What bank fees can you expect when travelling overseas?

Calculator and coins

This article may contain links to products and services we use and recommend. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For more information, see our Disclosure Policy.

Whether you pay cash or use your credit or debit card/s to pay for a meal or withdraw cash while overseas, you will be exposed to a number of charges. Here is a list of typical fees, who charges them and when they are being charged. While it might seem tedious, understanding these charges helps you avoid or at least minimise them where possible. Unless otherwise stated, these fees apply to both credit and debit cards.

Download our comprehensive Travel Risk Register

First designed to assist us on a three-month South America trip, this travel risk register will open your eyes to what you need to do about the various risks you may encounter. Easy to follow and update.

Subscription Form - Travel Risk Register

ReferenceChargeWho charges them?How much is typically charged?When is it charged?
AFX SpreadFX Provider1) VISA/MasterCard charge the lowest spread above wholesale rates (usually 1-2% above wholesale FX rates pending currency) 2) 10% and more are not uncommon for FX Bureaus exchanging cashWhenever you exchange currencies (whether in cash or using a credit / debit card). This includes paying for online purchases in a currency other than your card issuer’s currency.
BFX CommissionsFX ProviderUp to USD10 per transaction is not uncommonWhen you exchange cash at FX Bureaus (for example, at airports, along streets frequented by tourists or at bank branches).
CForeign transaction feesCard IssuerUp to 3% of transaction valueOn overseas purchases (of products and services, including online orders of items shipped from other countries to your home country) and usually shown as separate amount on your card/ account statement.
D(Dynamic) Currency conversion feesOverseas MerchantTotally up to the merchant: Spread is worse than Visa/MasterCard FX rates (which are already a few % points above wholesale FX rates - see A1 above)On transactions processed in a currency other than your card issuer’s currency. You are exposed to it when a merchant asks you whether you want to pay in the purchase currency or your card issuer’s currency (and you select the latter, which means you allow the merchant to set their own FX rate).
EWithdrawal / ATM service feesOverseas BankUp to 3% of transaction value or USD5 per transaction are not uncommonOn cash withdrawals at an overseas ATM or bank branch. Charged as % of the transaction or a fixed $ amount and displayed by the ATM (or advised by the teller) before you finalise your withdrawal.
FCash advance feesCard IssuerUp to 3% of transaction value or USD5 per transaction (whichever is greater) are not uncommonWhenever you use a credit card to withdraw cash.
GInterest on Cash AdvancesCard Issuer20%+ of transaction value is not uncommonWhenever you use a credit card to withdraw cash using your credit limit. Interest starts accumulating as soon as you withdraw cash.
Top Travel Money Tips
Debit Credit Cards Guide
Cash Withdrawal Guide
Cash Exchange Guide

What bank fees did you incur when you last travelled overseas?

I wrote this travel finance article based on my own personal experience. If you, like most people, incurred overseas transaction fees on your foreign purchases and have something to add, please feel free to contact me. If you liked the tips and found them helpful, I would appreciate if you could share them with your friends and family via the Share buttons below. Even better, link to the page from your personal blog or social media platforms.

Author: <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/sandrarosenau/" target="_blank">Sandra Rosenau</a>

Author: Sandra Rosenau

Sandra Rosenau is a Gen X gal from Germany, born and raised behind the Iron Curtain, with an unquenchable thirst to learn. Self-starter. Multi-lingual. Minimalist. Environmentally conscious. Financially and location independent. Energised by connecting with others and helping people succeed.