A lot of people save their currency purchases for the airport. In this guide we’ll dig into the best ways to get a better exchange rate at LAX. With insider tools and tricks, you’ll be able to get the best rates before heading off on your trip.
A quick comparison of costs
We’ve compared two providers in or near to LAX and have quickly ranked some options.
- Ordering online with Travelex (not with credit or debit card) turned out to be the cheapest option. This is because Travelex is near the airport and are not subject to the same exchange rates in LAX. Also, by not using a card, you avoid extra fees, but be sure to order in advance so you can pick up the currency on time.
- Ordering online and paying with Travelex turned out to be the second cheapest option (even if you incur a few extra fees from your credit card). This is a great option from the convenience standpoint as well.
- International Currency Exchange (ICE) has slightly worse exchange rates for most currencies but for small amounts of cash, the difference is not too substantial.
- The highest priced option ended up being small amounts of cash converted in-store by Travelex. Regardless of payment method, this did not offer up a competitive exchange rate at LAX.
How to buy currency at LAX?
One company essentially has a monopoly on exchange services at LAX, and that company is International Currency Exchange (or ICE). They have 9 locations throughout the airport:
- Terminal 2, Departures.
- Terminal 2, Arrivals.
- Terminal 3, Departures.
- Terminal 6, Departures.
- Terminal 6, Arrivals.
- Terminal 7, Departures.
- Tom Bradley International, Departures, South Entrance.
- Tom Bradley International, Departures, North Entrance.
- Tom Bradley International, Arrivals.
To actually purchase the currency you can:
- Order it online and pickup at a retail location at the airport – This is much cheaper than just buying over the counter at the airport. Your odds of a good exchange rate go up considerably ordering online. ICE has an easy system called click and collect.
- Buy it over the counter. You can always just walk up the counter and buy your currency but be aware you will probably get the worst exchange rate this way.
The quickest way to a better exchange rate
Just ask. Many people assume (falsely) that rates are fixed. If you’re buying a large amount, there may be room for negotiation. So, always ask the vendor. The worst that can happen is they say no.
Compare exchange rates
If you have time shop around, comparing at least two competitors is likely to save you money. This is especially true if you need to buy more than $1000 worth of currency. You can compare rates online or by phone. If you do check rates over the phone be sure to ask the following questions:
- What is the indicative rate for today?
- Will I get a better exchange rate for larger amounts?
- What fees and/or commissions will I be charged?
- Do they currently have the currency you need in stock?
- Do they have the denominations that you require?
Look out for fees
Exchange rate margins are the most common way currency vendors make their income but fees are also not unheard of. While Travelex does not charge you any fees, ICE is known to charge a $3-5 delivery fee and a 2% fee if you pay by card. Plus, your credit card issuer may also charge you when using your card to purchase currency.
Travel cards or travel money
If you’re headed overseas on vacation or a business trip you needn’t take all your money in cash. You can get a travel card through both ICE and Travelex but be aware that they do take some time to set up. Don’t grab one at the last minute if you’re in a hurry!
Consider the following overseas money game plan:
- Shop around and get a good exchange rate — have some cash on hand for taxis, meals, and tips.
- Arrange a prepaid card travel in advance — have it for big purchases and hotel costs.
- Have your debit card on hand as a backup.