Airport Money Exchange in Manila: Why It’s Not Recommended

Avoid the airport and exchange currencies at these places for better rates!

By: Denisse Shawntel Tan | May 12, 2018
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airport money exchange in Manila

There are many ways to exchange currency in the country, but what is the most practical?

Frequent travelers would know that before leaving on an international trip, one of the necessary things to do is to exchange their money into the currency of their destination. This is important if your original currency isn’t accepted abroad, because you’d need to have the right currency to pay for necessary things like transportation fares, basic goods, and the like. Majority of airports both have local and foreign currency kiosks for passengers who need to change their money at the last minute, but is this the best way to convert cash? And if not, what are the other methods you can consider?

According to several travel blogs and websites, currency kiosks in airports are “notoriously poor” options because they have a lower conversion rate compared to other alternative options such as post offices, ATMS, banks, and legitimate money changing business. Some travelers have also noticed that there are hidden charges disguised as “service fee” every time you transact with them, which can be quite a hassle for those who are on a tight budget. This is why, while they are very convenient to travelers, airport money exchange services are deemed as the least preferred option when exchanging currencies.

Money changers are a viable option because not only are they abundant, with a store present in almost every city, but some also give better exchange rates than banks or credit unions. However, consumers must still be wary of getting ripped off or scammed.

A common scam by money changers is false advertisement. That is, they put up wrong exchange rates or add hidden fees disguised as commissions, making it seem like customers are getting the proper amount.

Before heading to any money changer, research and compare exchange rates among the most prominent money changers out there. It would also be beneficial if you can look for reviews to see how legit an establishment is.

Another thing to look out for when it comes to exchanging money is getting deceived by sly sleight-of-hand tricks that sketchy tellers do when dispensing money. In a matter of seconds, you’d be a few bills short, or you’d be given fake or tampered bills. While this doesn’t happen in most money changers, it’s still a good call to always be vigilant and always check your money before leaving the counter. Also, it helps to know how to discern between authentic and counterfeit bills.

For face-to-face transactions, banks and credit unions are great options. A few good examples include Metrobank, Philippine National Bank (PNB), Banco De Oro (BDO), and Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI). Transacting in person through banks is also safer compared to ATM and money changers, because they are government-accredited and monitored.

If you missed the chance to exchange currency before leaving the country, there are also ATMs that are easy to find in foreign countries such as HSBC and Citibank. Depending on the bank, certain ATM charges and foreign transaction fees might be waived, so it’s recommended to check and notify your bank before travelling.

However, what if you forgot to bring your money? Luckily, you can still use your debit cards. According to Traveloka, most banks will charge an average of 5% international transaction fee, but if you’re lucky, some banks would not even charge anything at all. But not all countries accept cards as an option, and would still rather exchange physical cash.

The bottom line is, if you’re only weighing in convenience, then currency exchange stations at airports is the way to go, but if you want to stay on the safe side, then prepare beforehand and go to a trusted money changer. For utmost safety and peace of mind, bank transactions are your safest bet.

Here are some other tips when exchanging foreign currencies:

  • Prior to travelling, choose a debit card that has no foreign transaction fee or ATM fees. This is only applicable if you’re planning to use a debit card during the whole trip.
  • Call your bank of choice regarding their policies regarding charges for foreign transactions. If the bank asks for a huge fee, try to open a new account on a bank with lesser fees. This is a great tip for frequent flyers too!
  • If you are travelling for the first time and are new to the process of currency exchange, you research first on the process to get a general idea on what to expect so you won’t be easily deceived.
  • Keep in mind that some currencies have either smaller or larger values compared to others. For example, the euro has a larger value in the country compared to dollars.
  • Exchange the money before the trip. Usually, cash is immediately needed the moment the tourist steps out of the airport and goes to their hotel, since various modes of transportations in most countries are still paid through cash.
  • Before heading to a money changer or any currency exchange outlet, look up the current exchange rates. The rates often fluctuate depending on the country’s economic state. There are also available smartphone applications that let you check the rates in real time.
  • Buying money online is also possible, though it must be done before leaving the country. This option is convenient for those who don’t have the spare time to go to a bank. However, just note that while this might offer updated rates and issue fair fees, the shipping or delivery fees might be an extra expense.
  • In some business establishments, they also let you pay with your own local currency. However, this might only applicable to a country where the value of the traveler’s local currency is high.
  • Avoid exchanging in hotels as well for the same reason that airports are not recommended.
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About Denisse Shawntel Tan
Denisse Tan is currently a work in progress: she’s an aspiring writer, artist, and fashion designer! She’s trying to figure out how to manage her time in achieving all of her goals while also taking in life as humanly possible. Aside from art, she’s a big fan of the color pink, disco music, Bratz dolls, and Genshin Impact. By age 35, she plans to travel to New York City 🗽.
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