Changi Travel Exchange: An airport moneychanger that won’t rip you off

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Airport moneychangers are mostly for suckers or the truly desperate, but Changi Travel Exchange is something I might actually use.

While I prefer to avoid carrying cash overseas and rely on my Amaze + Citi Rewards card for everything, going cashless is not an option everywhere. And even if cards are widely accepted, I’ll still need some cash on hand for emergencies.

This typically means scheduling a trip down to The Arcade or Lucky Plaza moneychangers, which costs time and money. But it’s still better than the airport moneychangers and their notorious spreads. All those signs with “0% commission?” Lies- the commission is already built into the rate.

So no sane person should ever change money at the airport, right? That’s what I thought, but Changi Travel Exchange might change my mind…

What is Changi Travel Exchange?

Changi Travel Exchange

Changi Travel Exchange (which for the record, I earn nothing from) is an MAS-approved money-changer that allows travellers to buy foreign currency online and collect it at the airport on the day of their trip. 

Travellers can choose from 19 different foreign currencies and make payment through PayNow:

  • Australian Dollar AUD
  • British Pound GBP
  • Canadian Dollar CAD
  • Chinese Yuan CNY
  • Euro EUR
  • Hong Kong Dollar HKD
  • Indian Rupee INR
  • Indonesian Rupiah IDR
  • Japanese Yen JPY
  • Malaysian Ringgit MYR
  • New Taiwan Dollar TWD
  • New Zealand Dollar NZD
  • Philippines Peso PHP
  • Korean Won KRW
  • Swiss Franc CHF
  • Thai Baht THB
  • United Arab Emirates Dirham AED
  • United States Dollar USD
  • Vietnam Dong VND

At the airport, they collect their cash at the 24-hours Changi Recommends kiosks in the departures area of Terminals 1 & 3 (presumably they’ll extend the service to Terminal 2 once departure operations resume in October).

A few things to note:

  • The service is only available to Singaporeans/PR/EP/S-PASS/W-PASS holders (probably due to anti-money laundering regulations)
  • The minimum amount you must exchange is S$300
  • The maximum amount you can change per day is capped at S$4,999.99
  • You can place an order within 1-7 days of travel (i.e. same-day orders are not possible)
  • At the moment, Changi Travel Exchange only sells foreign currencies. They plan to buy foreign currencies at a future date

Do note that orders are strictly non-refundable once placed. You may reschedule the collection date if your travel plans change. 

What are the rates?

Here’s the rates offered by Changi Travel Exchange, compared to the XE Rate (which you obviously won’t be able to attain in real life, but just for comparison’s sake).

Sample FX Rates
 Changi Travel ExchangeXE RateSpread
1 AUDS$0.979S$0.9611.8%
1 CADS$1.090S$1.0761.3%
1 CHFS$1.418S$1.3921.8%
1 EURS$1.458S$1.453 0.3%
1 GBPS$1.710S$1.6811.7%
1,000 JPYS$10.441S$10.3440.9%
1,000 KRWS$1.114S$1.0803.1%
1 MYRS$0.315S$0.315N/A
1 NZDS$0.897S$0.8693.2%
1,000 THBS$40.251S$39.7691.2%
1 USDS$1.393S$1.3900.2%

I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised. Is it the absolute best rate you can find? Probably not. But once you factor in the search costs (especially if you don’t live or work around a decent moneychanger) plus the convenience of picking up your cash at the airport, it’s good enough for me. 

The spreads differ depending on currency, but I’d grab EUR or USD without question. I’m generally OK with a spread that’s around 1.5%, though it obviously depends on the individual.

For example, I’m headed to Bangkok next week and need some cash. 7,500 THB will cost me S$301.88 with Changi Travel Exchange, versus S$298.15 at the mid-market rate. But since the mid-market rate is unattainable, the proper comparison would be a brick and mortar moneychanger; the asking price at The Arcade was S$300.72.

Paying S$1.16 more for the convenience of airport pickup and a saved trip? No brainer for me. 

❓ What about Thin Margin?

Thin Margin is a forex delivery service that sends cash to your door. For 7,500 THB, they quoted me S$301.20 which is comparable to the Changi Travel Exchange rate. 

However, you need to purchase at least S$2,000 in foreign currency to qualify for free delivery, or else pay a S$5-S$15 fee which negates the savings. Furthermore, deliveries take at least 2 days, which means it’s not an option for last-minute travel.

Conclusion

Changi Travel Exchange is revolutionary, as far as airport moneychangers are concerned. Reasonable rates with all the convenience of airport pick up? Almost too good to be true. 

Frankly, I’m surprised UOB hasn’t made noise, because this is bound to muscle in on their airport exchange business (unless they primarily serve arriving tourists who want to buy SGD, a service that Changi Travel Exchange doesn’t offer- yet). 

I’ll update this with a brief review once I try it out next week.

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Vince

Thanks for this info.
Paynow via Grabpay should work isn’t it? Highflyer card members will benefit from it.

Lee

How does it works for PayNow via grabpau

Lee

Thank you for sharing.

Sean

Thanks Aaron, I’ll try this Friday for Dong. As a friend of mine once said “Contrary to my usual advice, one should never go long in Dong”…

Norm

just tried, but when i click continue to pay, it goes back to the details page and keeping increasing the amount and could never get past to payment page

Mark Davies

Great tip, thanks!

James Quek

Usually change some THB at the Superrich or Superrich 1965 money changers in BKK, wonder is it competitive now?

Rambunctious

I love Singapore.
I love Changi Airport.
🥰

Mark

Very useful. Thank you. Do note, that for Thailand, the best rates are still to be had in Thailand. So best to take your SGD cash and exchange it there. (Just priced inside Thailand with Changi Travel Exchange and inside Thailand is still best). But for European destinations Changi Travel Exchange is very useful.

Lifshitz

Has no one on here ever heard from overseas ATM withdrawals??

mame

Usually there is a service fees for overseas ATM withdrawal (SGD$5)

Lifshitz

So the rates that I’ve gotten aren’t great but also not extortionate (net-net I see about 5% for my THB withdrawals in early may). But I don’t have to carry cash around with me that can be lost, pickpocketed, sit unused at home for months afterwards etc..
Seriously, bringing cash is a 20th century concept.

Alian

Totally agreed. I’m in AUS now and just the rate is $1.04 SGD to $1 AUD plus fees etc. it’s a rip off. I just went to an ATM to see see look look

Zaos

How do you see the rate without actually withdrawing? DCC or the rates presented there, would likely be obscene.

alian

They show the rates on screen before confirmation.

Zaos

That’s DCC and as I mentioned – a ripoff. Bank is probably a bit better, but still bad.

Dxx

Hi Aaron, I think the cut off for placing an order is 24 hours before your flight, and not 1 day… Just tried to place an order for collection tomorrow morning and was not able to do so.

Tom

Should just be able to use Revolut at an oveseas ATM – you get the interbank rate (50bps premium on the weekend).

Shiro

I used it for my last trip 1 month ago and will be using it for my next trip soon!

Tim

Just need to remember to collect your cash before going in to airside! I made that mistake once and forgot to collect my cash (how, I also don’t know). Had to hassle an Changi Recommends employee to assist me to get it, lol.

But I like this service, the rates are fairly decent. I change only smaller amounts, and it makes no sense to travel to the CBD for ‘better’ rates and spend more money on transport (and time cost) than the difference in what I’d get from using this, and I have to be at the airport anyway.

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