How to avoid foreign currency exchange fees when travelling

Information verified correct on April 29th, 2016
Spending-Money-in-Foreign-Currencies

Are you going overseas? Take the right credit card and avoid foreign transaction fees, so you can spend more on your holiday. 

Using a credit card while travelling overseas may be convenient, but it can get costly between the rates and the fees. Learning how to get the most ideal rates, and avoid having to pay extra fees can go a long way towards saving you some extra spending money during your travels. You have a few options when it comes to saving money on fees for foreign transactions which will be covered in the following article.
Compare credit cards with no foreign currency conversion fee and annual fee

What is the difference between the foreign currency exchange rate and foreign currency exchange fees?

There is a distinct difference between rates and fees when talking about foreign transaction charges. The rates refer to the exchange from Australian currency to the currency of the country you are visiting, and will vary from what you see listed with the interbank rates. This is because some banks will add additional fees to their exchange rate as a way to cover their costs.

Fees are charges made to your card for certain transactions made while overseas. You may be charged for using ATMs abroad, or making purchases inside of stores. The different merchants you shop with may also add a surcharge to your purchase for conducting the transaction with a foreign credit card.

How can I pay for transactions overseas?

How you are going to pay for your daily expenditures while travelling overseas is an important point to think about. There are a number of different methods, each with its own set of risks and good points. Consider where you will be travelling, the accessibility of cash using a bank or ATM, extra fees and charges, and the safety of the areas in which you will be visiting. All of these factors will help you determine which method is most effective to cover your vacation needs.

Travel Money Options

No Foreign Exchange Currency Exchange Fee Credit Cards

If you are a frequent traveller to lands afar, it would be advised that you to seek out credit cards that are designed for travelling. These cards advertise low or no fees on foreign transactions, are connected to extensive worldwide ATM networks and in some cases will even waive any extra fees for currency conversion. You may pay a slightly higher annual fee for this type of credit card, but the money you save on overseas spending may balance that out.

Compare No Foreign Currency Exchange Fee Credit Cards

Rates last updated April 29th, 2016.

Coles Rewards Mastercard

New offer of $100 off a single Coles Supermarket shop if you apply by 31 May 2016.

April 4th, 2016

Coles Rewards Platinum Mastercard

New offer of $100 off a single Coles Supermarket shop if you apply by 31 May 2016.

April 4th, 2016

Bankwest Breeze Platinum MasterCard

New balance transfer offer of 2.99% p.a. for 9 months.

April 18th, 2016

View latest updates

Jonathan Choi Jonathan
Purchase rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Annual fee
Bankwest Zero Platinum MasterCard
Complimentary travel insurance & 24/7 Concierge service and Zero Foreign Transaction fees.
17.99% p.a. 2.99% p.a. for 9 months $0 p.a. Go to site More info
Coles Rewards Mastercard
Earn 2 flybuys points for every $1 spent and no foreign transaction fees for online purchases and overseas trips.
19.99% p.a. 0% p.a. for 6 months $89 p.a. Go to site More info
28 Degrees Platinum MasterCard
No foreign transaction fees on international purchases including international purchases online, together with a no annual fee.
21.99% p.a. $0 p.a. Go to site More info
Bankwest Qantas Platinum MasterCard
Earn 8,000 bonus Qantas Points. No fees on foreign transactions and enjoy free travel and accident insurance.
20.49% p.a. 2.99% p.a. for 9 months $160 p.a. Go to site More info
Bankwest Breeze Platinum MasterCard
Enjoy Platinum card benefits offering no foreign transaction fees on online and overseas purchases, complimentary travel insurance and 5% cash back (up to $300) promotion on eligible purchases.
12.99% p.a. 2.99% p.a. for 9 months $99 p.a. Go to site More info
Coles Rewards Platinum Mastercard
Earn 2 flybuys points for every $1 spent and pay low annual fee. Plus, receive $100 off a single Coles Supermarket shop if you apply by 31 May 2016.
19.99% p.a. 0% p.a. for 6 months $89 p.a. Go to site More info
Bankwest More Platinum Mastercard
No fees on overseas ATM withdrawal, no foreign transaction fees and earn 80,000 bonus More rewards points.
19.99% p.a. 2.99% p.a. for 9 months $140 p.a. Go to site More info

