Calls for action as Aussie retailers paying $45k ‘inertia tax’, $298 per person, in excess foreign exchange fees: Airwallex

Calls for action as Aussie retailers paying $45k ‘inertia tax’, $298 per person, in excess foreign exchange fees: Airwallex

Australian businesses are paying $5.74bn each year in excess foreign exchange fees, according to new research from Aussie-born payments company Airwallex.

The company is calling on the Government to step in and direct the ACCC to prioritise this issue as the costs are hurting businesses and ultimately costing consumers.

Airwallex has also done specific calculations on the impact on the retail sector, finding Aussie retailers on average are being charged on average $45,279 in excess fees each year. This jumps to $49,180 for online retailers, compared with $5,786 across all types of businesses.


  • Airwallex has calculated the average foreign exchange rates that major providers (such as the big banks) charge their business customers for international transactions across various major currencies (USD, Chinese Yuan, GBP, EUR, PHP).
  • We’ve then compared this with what Airwallex charges customers for international currency conversions as ‘excess foreign exchange fees’.
  • Businesses are paying on average 3.97% more for their foreign exchange fees with a bank, compared to Airwallex.
  • Multiplying that figure across ABS data on businesses that employ staff (and therefore highly likely to do cross border transactions, even if as simple as Facebook advertising) delivers a nationwide cost of $5.74bn.
  • That washes out to $298 that each adult Australia on average pays in excess foreign exchange fees each year, likely without realising it.
  • The input and output costs we’ve looked at for retailers specifically includes fees in their wholesale goods purchasing and sales, logistics and transportation operations, financial services, digital, advertising and marketing expenditure.

Nathan McNally (pictured), Account Management Lead, Airwallex, said, In my job, I see it everyday where businesses are paying an ‘inertia tax’ for not shopping around on who they use for their international transactions.

“Businesses are being rorted without realising it and it’s time for the Government to step in.

“Businesses are feeling the crunch and consumers’ hip pockets are hurting. Simple changes like mandating more transparency in foreign exchange fees would have a deflationary effect by promoting competition.

“What can look like just a couple of cents of difference on the exchange rate adds up to big bucks out of your pocket.

“This is a whopping $5.74bn cost to businesses that’s hiding in balance sheets in plain sight.

“The excess exchange fees that businesses are paying is highest for retailers and ultimately gets passed on to everyday Australians at a cost of $298 per person each year.

“Retailers are some of the worst-affected business types because of the nature of their operations where they need to buy materials and products from overseas, manage the freight and logistics of moving products around, and paying for marketing and advertising before they can even make a sale.

“At every stage of that process, someone is clipping the ticket with excess foreign exchange costs. What we find is that too often as businesses grow they stick with the financial provider and the package they were offered when they started.

“The financing the bank offered your business is obviously critical, but the transaction package that came with it bundles up and hides high exchange rates which are just fattening the banks’ bottom lines and hurting yours.

“In this inflationary environment, we know businesses have to fight to keep their products affordable despite rising costs and one of the quickest ways to do that is to shop around on your international transaction partner.”