Cambiator is the first currency exchange comparator for travelers leaving or entering Spain. We have landed in Spain to bring transparency to the currency exchange market and to help you find the best rates every time you change currency for your trips abroad.
Currency exchange offices at the airport
Airports are gigantic hubs for attracting people.
According to data from AENA, the Spanish airport operator, in 2022, nearly 244 million passengers passed through Madrid, Barcelone, Alicante, Palma, and the rest of Spanish international airports.
How does this service work
What does the manager of each of our airports do with this huge volume of passenger traffic? Monetize it. Correct?
Marketing of spaces to catering companies, fashion and electronics stores, duty free and airport currency exchange services (currency suppliers or banks).
And all this in exchange for an insured minimum (annual contribution) and a “variable” share in each sale made. This means that exchanging currency at airports is much more expensive than outside the airport and for this reason the airport should be our last option for currency exchange in Spain.
So, in a nutshell, the currency exchange service will remain very expensive at the airport and is not recommended. Did you know that in the UK only 1% of all currency exchange is done at the airport?
In Spain, we are still very far from these figures and, as we leave everything at the end, this is how it is.
Prime location of currency exchange offices at the airport
The currency exchange offices that buy and sell foreign currency are strategically located in the Departures areas of the airport (sale of foreign currency) and Arrivals (purchase of foreign currency against euros).
In either case, there are usually currency suppliers in the public access area (before boarding or in the arrivals hall of airports) and also once you have passed the security arches, in the area reserved for passengers at departures and in the baggage claim halls at Arrivals.
Advantages and disadvantages
Let’s look at the pros and cons of currency exchange at the airport.
Benefits of currency exchange at the airport
Currency exchange at the airport is a very comfortable and safe service since the offices are located in the right “flows” of passengers (those departing or those arriving) and generally in the “sterile” area once the security control of the passengers passed.
If you are looking for security, it is better to change there than in the public area of the airport or at your destination in the center of a busy country.
These sites are usually run by currency suppliers, not banks, which are more specialized and have up to 80 different currencies in stock. At least the currency exchange at Madrid and Barcelone airports.
Offices are generally open as long as there are flights from/to these airports, every day of the year as long as there are international flights. They are usually served by employees well trained in languages.
They usually record the operations they make with the video, so if you have a complaint or there is an error, you can ask them to review the recording to identify the error.
Disadvantages of currency exchange at the airport
The main problem with airports and currency exchange is that they are expensive, quite expensive. And this because the airport manager wants to obtain good performance from each exchange operation, and the currency supplier (bank or bureau de change) also.
In the end, either rates are high or the numbers don’t come out. For this reason, the amounts exchanged at the airport are generally lower than those exchanged at the bank or at the cuurency supplier´s office in the city centre.
They also tend to try to sell you more quantity by entering cheaper rates if you buy X extra-quantity or additional services like buying back excess (if you have surplus we will buy it back when you return free of charge).
Recommendations if you change at the airport
If you are going to exchange currency at the airport, follow these recommendations:
- Look for an exchange service that does not charge you commission. Remember that exchange services generally make money by putting a margin (differential or spread) on each currency they sell, and some also by putting a commission on it.
- Change only the amount necessary to, once at the destination airport, be able to reach your hotel or accommodation. And then change at a local exchange office.
- It is better to do the operation once you have passed the security check, it is safer and you will avoid the possibility of “forgetting” your money in the roll bars with so many belts outside, shoes at the scanner of security, cell phone, keys, etc.
- If you have change left when you return and you have the “redemption” service included, take advantage of it so that they give you the same exchange rate as the initial purchase transaction. Also note that they will only allow you to return banknotes, not single coins (except maybe £1 and £2). So get rid of excess change at source, donate it or keep it in the exotic piggy bank at home.
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