Prepaid travel money cards

A prepaid travel money card provides you with a happy medium between credit cards and cash. These can be preloaded with multiple currencies, eliminating the worry of currency conversion rates. There is a fee charged by the bank when issuing this type of travel card, but you will find that with certain accounts, that fee is waived. You are also able to load a prepaid travel money card directly from your account using online banking in some cases. Again though, depending on your bank, there could be fees for using that option.

Comparison of Prepaid Travel Money Cards

Rates last updated April 29th, 2016
Available Currencies ATM Withdrawal Fee Reload Fee Initial Load Fee
ANZ Travel Card
ANZ Travel Card
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD, AUD 3.50, CAD 3.00, EUR 2.20, GBP 2.00, HKD 20.00, JPY 260, NZD 4.50, SGD 4.00, THB 95, USD 2.50 1.1% of the value purchased $0 Go to site More
NAB Traveller Card
NAB Traveller Card
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD $0 per withdrawal on international ATMs and $3.75 per withdrawal at any Australian ATMs $0 $0 Go to site More
Multi Currency Cash Passport
Multi Currency Cash Passport
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD $0 for International ATM withdrawal and 2.95% of the amount withdrawn in Australia $0 $0 Go to site More
Travelex Travel Card
Travelex Travel Card
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD Travelex does not charge an ATM withdrawal fee when you use your Travelex Multi-currency Cash Passport to withdraw currencies that are loaded on the card at overseas ATMs where MasterCard is accepted. The greater of 1.1% of the initial load / reload amount or AU$15.00 $0 Go to site More
Compare Prepaid Travel Money cards here.

Using cash

You always have the option of conducting the majority of your overseas transactions in cash, but that too can become costly once you start adding up the fees. Unless you are using a bank that has a global presence with ATMs in foreign countries, expect to be charged for your cash withdrawals. Not only will you be charged by your own bank, you could also incur charges by the bank that is issuing you the cash. Your strongest bet is with finding a bank that is partnered with major international financial institutions, or is internationally recognised on its own.

Rewards credit card

Rewards credit cards that are geared towards travelling are another option if the terms are right. You may find that some offer low or no foreign transaction fees as a part of the package as well as global ATM access. These cards often come with other travel related perks that can save you money, such as complimentary travel insurance and discounts on hotels and rental cars along with points for flights. Even if you are unable to completely avoid paying extra fees, the savings from the other features may help to make up the difference.

Comparison of Rewards Credit Cards

Rates last updated April 29th, 2016.

Commonwealth Bank Diamond Awards Credit Card

Bonus points offer has been extended until 30 June 2016.

April 15th, 2016

Commonwealth Bank Platinum Awards Credit Card

Bonus points offer changed to 80,000 and is valid until 30 June 2016.

April 15th, 2016

Citi Qantas Signature Credit Card

Bonus points and balance transfer offer have been extended until June 30, 2016.

