Where can you change your currencies?

Several options are available to people who want to exchange their euros for other currencies as part of a trip abroad. Their costs for changing money can vary widely.

The most reassuring thing is to exchange your currencies in France before embarking on your trip or vacation. Individuals can carry out these transactions directly with their bank, by going to an agency or by telephone.

The bank advisor will then order the requested cash, the equivalent of which in euros will be taken from the customer's account. This usually takes a few days and is usually reserved for currencies freely convertible into euros, such as the US dollar, the pound sterling or the Swiss franc.

However, this is rarely the most financially advantageous option for an individual. The exchange rate applied by the bank when converting currencies is indeed not favourable to the customer because the establishment is remunerated by applying a discount to market rates.

In addition, depending on its business practices, it may add foreign exchange fees, as well as “foreign banknote buying and selling” fees. The Société Générale bill also 1.5% of the amount of each operation, and at least 6 euros. Individuals who request it without being customers are also subject to a surcharge of 9.90 euros, according to the 2021 general conditions of the establishment.

Bank or exchange office?

Currency exchange offices are often a better alternative, provided you choose them wisely. Those located at airports generally charge the worst rate lists and the highest commissions. Better to choose an establishment available in the city centre.

Facing more competition, they must offer attractive conditions, at the risk of being neglected by potential customers. Currency exchange offices are however less widespread on French territory and mainly concentrated in Paris.

Another advantage compared to banks, most of them offer a wide choice of non-convertible or “exotic” currencies, such as the Chinese yuan, the Argentine peso, the Moroccan dirham, the Serbian dinar or the Vietnamese bath.

Online comparators

Comparing the fees and rates of different exchange offices can be tedious, especially as the parties of currencies move in real-time on the financial markets. The best way to make currency purchases at a reduced cost is actually to go on the Internet.

Several sites, such as bureau-change.fr and cochange.com, make it possible to compare almost in real-time the offers of exchange offices present within a defined scope and which sell currencies. In May 2021, these websites indicated for example that exchanging 100 euros to Change des Arcades in the X th arrondissement of Paris possible to obtain 120.71 US dollars, but only 115.49 dollars at Global Cash in the tenth district.

The difference can be even more important for “exotic” currencies: 1,000 euros allowed to receive 6,200 Brazilian reals at Change Magenta (X th arrondissement), against 5,107 reals at the Exchange de la Bourse (X th arrondissement)!

Once an exchange office has been chosen on the Internet, it is better to call it to order the currencies by requesting the application of the rate indicated online. This is indeed often better than the rates applied in stores. Then all you have to do is pick up your cash at the exchange office address, or have it sent to your home. This service can be billed for a few tens of euros but it is not systematic.

In all cases, “exotic” currencies are offered in France at less advantageous rates compared to the market rate than the most widely used currencies, because of their scarcity. At the market rate, 1,000 euros should have brought in 6.638 Brazilian reals to their purchaser. Like a bank, a bureau de change is remunerated by taking commissions on transactions. They generally vary between 1% and 2% of the amount concerned.

Acquire foreign currency abroad

Buying foreign currency in France before international travel has a downside: it requires carrying a significant amount of cash with you. People who fear losing or having their money stolen may choose to wait until they are in the destination country.

Most of the time, it is possible to withdraw local currency directly from ATMs in banks, airports or large hotels. However, it sometimes happens that his bank card does not work well in the country of destination and only allows cash to be withdrawn in certain banks.

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