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When ‘Commission Free’ Means Hidden Charges

July 3, 2013

You expect to be ripped off by that exchange stand at the airport. You might even expect to be ripped off by your bank. But the Post Office? As household names go, you can’t get much more trusted. Which makes it all the more disappointing when they deceive you.

These flyers (above) recently dropped through the door at CurrencyFair HQ, advertising ‘PostFX’ cards which travellers can load with dollars and sterling before a trip abroad. The cards claim offer a ‘commission free’ exchange, an advertising gimmick which is essentially meaningless.


To declare a commission fee up front might even be more honest – instead, the rates are charge is concealed in the exchange of money with a built in margin of around 3%. Say you put 2000 euro on your card for a family trip, that’s a loss of 60 euro! Call it what you like – ‘commission’, an ‘adjusted exchange rate’, they’re still taking your money. Review sites are full of complaints about these fees. Scroll through An Post’s own webpage and you’ll notice a litany of added charges; the inevitable ATM fees, ‘inactivity fees’ between trips, ‘shortfall fees’ and ‘cash out fees’. But none of them are as deceptive as the hidden margin they take on exchanging your money.

Of course An Post aren’t obliged to abide by any one standardised exchange rate. They can set their own. But as with any other product, currency exchange varies widely and it pays to shop around.
UK holiday-makers have it worse: only last month, BBC’s Watchdog found that the exchange rates offered by individual companies varied, depending on location. In London, the boroughs of Camden and Islington differed by up to ten pounds!

All going to show how it pays to do the research. It’s time we questioned what ‘commission free’ actually means, just as we question food that’s ‘100% fat free’ but loaded with unpronounceable chemicals.

Oh and last of all.. the offer is also apparently ‘for a limited time only’, but this thread details a similar offer over a year ago!

This post was approved by Brett Meyers, CEO of CurrencyFair.

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