April 29th, 2016

View latest updates

Jonathan Choi Jonathan
Purchase rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Annual fee
ANZ Rewards Black Credit Card
Earn 75,000 Reward Points when you spend $2,500 within the first three months, up to 3 reward points per dollar spent and unlimited access to airport lounges with complimentary travel insurance.
18.79% p.a. $0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($375 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info
HSBC Platinum Qantas Credit Card
Receive 40,000 bonus Qantas Points on eligible spend within 3 months. A balance transfer offer of 0% p.a. for 6 months with access to premium benefits and complimentary insurance.
19.99% p.a. 0% p.a. for 6 months $199 p.a. Go to site More info
HSBC Platinum Credit Card
Enjoy an annual fee refund every year if you meet the spend requirement with a balance transfer offer, high credit limits and prestige services including a personal concierge service and VISA Platinum rewards program.
19.99% p.a. 0% p.a. for 15 months $149 p.a. Go to site More info
ANZ Frequent Flyer Black
Earn up to 75,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $2,500 within the first three months and 1.5 points per $1 spent. Get complimentary airport lounge access, 24/7 concierge with $0 annual fee in the first year.
19.99% p.a. $0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($425 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Balance Transfer Offer
Earn 10,000 bonus Velocity Points in the first 3 months plus a low balance transfer offer of 0% p.a. for 14 months
20.74% p.a. 0% p.a. for 14 months $64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info
American Express Platinum Edge Credit Card
Receive 5,000 Membership Rewards bonus points and a complimentary Virgin Australia flight each year. Plus a low balance transfer offer of 0% p.a. for 12 months.
20.74% p.a. 0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee $0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($195 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info
American Express Essential Credit Card
Receive a $50 credit on eligible spend and get Smartphone screen insurance combined with a no annual fee for life card.
14.99% p.a. 0% p.a. for 12 months $0 p.a. Go to site More info
ANZ Frequent Flyer Platinum
Earn up to 1.5 Qantas Frequent Flyer points per $1 spent on purchases. Plus 50,000 Qantas Points when you spend $2,500 on purchases within the first 3 months and no annual fee offer in the first year.
19.99% p.a. $0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($295 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info
American Express Velocity Platinum Card
Enjoy up to 50,000 bonus Velocity Points and up to 3 rewards points per dollar spent, plus 0% p.a. balance transfer offer for 12 months and a complimentary return flight every year.
20.74% p.a. 0% p.a. for 12 months with 1% balance transfer fee $349 p.a. Go to site More info
Coles Rewards Mastercard
Receive $100 to spend at Coles Supermarkets. To receive this offer, you need to complete and submit the secure online application and be approved by . Earn 2 flybuys points for every $1 spent, no foreign transaction fees on online and international purchases.
19.99% p.a. 0% p.a. for 6 months $89 p.a. Go to site More info
Compare Rewards credit cards here.

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What else should I consider?

By paying attention to the fine print while comparing credit cards and their foreign transaction fees, you should be able to find the most suitable offers for your travelling and spending habits. Consider these points as you make your comparisons across various cards:

  • ATM fees. If you are not careful, you could be paying fees for using an ATM outside of Australia from both ends. Unless your bank has a global ATM alliance that allows you to make withdrawals overseas without any fees, you will be charged by your bank and the issuing bank for withdrawals and even account balance checks when travelling.
  • Annual fee. The price of having low or no international fees with your credit card is often made up for by a high annual fee. Before committing to any one card, make sure that the savings you will benefit from make up for the annual fee charged for using the card.
  • Supported currencies and global acceptance. Your credit card should be one that is accepted worldwide, such as Visa, MasterCard or American Express. Only then will you be guaranteed that it can be used when making an overseas purchase in any currency.
  • Merchant fees. In some cases you might find that the merchant adds a surcharge to your transaction for using a foreign issued credit card.
  • Exchange rates. Check to see how often the exchange rates are updated and if there are additional fees for converting currency.
  • Added travel perks. Complimentary travel insurance and discounts on other travel expenses are worth thinking about when comparing cards to use when travelling overseas.

Conclusion

How often you travel and the length of your stays will play heavily in the type of credit card you use to cover your overseas expenditures. Be sure that you are factoring in the way in which you spend while travelling and the expenses you typically incur in order to help you narrow down your choices and find a card that gives you the most benefit.

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Frequently asked questions

Am I also charged interest if I make cash withdrawals overseas?

Yes, cash withdrawals also incur an interest charge, and usually at a higher rate than the purchase interest rate.

Are there limits on the amount of money I can withdraw or spend while overseas?

