The results of a recent survey by Travelex revealed that few international travelers purchase foreign currency before they leave the United States. In fact, an alarming 67% indicated that they did not exchange any money before leaving for their trip.
This leaves travelers unprepared for any situations that require ready cash in the foreign currency upon arrival at their destination. Purchasing some currency before they leave helps travelers be best prepared for any contingency.
Travel sellers are in the perfect position to educate their customers to the value of purchasing currency beforehand, and can follow up the suggestion with the ability for clients to purchase from them, said Jenna S. Burns, marketing coordinator for Travelex. There is some commission revenue, but differentiation through full service is the main reason agents should handle currency sales, she noted.
Joni Girardin, director of AAA Tidewater in Virginia Beach, agreed.
“Certainly it provides incremental revenue, but more importantly it allows us to provide the client everything that they need for their trips, all in one location,” she said.
"Mann Travels sells Foreign Currency to help us prepare our clients. As a Travel Agency we want to do everything possible to make sure our clients are ready for travel abroad," said Scott Silverstein, manager, Money Center, Mann Travels/American Express.
Clients are impressed by agencies that help them fully prepare for their travels, Girardin noted.
Linda K. Strait, vice president, director of operations at Great Southern Travel agreed.
“Our clients do appreciate the full service – anything that can be taken care of ahead of time is appreciated in the effort to make the travel process go smoothly.”
Strait added that Great Southern Travel, which uses ezforex for currency exchanges, waives its currency service fees for clients who also booked their travel through the agency. They also buy back any unspent currency, which Strait said makes for one less hassle clients need to deal with at the airport on the way home.
Brentwood Travel also offers currency sales to its clients, said president and CEO Stephanie Turner, CTC.
“I can’t say we do lots of sales, but it is available for our clients through Afex and each year some clients take advantage of it…I think those that purchase it like the service,” she said.
Girardin told TMR that the AAA Tidewater office had 747 foreign currency transactions in 2009, adding the process is “quite simple.” AAA Tidewater sells currency to both AAA members and non-members and buyers do not have to book their travel through the agency in order to purchase foreign currency.
Agencies do not need to keep currency on hand to sell it. For instance at AAA Tidewater, when purchasing foreign money on behalf of clients, agents use a computer-based program, provided by Travelex, to place individual currency orders for clients.
“The exchange rates are current so we can give the client real time information, i.e. how much a currency is selling for or if they have a certain amount of U.S. dollars, it will tell us how much that will buy.”
Clients can pay with cash or credit card at the time of the order and the money is then sent, via FedEx, either directly to the billing address of the credit card or to the AAA office for pick-up.
Like AAA Tidewater, Great Southern Travel does not only sell to current clients.
“Originally we started offering this service to bring new international customers into our business... Foreign currency exchange was 'foreign' in Springfield, MO, where our headquarters are, and banks were more than happy to refer their customer requests to us,” Strait said.
Silverstein said selling currency also drives new business into their office, as they compete with the banks.
"It is a great way to get our name out into the community," he said.
The reason people choose agencies over the banks is because the banks do not have a lot of knowledge on overseas destinations, Silverstein said. This is particularly true of exotic destinations or countries with language barriers, he added.
Selling to Inbound Travelers
For agencies in popular tourist locations, keeping currency, both foreign and U.S., enables them to sell to inbound tourists as well.
“We were surprised to find that inbound international travelers were also very much in need of this service,” Strait added.
Great Southern Travel is located very close to Branson, MO and once the agency began selling currency, they discovered that international travelers who came for timeshares and Route 66 travel had no way of changing money.
“People were arriving here expecting the exchange services that they can easily find in larger cities,” Strait said.
Selling the Benefits
Selling points about the benefit of purchasing currency beforehand include:
* Travelers can lock-in exchange rates so they do not need to worry about fluctuating rate changes as they travel;
* With some currency in hand before departures, clients are prepared for incidental purchases upon arrival in foreign country;
* If using a Cash Passport card, clients gain increased financial security, as the cards are not connected to a credit card or personal information, so that if a card is lost or stolen, no one can get into their credit card or bank accounts;
* Cash Passport cards are replaceable if lost or stolen;
* A Cash Passport card can also be used to purchase goods and services, or withdraw money from ATMs, in local currency.
Agents interested in learning more about partnering with Travelex can e-mail CCT@travelex.com or call (866) 458-1193. Agents interested in finding out more about AFEX should visit www.afex.com. To find out more about EZForex, visit www.ezforex.com or call (877) 393-6739.