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:
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 Exchange||XE Rate||Spread|
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.
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).