Banks will typically impose a limit on the amount of cash allowed to be withdrawn daily. As for purchases, that is not likely but you may want to check with the bank first if you do plan on making a large purchase.

What are the fees for overseas cash withdrawals?

They will vary, but will normally be advertised as the greater of a specific dollar amount or a percentage of the transaction.

Is there a limit on the amount of money I can load onto a prepaid travel card?

No, you should be able to put as much money as you see fit onto your travel card.

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21 Responses to How to avoid foreign currency exchange fees when travelling

  1. Default Gravatar
    robert | April 7, 2016

    is there a conversion charge for using a debit card oversees

    • Staff
      Sharon | April 8, 2016

      Hi Robert, thanks for your inquiry.

      Australian debit cards when used overseas will require currency conversion fees. You may also refer to our best debit cards to use when travelling overseas* review to help you save money if you’re planning to use one.

      Cheers,

      Sharon

  2. Default Gravatar
    ron | October 3, 2015

    what credit card will allow me to preload using my own money and then allow me to withdraw it overseas from an atm or bank without charging me the cash advance fees

    • Staff
      Jonathan | October 6, 2015

      Hi Ron, thanks for your inquiry!

      Preloading a credit card can avoid the cash advance fees, however regular benefits such as fraud protection can be lost in such circumstances. We do not currently have a list of cards that allow this transaction, was there a specific bank/lender you had in mind today? You may like to refer to our guide on how to avoid foreign currency exchange fees when travelling.

      Cheers,

      Jonathan

  3. Default Gravatar
    | September 4, 2015

    Some European merchants capitalizing on the fact that many Americans are intimidated by unusual currencies cheerfully charge you for converting their prices to dollars before running your credit card. So, how can a smart traveler avoid or at least reduce these fees?

  4. Default Gravatar
    Nigel | January 19, 2015

    Hi, I have noted the cash advance fee from ATM’s overseas but can you confirm if interest in charged from the day you obtain that cash advance? Is this interest negated if the full outstanding balance is paid within the 55 day period?

    • Default Gravatar
      Nigel | January 20, 2015

      Hi Jonathan,

      Thanks for your reply. Sorry I should have been more specific regarding which card I would be using. It would be a 28 degrees MasterCard with the 55 day interest free period. Given this info can you specify what charges would be payable and whether the interest on the cash advance only starts to be charged after the 55 day period or from the day the cash a advance is taken out. Thanks again for your help.

    • Staff
      Jonathan | January 20, 2015

      Hi Nigel,

      A cash advance fee of 3% of the cash advance or $4 (whichever is greater) will be charged to the account on each occasion on which you obtain a cash advance or make a cash equivalent transaction, interest will be charged on the cash advance fee on a daily basis from the date of the withdrawal. If your account is in credit, you will not be charged interest on the cash advance fee.

      I hope this helps!

      Cheers,

      Jonathan

    • Staff
      Jonathan | January 20, 2015

      Hi Nigel,

      Thanks for your question,

      Depending on the credit card you are using, on top of the normal interest rate and lack of interest free days, you can be imposed a $1-$10 / 1%-4% fee (whichever is higher) every time you carry out an overseas cash advance. You will also be charged the standard cash advance rate for your credit card (as well as the international cash advance fee).

      I hope this helps!

      Cheers,

      Jonathan

  5. Default Gravatar
    aengus | June 28, 2014

    I like 28 degrees but as they changed the rules on 1st of Jan 2014 and now charge 3% or $4 for cash-out from a preloaded card, I use it for online or credit transactions abroad only

    Cash out, at $2.50 per t transaction, I do via Ing orange everyday, a debit card.

  6. Default Gravatar
    Trevor | February 2, 2014

    We have had a GE 28 Degrees MasterCard while travelling overseas for some years now.
    Plan to travel to Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway then Ireland later this year.
    Can we use this card in these counties? We usually pre load our card before setting off.

