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Avoid the Airport trap: Last minute holiday cash will cost a lot more

Press Release   •   Jul 18, 2013 23:00 BST

- 1.65m tourists waste over £18 million a year buying currency at UK airports
- Airports in the Midlands and North of England offer the worst deals
- 44 per cent of holidaymakers admit overspending by an average of £177
- 30 per cent incurred bank charges to get extra cash from an ATM while abroad

Sterling’s slide against the euro and other currencies already means families could face higher prices on overseas holidays this summer1. Now Post Office® research has revealed that 1.65 million people are losing more hard-earned holiday cash by purchasing currency at UK airports – despite widespread advice from experts not to do so. The fifth annual survey of airport exchange rates by Post Office Travel Money found that over £18 million a year is wasted on last minute holiday cash transactions2.

Almost two-thirds of those buying currency at UK airports are headed for the Eurozone. After surveying exchange rates at 10 UK airports, the Post Office has calculated that over one million UK tourists (1,086,993) each waste an average of £10.57 buying euro because of poor rates and commission charges on lower value transactions3.

The amount wasted per transaction on many other holiday currencies is even higher. The Post Office found that this averaged £19.50 on Canadian dollar purchases, £16.43 for the Australian dollar, £13.10 for the UAE dirham, £12.56 for the Swiss franc, £11.94 for the Croatian kuna and £11.55 for the Turkish lira. The average amount wasted at UK airports was slightly lower for the US dollar (£10), Thai baht (£8.68) and Mexican peso (£7.12).

Holidaymakers departing from airports in the Midlands and North of England face even worse deals. The research revealed that Birmingham Airport topped the poll when it came to poor rates for seven of eleven currencies surveyed. Tourists travelling to the eurozone could expect to receive £21.03 less than at a Post Office branch and twice the average airport wastage. They would also receive fewer US dollars (£19.28) Turkish lira (£19.85), Swiss franc (£22.29), Bulgarian lev (£18.95) and Australian dollars (£26.45).

Newcastle and Liverpool airport bureau rates also offered poor rates for many currencies. Holidaymakers would lose out to the tune of £20.17 when buying Croatian kuna at Liverpool Airport rather than on the UK high street (airport average: £11.94). At Newcastle Airport they could stand to waste £21.31 on UAE dirham purchases (airport average: £13.10), £18.81 when buying Thai baht (airport average: £8.68) and £33.83 less if they bought Canadian dollars (airport average: £19.50).

Andrew Brown of Post Office Travel Money said: “The numbers of holidaymakers who wait until they get to the airport to change pounds into travel cash has remained steady in recent years - despite warnings about the poor rate they will be offered. Although we have seen a fall of around 15 per cent on the amount of money spent at airport bureaux de change this year, it still adds up to over £18 million of unnecessary extra expenditure.

“With family budgets being squeezed, the message has to be to plan expenditure carefully – and that includes getting more holiday spending money by buying currency before leaving home. Our research4 showed that 44 per cent of UK tourists overspent their budget by an average of £177 on their last trip abroad. We also found that holidaymakers took an average of £358 in foreign currency. If they had added these two figures together and changed more than £500 in advance to cover their stay overseas, they would have qualified for our higher online exchange rate with free delivery or a better rate in branch.”

Failing to take enough travel cash could cost holidaymakers dear. The Post Office research found that nearly a third of holidaymakers (30 per cent) incurred bank charges for withdrawing money from an ATM on trips abroad. A further six per cent could not find an ATM when they wanted to withdraw money while one-in-ten (11 per cent) changed money at a hotel or local bureau de change and said that they received a poor rate as a result


the total of £18.2 million wasted per year at UK airports would buy5:

607,000 family meals including drinks in Palma Nova, Majorca.

Over 20 million (20,224,719) cans of Coca-Cola in the Algarve, Portugal.

£10.57, the average wastage per transaction of £274 into euro would buy:

6 ice creams for the kids in Crete, Greece.

A one hour pedalo ride in Corfu, Greece or Porec, Croatia.

A bucket and spade, lilo and jelly shoes in the Algarve or Ayia Napa, Cyprus.

7 glasses of wine in Malaga, Costa Del Sol.

Holidaymakers wasting £19.28 on a £274 purchase of Turkish lira at Birmingham Airport could have used this to pay for 13 ice creams in Marmaris, Turkey. The £18.95 they would lose by buying Bulgarian lev at the airport would pay for four beers, four glasses of wine, four Coca-Colas and two ice-creams in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria.

25 currencies are available on demand at 1,600 larger Post Office branches while over 4,000 branches offer US dollars and 10,000 offer euro over the counter. More than 70 currencies can be pre-ordered at over 11,500 Post Office branches or online at for next day branch or home delivery.

1 Post Office exchange rates on 16 July 2013 showed that sterling is weaker against 29 of its 40 leading currencies compared with last year – with the biggest year-on-year fall of 9.4 per cent against the euro.

2 Source: The total amount wasted on currency purchases at UK airports was calculated using data from the International Passenger Survey, Post Office and Ipsos-Mori foreign exchange omnibus to establish the number of foreign exchange transactions made annually in the UK, and the airport market share of this. This found an estimated 1.646,960 million UK airport transactions are made annually, with 66 per cent of that total calculated to be euro transactions (1,086,993). US dollar transactions represent a further six per cent (98.817) and the remaining 28 per cent (461,149) is divided between other currencies.

An annual wastage figure of £18.23m. Post Office Travel Money calculated this by finding the difference between the euro and US dollar exchange rate at bureaux in 10 UK airports (adding any commission charges) and at Post Office bureaux de change branches on four separate days in June and July, based on a sterling value purchase of £274 (Post Office average bureau transaction), and taking the mean average. The airports surveyed were: London Heathrow, London Gatwick, London Luton, London Stansted, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Southampton, Norwich and Newcastle. Rates for a further nine bestselling currencies (Turkish lira, UAE dirham, Thai baht, Croatian kuna, Mexican peso, Bulgarian lev, Canadian dollar, Australian dollar and Swiss franc), regarded as representative of currency purchases for the 28 per cent of non-euro or US dollar transactions, were priced at seven airports (London Heathrow, London Luton, London Stansted, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle) and compared with Post Office bureaux rates using the same formula as for the euro and US dollar. This revealed an average wastage figure for these nine currencies of £12.47.

The average wastage figures per transaction were:



US Dollar


Australian Dollar


Bulgarian Lev


Canadian Dollar


Croatian Kuna


Swiss Franc


Thai Baht


Turkish Lira


UAE Dirham


3 The wastage figure is based on a purchase of £274, the average transaction made at Post Office bureaux de change.

4 Source: Omnibus research conducted online for Post Office Travel Money (January 2013) by Populus among 1,183 UK adults.

5 Research from the Post Office Holiday Costs Barometer was used to establish what the wastage by UK holidaymakers would actually buy in the eurozone and in other countries.

Contact - Gabrielle O'Gara

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