Currency exchange rates may considerably vary in Estonia

As summer and the holidays approach, people will begin to travel more and more. Tallinn has become an attractive tourism location over the last number of years and an increasing number of tourists visit here every year. As the Estonian kroon is the valid currency in Estonia and one cannot use euros to make payments, one must often use currency exchange services. To protect the interests of tourists, ECC Estonia would like to urge tourists to be cautious when choosing a currency exchange bureau. Before choosing a bureau, one should definitely compare the rates offered by other bureaus, and enquire about any hidden fees. Before commencing one’s trip, it would be sensible to investigate whether it would be more profitable to change your currency at home, prior to arriving in Estonia, or to do so upon arrival.

The Consumer Protection Board, host organisation of ECC Estonia, conducted a survey of various currency exchange bureaus in Tallinn, comparing the currency exchange rates and service fees to be added to the value of the service.

The survey showed that Hansapank and Sampo Bank charge a 15 EEK (approximately 1 EUR) service fee for each currency exchange transaction for clients, who are not account holders in the bank. SEB Ühispank (Union Bank) also charges a 15 EEK service fee on cash transactions, while service fees are not charged if the corresponding amount is to be credited or debited to one’s bank account. Also, the exchange rates adopted by credit institutions are quite sensible. For example, the EUR purchase and sales rates, adopted by Hansapank and SEB Eesti Ühispank are 15.57 and 15.699, respectively.

In addition to the credit institutions, 8 different enterprises, which offer currency exchange services and are known to the Consumer Protection Board, were operating in Tallinn as the price survey was conducted. Only one of the enterprises – OÜ Monex – charges a service fee. The rate applicable is 50 – 99 EEK, depending on the amount to be exchanged. Compared with other providers of the service, the OÜ Monex exchange rate on the euro is also notably more discriminatory for clients. For example, an exchange rate of 12.50 kroons is applied to amounts between 5-100 euros; for amounts between 105-300 euros and 355-2,000 euros the exchange rate is 13.50 kroons and 15.00 kroons, respectively.

At the same time, the currency exchange bureaus operated by OÜ Monex can be found in the areas most often frequented by tourists, for example, A, C, and D-terminals of Tallinn Harbour; Tallinn Airport; Viru Centre, Viru Street (two bureaus), Town Hall Square, Sadamarket, Norde Lootsi Hüperrimi, and at Estonia puiestee.

Both the Consumer Protection Board and ECC Estonia have received and are still receiving complaints concerning the ‘surprising’ currency exchange rates at OÜ Monex bureaus from both foreign tourists and Estonians. Travellers do know, as a rule, that currency exchange services tend to be more expensive in airports and harbours, but exchange rates as discriminating as those applied by OÜ Monex – plus service charges – are definitely above the reasonable limits.

In the following, is presented a comparative overview – as a chart and a table – to assist foreign tourists in choosing between currency exchange facilities. The rates may have changed slightly already, but the proportions between the operators are still the same.

* The rates may have changed slightly already, but the proportions between the operators are still the same.

The chart shows that a tourist who exchanges 50 EUR into Estonian kroons should receive approximately 800 kroons from banks and the majority of currency exchange bureaus, while Monex clients only receive 575 kroons.

Autumn 2006