Holiday money: How to avoid foreign transaction fees

You’ll likely be faced with both ATM fees and foreign transaction fees while travelling abroad, but this is how you can avoid it. Source: Getty

Ever been stung by those annoying overseas transaction fees?

If you’ve been abroad recently, or are planning to go, you’re probably aware that ATM fees can add up pretty quickly. They are typically over $5 per withdrawal and foreign transaction fees can range from 1 to 3 per cent. Plus, if you exchange your money at the airport, you may be slapped with a commission fee too.

If you don’t want to see your hard-earned cash fly out the window, Canstar has shared their top tips with Travel at 60 on how to avoid foreign transaction fees while travelling aboard.

“Being stung with foreign transaction fees while overseas is a pain point for many Aussie travellers, so it’s important to review your options to ensure you’re not paying too much where you can avoid it,” the financial comparison site says.

With these handy tips, you’ll be able to avoid any fee surprises.

Pay in cash

One of the easiest ways to avoid a foreign transaction fee is to pay in cash. However, you don’t want to be bringing large amounts of cash overseas, as it can be a safety risk. It’s best to only carry a small amount on you when you arrive and top up at an ATM as you go.

According to Canstar, many credit, debit and travel money cards offer fee-free withdrawals at international ATMs, although it’s important to note the financial institution that owns the international ATM may charge their own fee.

“It’s worth reviewing your card to see if you can withdraw cash free of charge while overseas, though, if you are doing this, be sure to pay attention as the ATM fees can add up if you are making multiple withdrawals,” the comparison site warns.

Use a no fee card

One way to avoid a foreign transaction fee is to use a no fee card. Canstar recommends checking with your bank to see if your existing credit or debit card offers free currency conversion — as well as any other travel perks.

“Some cards not only offer free currency conversion but offer free travel insurance when certain conditions are met, which could ensure you’re covered, and save you hundreds,” they say.

If you’re on the hunt for a no fee card, Canstar has provided a list of their top low rate credit cards with no currency conversion fees:

Get yourself a travel money card

A travel money card can be an easy and secure way to access your money when travelling overseas.

“A travel money card is a specifically designed debit card with similar security features,” Canstar says.

According to the comparison site, you can pre-load a number of currencies onto the travel money card without being charged a currency conversion fee, however, some cards will charge you an initial one-time fee to pre-load money onto the card.

And if you want to use a currency other than what is loaded onto the card you may also be charged a fee.

“Travel money cards also allow you to lock in the exchange rate when its suits you, so you don’t have to worry about the ever-changing value of the Aussie dollar,” the comparison site adds.

Not sure where to start looking? Here’s Canstar’s five-star rated travel money cards:

What are your thoughts on this? Have you been stung by an overseas transaction fee?

Sue's sassy!

She became a member of Starts at 60 and got access to amazing travel deals, free masterclasses, exclusive news and features and hot member discounts!

And she entered to win a $10K trip for four people to Norfolk Island in 2021. Join now, it’s free to become a member. Members get more.


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