Miami airport currency exchange: Watch out for high fees

TransferWise
12.07.18
5 minute read

Miami International Airport is the 10th busiest airport in the US, with over 44 million passengers passing through annually. If you’re one of them, you might be wondering about how to exchange currency for your trip. The good news is that there are plenty of places offering currency services in Miami airport, as well as other options like using an ATM or pre-paid travel card. However, the deals on offer at the airport might not be the best available, so it’s smart to plan in advance to make sure you make the most of your money.

Here’s all you need to know about avoiding unfair fees for your currency exchange in Miami.

Where to exchange money at Miami airport?

If you decide to exchange your currency in Miami International Airport, you have a few options to choose from. There are 6 ICE currency exchange desks¹, which can be found in each of the North, Central and South terminals, and a branch of Bank of America. ICE offers on the spot currency exchange, or if you’d rather, you can order your travel money online in advance², and then collect it at the airport as you pass through. That will often get you the best available exchange rate. The different locations have different opening hours³, so it’s worth checking in advance what the working hours of the ICE location in your terminal are.

Another option if you’re travelling to Miami on vacation is to take cash out directly from an ATM when you arrive there. There are ATMs throughout the airport and you’ll usually find that you get a fair exchange rate as long as you don’t get caught out by Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC). More about how to avoid that, later.

Should I exchange money at Miami airport?

Finding currency exchange in Miami International airport isn’t hard, but you might notice that the exchange rates on offer are not the best available. That’s because travellers and holiday-makers are usually looking for convenience, and may not be aware of the real exchange rate when they buy their travel money.

Watch out for hidden fees in the exchange rate.

One thing to look out for, when exchanging money for your travels, is the exchange rate on offer for the particular currency you’re buying. You’re looking for the mid-market exchange rate, which is the only real exchange rate, and the one banks use when they trade currencies on global financial markets.

Compare several different exchange services and banks to make sure you get a fair deal on your currency exchange and see which gives the best rate. It’s important to do that rather than simply looking at the upfront fees. Exchange services are competing for your business, and so often claim to offer fee free, or zero % commission currency exchange, but actually their fees are frequently built into the exchange rate they offer you. That’s not transparent, and can mean you pay more than you have to for your currency.

Use a currency converter to check the airport exchange rate

Exchange rates change all the time, so the easiest way to check the rate for your currency pairing is to google it, or use a handy currency converter. You can then compare this to the exchange rates given by banks or currency exchange services, to make sure there aren’t any fees being hidden in the rate given.

What is the best place to exchange money?

In most cases, the best deals on currency exchange are not going to be found at the airport.

If you need to get some cash as soon as you arrive in Miami, for a taxi for example, you could consider taking a small amount of dollars out of an ATM before changing the rest of your currency in the city. Otherwise, ordering your cash online for collection at the airport, or buying a prepaid travel money card will often get you a better exchange rate than if you simply show up and do an on the spot exchange.

If you’re using your foreign bank card to make an ATM withdrawal - or to spend in shops or restaurants - it’s good to know about DCC (Dynamic Currency Conversion), so you can avoid this unfair fee. DCC is where you’re asked if you would like to be charged in your home currency rather than the local one. It sounds like it might make life a bit easier, as you don’t need to figure out the currency conversion, but actually it often means you get a poor exchange rate, and pay more than you have to for your purchase. Always ask to pay in the local currency to make sure you don’t get overcharged.

You could avoid international ATM fees, and other costs, if you have a US bank account or at the local currency of your destination outside of the US. If you’re visiting a friend or family member who has one, that can help. Simply make a low cost international transfer with TransferWise, to cover your spending money. You can then withdraw cash from fee free ATMs when you arrive in the US. Another great option that you can use starting from 2019, is to get a multi-currency debit card from TransferWise, which you can use to withdraw money from ATMs, or for your day to day spending. The multi-currency card is linked to a borderless account, which allows you to hold your cash in any of over 40 different currencies, and switch between them whenever you need to. All currency exchange is done using the transparent mid-market exchange rate, and there’s just a small fee to pay.

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

You don’t want your trip to Miami to cost more than it needs to. Avoid unfair costs and fees with these tips:

  • Before you exchange any money, compare the upfront fees and exchange rates offered by different providers
  • Pay attention to the exchange rate for your currency pairing and which way it’s moving, to get the most out of your money
  • Consider exchanging your money before you travel, to give you a chance to research the rates on offer more thoroughly
  • See if you could save money by using a multi-currency debit or credit card for ATM withdrawals and day to day use
  • Always ask to pay in the local currency if you’re spending using a credit or debit card, to avoid DCC fees
  • Don’t exchange more than you need to - switching left over currency at the end of your break will incur further fees

With a little advance planning, you can make sure you’re getting a good deal on your currency exchange. And then all you need to do is relax and enjoy your break!


All sources checked 12. November 2018

  1. http://www.shopmiamiairport.com/stores.aspx?zone=556
  2. https://www.iceplc.com/click-and-collect/
  3. https://www.iceplc.com/locations/usa

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