How to avoid Foreign Currency Exchange Fees when Travelling

Posted January 3rd, 2012 and last modified August 7th, 2014

If you are about to travel overseas you won’t be able to avoid paying a foreign exchange fee at some point, but there are some ways you can avoid paying exorbitant foreign transaction fees on international purchases when travelling. One of the easiest ways to handle the situation is to simply take your current credit or debit card which does not charge foreign transaction fees. You could purchase a prepaid travel money card before you leave and load it up with the currency of the country you will be visiting, or you could use cash.

Credit Card Usage in Foreign Exchange Transactions

When you use a credit card or an ATM/debit card issued by your bank, you will stand to benefit by any foreign exchange transaction being carried out at the bank’s wholesale foreign exchange rate. Your bank will still earn money for itself by charging you a profit margin fee of between three and three and a half percent on any international purchases you make. When you make a cash ATM withdrawal you can usually expect to pay about three percent of the amount withdrawn plus a $5 flat fee. However, there are credit and debit cards that offer lower fees than others, and some that don’t charge at all.

Comparison of No Foreign Currency Exchange Fee Credit Cards

Rates last updated August 22nd, 2014.

Interest rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Annual fee Cash advance rate (p.a.)
28 Degrees MasterCard
28 Degrees MasterCard
Benefit from no international transaction fees on purchases, no currency conversion fees and no annual fee. 20.99% p.a. 4.99% p.a. for 6 months $0 p.a. 20.99% p.a. Go to siteMore info
Bankwest Breeze Platinum MasterCard
Bankwest Breeze Platinum MasterCard
Low interest rate on balance transfers and purchases. Plus no foreign transaction fees on online and overseas purchases. 12.24% p.a. 0% p.a. for 13 months $99 p.a. 21.99% p.a. Go to siteMore info
Bankwest Zero Platinum MasterCard
Bankwest Zero Platinum MasterCard
$0 foreign transaction fee with a $0 annual fee. 17.99% p.a. 2.99% p.a. for 9 months $0 p.a. 21.99% p.a. Go to siteMore info

For example, due to its fee structure the 28 Degrees MasterCard is an enticing proposition for those heading abroad or just spending internationally. Our review covers off everything you need to know about the card.

Prepaid Travel Money Cards

You can, of course, choose to transfer your money onto a prepaid travel money card in the currency of the country you are going to visit before you leave.

Our comparison of travel cards covers their fees, available currencies and you can read frequently asked questions about these products.


Cash in the currency of the country you are visiting has its merits also. It will be accepted everywhere by everyone with no surcharges or fees being applied. You can often bargain for a better price if you have cash to bargain with. Cash however, can be more easily stolen, and your travel insurance policy might not cover you for loss of cash. When it does the claim process is often painfully slow. The secret in exchanging cash from one currency to another is to pre-arrange the transaction online.

Credit Cards with Travel Insurance

If you already have a credit card you should first check to see if it offers travel insurance. If not, you may want to give some thought to changing it for a credit card that offers travel insurance. Complimentary insurance means you can save money from not having to take out an additional travel insurance policy. Compare some cards that offer complimentary travel insurance.

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11 Responses to How to avoid Foreign Currency Exchange Fees when Travelling

  1. 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.

  2. 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.


    • 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.


    • 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.


  3. 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)?

    • 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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


      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.


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Credit Cards Comparison

Rates last updated August 22nd, 2014.
Interest rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Annual fee Cash advance rate (p.a.)
ANZ Low Rate
ANZ Low Rate
A low rate on purchases, balance transfer and a low annual fee. 13.49% p.a. 0% p.a. for 16 months $58 p.a. 21.74% p.a. Go to siteMore info
Westpac 55 Day Platinum Card
Westpac 55 Day Platinum Card
Exclusive Offer to Credit Card Finder. 0% p.a. for 12 months on Purchases
$0 annual fee with platinum benefits including a platinum concierge service, overseas travel insurance, extended warranty cover and purchase security cover.
0% p.a. for 12 months (reverts to 19.84% p.a.) 3.99% p.a. for 6 months with 1% balance transfer fee $0 p.a. 21.29% p.a. Go to siteMore info
HSBC Platinum Credit Card
HSBC Platinum Credit Card
Earn rewards points plus a balance transfer offer. Access to prestige services including a personal concierge service and VISA Platinum reward program. 19.99% p.a. 0% p.a. for 8 months $0 p.a. 21.99% p.a. Go to siteMore info
ANZ Frequent Flyer
ANZ Frequent Flyer
Get 50,000 bonus Qantas Points once you spend $1500 on eligible purchases within 3 months. Earn 1.00 point per $1 spent on your AMEX and 0.50 points per $1 spent on your Visa. 19.99% p.a. $0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($95 p.a. thereafter) (which includes a $40 annual account fee and a $55 Rewards Program services fee) 21.49% p.a. Go to siteMore info
Coles No Annual Fee MasterCard
Coles No Annual Fee MasterCard
Enjoy a low interest rate plus a $0 annual fee. 17.99% p.a. 0% p.a. for 6 months $0 p.a. 17.99% p.a. Go to siteMore info

* The credit card offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of credit cards 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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