The currency suppliers in France (bureaux de change) are natural or legal persons (companies) of recognized commercial and professional repute who have a license from the Bank of France to operate, granted by the “Autorité de contrôle prudentiel et de résolution” (ACPR).
The Bank of France supervises and controls the technically known as “Changeurs manuels” through the ACPR, just like the banks, but requires greater transparency and procedures when it comes to “knowing” their customers. Therefore, to change money, they will ask you for a national identity document or passport.
What is a currency supplier
A currency supplier is a business specialized in currency exchange in its two aspects: sale of currencies with euros and purchase of currencies against euros.
In their operations, they earn money in two different ways: currency exchange commissions and currency exchange rate differentials.
Exchange rate spread
The main source of income for the currency exchange business comes from the exchange rate differentials (spreads) they charge customers when they buy or sell currencies in their stores.
They basically offer a service whereby they buy foreign currency from a wholesaler for a certain exchange rate and then they sell you those same banknotes with an additional margin that they add to their purchase price (buying rate).
If instead of buying the dollars, pounds and Swiss francs from a wholesaler, they buy them from a tourist who arrives in France, they earn money on top of that and can then resell those dollars, pounds and francs to other French travelers in need of currency with an additional spread.
Therefore, it is a business in which, if you manage to maintain a balanced stock of currencies that do not devalue, you earn twice as much for what you buy and for what you sell (resell).
Some suppliers charge you, in addition to the exchange rate spread, a commission.
This commission is usually a percentage (a % of the amount in euros that you change with them) but it is also fixed. If your supplier charges you a commission, look for a “no commission” alternative.
But keep in mind that the currency suppliers that announce “no commission” (for example at the airport), usually apply very high differentials (spreads), which have the same effect as the commission.
How to know if a supplier is competitive
To find out if the purchase or sale rate of your currency is competitive, you can take as a reference the exchange rate of the euro with respect to the currency you want to buy or sell, and calculate the differential of that rate with respect to the one offered by the supplier.
But keep in mind that the exchange rate that you will see on your mobile if you search for “euro to dollar rate” will be an unreal exchange rate: that of currencies, not banknotes. The banknote market tends to have lower buying and selling rates because it involves moving and maintaining a physical stock of tickets.
Currency suppliers in France
In France, the currency exchange sector is made up of multinationals with a powerful network of offices in the main cities of the country, which coexist with small local businesses with one or two offices, in the hands of people who are dedicated to buying gold and jewelry in some cases.
The most interesting suppliers are three:
- Ria Currency Exchange
- Moneytrans France
- Nova Câmbios
Which supplier choose?
The rates and commissions of currency suppliers in France are free.
There are suppliers whose business model is to position themselves in crowded places such as airports that do not charge commission but have prohibitive rates. Then there are suppliers in the center of the tourist cities that charge you a commission of 20%!!!! plus an exchange rate.
Finally, there are cheap suppliers that charge you just enough when you change with them, and do not apply a commission.
Comparer Devise helps you find the cheapest supplier every day, for each currency pair (EUR to USD, GBP to EUR, EUR to CHF, etc.)
They are Ria, Nova Câmbios and Moneytrans. And they are very cheap as you can see if you do any currency exchange comparison on our website.
Advantages of currency suppliers
Regarding the pros and cons of currency suppliers:
- They are specialists in currency exchange. They are the «category killers» of the currency exchange (the «Decathlons» and «Mediamarkts«). The number of currencies handled on average in France can be around 30 currencies compared to between 15-30 currencies handled by banks.
- They are usually in places with a lot of traffic (centre of tourist towns, train stations and airports). Therefore, they make life easier for us when we need to buy foreign currency (dollars, pounds, etc.) or for tourists who come to France in need for euros.
- They usually have quite qualified and language-speaking staff at their stores, especially at airports. Even so, it will not be the first time that a “rookie” employee makes the wrong exotic currency and gives you another similar currency.
- They often offer very long business hours (even 24 hours) at airports, to accommodate all incoming and outgoing travelers.
- They are beginning to offer foreign currency delivery at reasonable rates (some of them), with added services included in the price, such as the buy-back of the surplus or insurance against theft of currency exchanged abroad.
Disadvantages of currency suppliers
- They take advantage of our lack of financial education to share the currency exchange pie, especially where they do not compete with the banks: buying foreign currency from tourists in exchange for euros.
- As a consequence of the previous lack of transparency, since they do not have much competition with each other and the French consumer is not very experienced, they do not always offer you good rates. In other words, there are large price differences between the different competitors.
- Some suppliers charge you, in addition to a margin per currency, a commission. The commission is usually a percentage of the volume exchanged, with a minimum in euros if the % does not reach that minimum. Keep this in mind and always opt for the supplier without commissions. But remember that even if they announce “no commission”, they are charging you a differential on the official euro to currency exchange that you buy. Note that some suppliers apply a 20% commission on your currency exchange.
- And also, depending on the currency in question and the time of year. In other words, it is better for you to compare exchange rates every time you need them and not think that they will always be the best exchange option.
Things you didn’t know about currency exchange
- If for whatever reason you deliver an obsolete, counterfeit or torn foreign banknote to a currency supplier, they have the obligation to “seize” it and notify it to the Bank of France for its destruction. So if it happens to you, don’t get mad at the supplier´s staff.
- “No commission” is usually a commercial claim in most French bureaux de change, since almost none of them charge you a commission for changing currency. But, be careful, because that does not mean that they do not charge you a margin, differential or spread, which is the difference between the rate at which they bought the foreign currency and at which they sold it to you.
- Do not trust claims such as “10% discount on your next currency exchange”. What they are deducting from you is not 10% of what you pay in euros but 10% of the margin that they apply to you in that exchange. For example, if they tell you that they discount 10% of an exchange of 600 euros to dollars in which they apply a spread of 7%, you do not save 60 euros but 10% of the 7%, that is, they apply to the end a spread of 7% -(10% x 7%) = 6.3%. And 0.7% of 600 euros is 4.2 euros. Interesting, right?
- Most of the suppliers are in tourist transit cities such as Paris, Marseille, Nice, Bordeaux, etc.
- The exchange houses usually sell you all kinds of currencies (of course those that they have in stock for having bought them from a tourist on his way through France). But there are some currencies that they will never buy from you. They are currencies that have significant fluctuations in exchange rates such as the Cuban peso, the Argentine peso or the Venezuelan bolivar.
- Currency suppliers usually only accept to buy foreign currency banknotes when you return from your trip to France. In other words, the coins that you have left over are better spent before leaving your foreign destination.