How to Avoid International Transaction Fees

How to Avoid International Transaction Fees when Travelling Overseas - image via Ivan Kosnyrev - Globetrotting horse riding holidaysArguably, the two most irritating aspects of using a credit card overseas are ATM withdrawal fees (seriously, I only need 20 and you want to charge me 3 to access it?!) and checking your card statement to find a series of international transaction fees underlining every purchase. I end up looking about as cheerful as this ATM guardian in New York City.

Heed my warning, globetrotters: put in the effort before you travel and make sure you’ve got a card that won’t charge you extra for using it overseas.

There can be quite a few hidden fees lurking in the fine print of your debit or credit card terms and conditions, ranging from withdrawal fees to currency conversion fees to transaction fees. If you plan to stick with your everyday banking institution, it’s a good idea to contact a representative and ask about the best option for international travel. Imagine arriving at your destination only to find that your card doesn’t work in the local currency – what a nightmare! Easily avoided with a little prior planning, though. If you’re lucky, the card you already have will be the most suitable, but there may also be a travel-specific card available that will save you money and stress in the long run.

I always recommend having two cards from different banking institutions just in case one stops working or is lost. A travel money card is another great option, as it’s not linked to your bank account. And even if you don’t plan on using your everyday card, it’s good practice to call your bank and let them know that you will be travelling overseas.

Oh – and one more tip: EFTPOS machines will often detect your foreign card and ask whether you would like to pay in the local currency or your home currency. Never convert to your home currency! The exchange rate is always inflated by the EFTPOS terminal, so you’ll end up paying more.

Anyway – down to the nitty gritty. Here are some recommendations for cards that won’t charge you extra, regardless of where you are in the world.

BEST GLOBALLY AVAILABLE OPTIONS

Travelex Money Card

  • Can be purchased worldwide (Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, UK, Europe, UAE, Japan, China, South America, to name but a few)
  • Can be used everywhere MasterCard is accepted
  • 10 currencies available – load as many as you like
  • No overseas ATM or EFTPOS fees
  • The Travelex money app lets you manage your card any time, anywhere

Revolut

  • Available to residents of 35 countries, with more coming soon
  • Spend in over 150 currencies at the interbank exchange rate
  • Free ATM withdrawals (monthly limits apply, and vary by account type and country)
  • No payment or transaction fees
  • You can do everything from the Revolut app

PayPal Prepaid Mastercard

  • Linked to your PayPal account, not your bank account
  • Gives you faster access to your funds than traditional banks (up to 2 days faster!)
  • No transaction or purchase fees (but there is a $1.95 ATM withdrawal fee and a 2.5% foreign transaction fee)
  •  Simple account management via the PayPal Prepaid mobile app or website

FOR AUSTRALIAN GLOBETROTTERS

ING Orange Everyday

  • Works with the everyday ING Visa debit card
  • No purchase, transaction or ATM fees
  • Can be used everywhere Visa is accepted
  • Manage your card online, in-store or via the ING mobile app

STA Travel Money Card

  • Rather than loading different currencies, your AUD is converted to the local currency when you withdraw funds or make a transaction
  • No purchase, conversion, ATM withdrawal (of AUD$250 or more) or transaction fees
  • Can be used everywhere Visa is accepted
  • Top up in-store using cash or a debit card, online, or via BPAY

NAB Traveller Card

  • Load up to 10 different currencies: AUD, USD, EUR, GBP, CAD, NZD, JPY, SGD, THB and HKD
  • Can be used everywhere MasterCard is accepted
  • No purchase, top up or overseas ATM fees
  • The NAB app lets you manage your card whenever and wherever you like

FOR AMERICAN GLOBETROTTERS

Charles Schwab Bank – High Yield Investor Checking Account

  • No purchase, transaction or ATM fees
  • No minimum balance required, and it also earns interest
  • Covers 100% of any losses in your Schwab account/s due to unauthorised activity
  • Manage your account online or via the Schwab Mobile app

Chase – Sapphire Checking Account

  • No conversion, transaction or ATM fees
  • 24/7 banking service phone support
  • No minimum balance required
  • Manage your account online or via the Chase Mobile app

FOR BRITISH GLOBETROTTERS

WeSwap Travel Money Card

  • Can be used in over 150 currencies, and stores money in 18 currencies
  • Peer-to-peer secure currency swapping system provides extremely good exchange rates
  • No transaction fees or ATM withdrawal fees (over £200)
  • Manage your account, monitor exchange rates and send money to other users from the app

Caxton multi-currency card

  • No overseas payment, transaction or ATM fees
  • Load up to 15 currencies, and use anywhere MasterCard is accepted
  • Get up to six additional cards for your account to share funds with your companions
  • Check your balance and history, and top up your card via the mobile app

Mastercard also has a list of every Mastercard prepaid card issuer/programme available in the UK, which is a good starting point if you know you’d prefer to use Mastercard rather than Visa.

Do you have a go-to card with no sneaky international fees that’s not listed here? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Images via Ivan Kosnyrev and shayne_ch13.

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