale and heading away from the US, or you’re visiting the US for a vacation, you don’t want to pay more than you need to for your currency exchange. Here are a few tips to avoid excessive currency conversion costs.

  • Always compare both the upfront fees and the exchange rates available at different currency exchange providers, to make sure you’re getting a fair deal
  • You can use an online currency converter to check up on the rates for the currency you’re buying, and do your exchange when they look at their best
  • Find out the rates on offer at home before you head out to your trip - often ordering in advance for collection will get you a better deal, for example
  • See if a travel money card or multi-currency debit or credit card can help you manage your currency exchange. You simply top your card or account up in advance of your trip, whenever the rates look favourable, and use it for your spending while you travel
  • Don’t exchange more than you think you’ll need - it’ll cost further fees to change leftover holiday money back after your trip

Once you have sorted out your travel money, there’s nothing left to do but relax and enjoy your travels, whether you’re planning a relaxing beach break, or some cultural immersion overseas!


Sources:

  1. http://www.broward.org/Airport/Services/Pages/Default.aspx (12. November 2018)

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

Find out more