They are two airports, in the same county, with the same holiday money company offering to change your pounds into foreign currency.
But families jetting off from Southend Airport in Essex can get a whopping €150 more for every £500 they change than at Stansted Airport, just 30 miles away.
Passengers at both airports are served by Moneycorp. And in both cases, the currency giant is the only bureau de change on site.
Before you hand over your money to the bureau de change check your rates
At Stansted, however, customers who walked up to the foreign exchange desk on February 14 received just €395 for £500. At Southend, customers at the Moneycorp desk received €545 for £500, according to currency firm Equals.
To rub salt into the wounds, holidaymakers who use Moneycorp’s online ‘reserve and collect’ service, which requires 24 hours’ notice, get a far better deal than the ‘walk-up’ rates at both Southend and Stansted.
Someone who ordered currency on February 13 for collection the next day would have received just under €590 for their £500 at both airports – just for a few minutes of filling in forms on the internet.
It is no secret that buying currency at the last minute is a cardinal sin of heading off on holiday. But while airports are notoriously poor value, the new figures on the two Essex airports, provided by Equals, shows just how much of a lottery it can be.
Stansted, where Moneycorp has seven bureaux, handles 28 million passengers a year. Southend, where it has just two bureaux, handles 1.5 million passengers annually.
Moneycorp didn’t comment on the Equals figures, except to say that a week later – on February 21 – there was a €65 difference between the rates at Southend and Stansted.
Pauline Maguire, head of retail at Moneycorp, said: ‘The reason for higher airport rates is the significant cost associated with operating there, from ground rent and additional security, to the cost of staffing bureaux for early and late flights.
‘An easy and more cost-effective way for customers to buy travel money is to pre-order online and collect at the airport.
We always encourage our customers to do this. We are seeing up to 50 per cent of transactions coming from reserve and collect customers.’
The discrepancies extend across the country. Airport rates are typically 17 per cent worse than the official exchange rate, the latest research shows.
This is the margin that bureaux say they need to cover costs and still make a profit.
But at Stansted the difference between the bureau de change rate and official rate is 34 per cent.
This means you lose about €200 every time you change £500, according to Equals.
Gatwick is the second worst airport for buying euros, offering 20 per cent less than the official rate.
This is the same as losing €120 for every £500 converted. Birmingham is third, with rates 19 per cent less than the official rate, equivalent to a loss of €110.
Southend airport offered the second best rate of the ten airports investigated at 9 per cent less than the official rate.
Equals collated the walk-up rates at bureaux de change across Britain on the five Fridays from January 17 to February 14.
It analysed one provider from each airport and spoke to a range of bureaux, as not all providers operate in every airport.
It asked for the walk-up rate for changing pounds to euros based on changing £500, and checked what the official rate was at the time using rates given on currency website xe.com.
It found most airports now offer less than one euro to the pound, even though sterling is currently trading at about €1.2 to the pound.
Ian Strafford-Taylor, chief executive of Equals, said: ‘Some of the rates we’ve seen on offer are sky-high and the difference between the market rate and the bureau de change rates is awful.
‘Regardless of how the pound is performing, some airports are keeping the same margins and profiting from holidaymakers who have left it until the last minute.’
THIS IS MONEY’S FIVE OF THE BEST HOLIDAY MONEY DEALS
Starling Bank’s current account allows free purchases and cash withdraws abroad. The bank also offers up to 0.5% interest on your balance and low overdraft fees.The account is managed by smartphone app only.
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Metro Bank will not charge you for using your card or withdrawing money from an ATM abroad in Europe, but it will charge you for use in the rest of the world. It will charge 2.99 per cent on both card purchases and ATM withdrawals.
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Santander’s Zero Mastercard credit car offers fee-free spending and cash withdrawals worldwide, with a representative APR of 18.9 per cent.