In a belated Christmas gift for business travellers and other frequent flyers the Australian dollar has surged to record highs against the US dollar and the Euro while retaining its strength against the UK pound and the New Zealand dollar.
The Aussie shot well past the Holy Grail of greenback parity to hit 101.98 US cents shortly before 1pm today, just pipping the previous record of 101.83 US cents in early November.
It also continued its march against the Euro, rallying to 77.35 Euro cents overnight before settling in at just below 77 Euro cents. That's still well north of the previous record of 74 Euro cents reached on December 14, and far above the ten-year average of €0.59.
We're also in great shape against the UK pound, with one Australian dollar buying almost 66 pence (almost 10p above the mid-2010 rate), and with one Aussie currently fetching NZ$1.32 today we're still at an all-time high against the New Zealand dollar.
In other words, this could be the best time to stock up on premium overseas currencies ahead of your 2011 trips.
Of course, none of those rates are the the ‘street price’ you’ll get through a currency exchange agency. Travelex.com.au, which we’ve found to give some of Australia’s best deals for swapping Aussie currency, currently lists A$1 against US$0.986, €0.732, £0.6280 and NZ$1.272.
But as we’ve previously noted, paying online with BPAY means you can escape the commission fees which is where most other currency exchange agencies take a bite from your budget.
Airport-based bureau de change desks continue to take advantage of travellers, with Sydney Airport's Travelex store quoting a stingy US$0.927 and €0.665 for example – and that's before they charge a commission. A$500 will net you just US$450 or €323 in the hand after the 3% fee is paid, although we've found that the Travelex staff are prepared to match the online rates at Travelex.com.au if you push them.
Sydney's Flight Centre Money Centre in George Street Wynyard is the best bet if you're already in the CBD, with rates of US$0.98 and €0.75 and no commission if you pay with cash or EFTPOS.