    Trevor

    • Default Gravatar
      Anne | February 20, 2014

      Note the GE 28degrees card has changed. You now pay a withdrawal fee for withdrawals from ATM’s even if it is your own money loaded onto the card (i.e. even if it is in credit.) 3% or $4 whichever is the higher amount. Still no international transaction fee though and no currency conversion fee for both ATMs and credit-type transactions.

    • Staff
      Jacob | February 20, 2014

      Hi, Anne.

      Please feel free to have a chat about this product with other users in the finder forum. Here’s a link to the travel money section. Feel free to start a new post on this topic.

      Thanks!

    • Staff
      Shirley | February 3, 2014

      Hi Trevor,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes you can use the card in those countries and wherever the MasterCard symbol is displayed.

      If you preload the card with funds beforehand, your insurance and security benefits may be voided – so it’s best to confirm this with GE Money before you head overseas.

      Cheers,
      Shirley

  7. Default Gravatar
    Lisa | August 1, 2013

    Hi there.
    I have been looking at the GE 28 Degrees MasterCard to use while travelling overseas. My concern is that if you use it take money out at an ATM you are charged interest from that time. I believe you can preload the card somewhat (i.e: put it into credit) however, I cannot get a clear answer on how much. Do you know how much you can put it into credit (to avoid paying interest charges)?
    Thanks.

    • Staff
      Jacob | August 2, 2013

      Hi Lisa. Thanks for your question. There’s no limit to amount of funds you can load onto the card to put it into a positive balance. If you do this though, you’re waiving the anti-fraud guarantee. The lender may block your card due to suspicious activity if you deposit too much money onto the card. These are few considerations to think of when you put your account into a positive balance. I hope this helps. Jacob.

  8. Default Gravatar
    Danielle | June 15, 2012

    I am travelling to Europe in July. I will be doing a lot of shopping and will most likely be adding to the amount I am taking overseas on weekly. What do you suggest in me taking? I am really confused and I don’t want to pay a fortune in fees.

  9. Default Gravatar
    Mim | April 2, 2012

    Why is the 28 degree credit card not compared.
    Is there a catch with this card with no transaction fees or atm fees.

    • Staff
      Jeremy | April 23, 2012

      Hi,

      Thanks for the question. This particular card is unique in that it doesn’t charge any withdrawal fee at all for any purchases you make with the card. Overseas ATM withdrawals are also free of fees, apart from the cost imposed by the owner of the ATM which has to be paid by everyone using it. Hope this has helped.

      Cheers
      Jeremy

Credit Cards Comparison

Rates last updated April 29th, 2016
Purchase rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Annual fee
St.George Vertigo Platinum
A platinum card with a balance transfer offer of 0% p.a. for 20 months and an introductory purchase offer of 0.99% p.a. for 4 months with a low annual fee.
0.99% p.a. for 4 months (reverts to 12.74% p.a.) 0% p.a. for 20 months $99 p.a. Go to site More info
American Express Essential Credit Card
Receive a $50 credit on eligible spend and get Smartphone screen insurance combined with a no annual fee for life card.
14.99% p.a. 0% p.a. for 12 months $0 p.a. Go to site More info
HSBC Platinum Credit Card
Receive a full annual fee refund and save $149 if you meet the spend requirement. Enjoy a balance transfer offer and platinum card benefits such as complimentary insurances and concierge services.
19.99% p.a. 0% p.a. for 15 months $149 p.a. Go to site More info
ANZ Frequent Flyer Black
Earn up to 75,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $2,500 within the first three months and 1.5 points per $1 spent. Get complimentary airport lounge access, 24/7 concierge with $0 annual fee in the first year.
19.99% p.a. $0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($425 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info

* The credit card offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of credit cards CreditCardFinder.com.au has access to track details from and is not representative of all the products available in the market. Products are displayed in no particular order or ranking. The use of terms 'Best' and 'Top' are not product ratings and are subject to our disclaimer. You should consider seeking independent financial advice and consider your own personal financial circumstances when comparing cards.

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