What Exactly is a Bureau de Change?

We´ve all heard of, or at least seen the signs for, a Bureau de Change but what exactly is it and why is it in the French language? Well, it is a business for exchanging currency. The term is originally French but is now widely used throughout Europe and some parts of Canada. Unless you’re in France, you don’t have to worry about the people working in a bureau de change not speaking your language. It actually became the norm when the euro was adopted and is now a prominent name for many exchange offices.

A bureau de change is often located in an area where there are many people such as a bank, at a travel agent, an airport, railway station or large stores. All of these areas have people that might be in need to exchange currency. Airports and railway stations are the most common spots for a bureau de change.

Exchanging currency at a lower rate than what they, themselves, purchased it at is the business they are in and that’s how they make their money. They will often charge a fee for their service, on top of the exchange rate. This fee can be a percentage of the amount being exchanged or it can be a flat fee. Some bureau de change offices will charge both. With the rise of online exchange businesses, the bureau de change offices are feeling the bite into their business and their profit margins are dropping as they try to compete with the online world.

Changing money at a bureau is often a more expensive transaction. Being situated in areas such as airports allows this business to offer services to people in transit who have little choice in the matter. They are stuck at an airport or railway station and need currency exchange. Bureaus also offer the opportunity for money laundering and many countries require them to register as money service businesses so that they are subject to the anti-money laundering measures of a particular country.

You might think that you really don’t need to know about bureau de change but knowledge is power and the more you know about how different businesses conduct money exchange can only help you if you find yourself in need of currency exchange. There are many other businesses out there and you’d be wise to understand what’s best for you and your hard-earned money.

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