I’m so sorry. I came to Armenia on a job two weeks ago and nothing here has made me stroppy yet. Oh, wait a moment, there is just one thing…
I received a Moneygram transfer in US dollars, which I was paid over the counter in US currency. I went to change it into Armenian drams and was pleasantly surprised to see the buying and selling rates displayed behind the counter: buying US$ at 475 drams, selling at 481. That’s a spread of 1.25%.
Now, I ask myself, if an Armenian businessperson can rent and staff a small booth, provide security and make a profit with a 1.25% spread, what’s wrong with Travelex and its ilk? What’s wrong with my bank, which adds transaction fees to its already healthy spread and has no associated costs whatsoever except a minute amount of electricity to drive a few bytes of data through a cable?
I look forward to a spirited riposte from someone in the banking industry, or the CEO of named-and-shamed Travelex. I can think of no explanation for the outrageous charges for simple currency transactions that can be described without resort to such words as ‘extortion’, ‘monopoly’, ‘collusion’, ‘profiteering’ and ‘greed’.