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Watch for the 0% commission on currency trap

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Holidaymakers are being misled by 0% commission offers as a currency expert warns bureaux weave extra fees into the rates displayed under a different guise.

Currency providers up and down the country claim to be selling travel money at 0% commission.

But an investigation by currency specialist FairFX found that a conversion fee of up to 20% is already built into the rate.

As such, it said the headline-grabbing zero-commission offer is a “smoke and mirrors” tactic which risks misleading consumers when they come to buying currency. It even goes as far as calling it a “0% commission con”.

It found that major online and high street outlets, including banks, travel agents, travel money operators, supermarkets and even the Post Office offer rates which are far from being ‘commission free’.

The exchange rates on offer varied by as much as 5% from market rate. In real terms, this means €26 less for every £500 exchanged, equivalent to £23. And despite also claiming to offer zero commission, currency providers operating at four UK airports hiked their rates up by as much as 20% – a difference of €111 for every £500 exchanged, worth £101.

The table below compares the 0% commission providers and the exchange rate offered by 21 travel money firms:


And the table below compares the rates on offer at airports:


Ian Strafford-Taylor, CEO of FairFX, said: “Signs which herald outlandish ‘0% commission’ and ‘commission free’ claims in headlines are attention grabbing and turn heads but won’t necessarily mean you’re getting the best deal. The crux of the matter is that the rates offered by these providers up and down the country already have fees built in so this is nothing but a smoke-and-mirrors sales tactic.

“They get away with it as these fees won’t be called ‘commission’ but perhaps a currency or conversion fee. It would be the equivalent of signing up to a broadband provider which offers free line rental but then charges a monthly admin fee; you’re still paying it but it’s hidden under a different guise.”

Strafford-Taylor added that he’s not disputing that providers need to make money but said this tactic is both confusing and misleading.

“Consumers deserve transparency with upfront rates and no hidden fees so they understand exactly what they’re buying into. It’s only right consumers are trusted to make informed choices and choose the deal that’s best for them with all the facts upfront.”

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