How to avoid foreign currency exchange fees when travelling

Are you going overseas? Pay 0% foreign transaction fees with the right travel money option and save.

Updated

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Friends with shopping bags on holiday.

Most credit cards and debit cards will charge you a foreign transaction fee when you spend in the local currency while travelling overseas. These costs can add up, so you may want to consider a card that doesn't charge any foreign transaction fees to cut your travel costs. You can use this guide to compare your options and pick up some other tips to save on your next international holiday.

Bankwest Credit Card Offer

Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard

$0 annual fee
0% foreign transaction fees

Eligibility criteria, terms and conditions, fees and charges apply

Bankwest Credit Card Offer

Save with a $0 annual fee, 0% foreign transaction fees and a balance transfer offer. Plus, complimentary overseas travel insurance.

  • Ongoing $0 annual fee
  • 17.99% p.a. purchase rate | 21.99% p.a. cash advance rate
  • 0% foreign transaction fees online and overseas
  • 2.99% on balance transfers for 9 months, reverts to 17.99%
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Compare credit cards with 0% foreign transaction fee and other travel money products

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Foreign Currency Conversion Fee Overseas ATM withdrawal fee Purchase rate (p.a.) Annual fee
Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard

0%
$0
17.99% p.a.
$0 p.a.
Offers a $0 annual fee, 0% foreign transaction fees, complimentary international travel insurance and a balance transfer offer.
Coles Rewards Mastercard

0%
$5
19.99% p.a.
$99 p.a.
Earn 2 flybuys points / $1 spent and save with a 0% balance transfer offer. Plus, 0% international transaction fees on purchases.
ING Orange One

2.5%
$2.50
11.99% p.a.
$0 p.a.
Keep costs low with $0 annual fee and 100% foreign transaction fee rebates. Available when you hold or open an Orange Everyday account.
ING Orange One Platinum

2.5%
$2.50
16.99% p.a.
$149 p.a.
Enjoy up to $30 cashback per month and 100% foreign transaction fee rebates. Available when you hold or open an Orange Everyday account.
Westpac Lite Card

0%
9.9% p.a.
$108 p.a.
Keep credit card costs low with a maximum credit limit of $4,000, a 9.9% p.a. purchase interest rate and no foreign transaction fees.
Latitude 28° Global Platinum Mastercard

0%
$0
21.99% p.a.
$0 p.a.
Save with 0% foreign transaction fees on purchases. Plus, complimentary flight delay passes and a global wifi access.
Bankwest Breeze Platinum Mastercard

0%
$0
12.99% p.a.
$99 p.a.
Get 0% interest on balance transfers for 6 months (with a 2% fee), complimentary travel insurance and no foreign transaction fees.
HSBC Low Rate Credit Card

0%
12.99% p.a.
$99 p.a.
Receive up to 20 months interest-free on balance transfers with a 2% BT fee. Also enjoy exclusive offers with the home&Away Privilege Program.
Commonwealth Bank Low Fee Gold Credit Card

0%
0% for 15 months, reverts to 19.74% p.a.
$0 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($89 p.a. thereafter)
Save with 0% p.a. for 15 months on purchases and an ongoing annual fee waiver when you meet the spend requirement. Plus, included insurances.
Skye Mastercard

0%
$0
23.99% p.a.
$99 p.a.
Get 110 days interest-free, 0% foreign transaction fees and flexible instalment plan options.
Bankwest Qantas Platinum Mastercard

0%
$0
20.49% p.a.
$160 p.a.
Enjoy 0% foreign transaction fees, complimentary travel insurances and earn 0.75 Qantas Points per $1 spent on eligible purchases.
Bankwest More Platinum Mastercard

0%
$0
19.99% p.a.
$160 p.a.
Earn 2 More Rewards Points per $1 spent, 75,000 bonus points when you meet the spend requirement and save with 0% foreign transaction fees.
Commonwealth Bank Ultimate Awards Card

0%
20.24% p.a.
$420 p.a.
Earn up to 3 Awards points / $1 spent, save with 0% international transaction fees and gain access to over 1,000 airport lounges.
Bankwest More World Mastercard

0%
$0
19.99% p.a.
$270 p.a.
Earn 115,000 bonus points when you meet the spend requirement, receive complimentary travel insurance and 10 LoungeKey passes per year.
Bankwest Qantas World Mastercard

0%
$0
20.49% p.a.
$270 p.a.
Earn uncapped Qantas Points per $1 spent on eligible purchases, pay 0% foreign transaction fees and receive complimentary travel insurance.
Macquarie Black Card

0%
20.7% p.a.
$149 p.a.
Earn 20,000 bonus Macquarie Reward points and receive a 0% p.a. balance transfer offer for 14 months.
Macquarie Platinum Card

0%
20.7% p.a.
$99 p.a.
Earn 20,000 bonus points and receive a 0% p.a. balance transfer offer for 14 months.
Macquarie Black Card with Qantas Rewards

0%
20.7% p.a.
$149 p.a.
Earn 20,000 bonus Qantas Points and receive a 0% p.a. interest rate on balance transfers for 14 months.
Macquarie Platinum Card with Qantas Rewards

3%
20.7% p.a.
$99 p.a.
Collect 20,000 bonus Qantas Points and enjoy a 0% p.a. balance transfer offer for 14 months.
Macquarie RateSaver Card

0%
15.95% p.a.
$69 p.a.
Receive up to 55 days interest-free on purchases, a 0% p.a. for 14 month balance transfer offer and exclusive offers from Visa Entertainment.
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Data indicated here is updated regularly
$
Name Product Card access ATM Withdrawal Fee Monthly Account Fee Internatonal ATM Fee Foreign transaction fee
HSBC Everyday Global Account
Visa
$0
$0
0%
Special offer: $100 cash bonus for new HSBC customers.
Earn 2% cashback on tap and pay purchases (T&C's apply).
Enjoy no minimum ongoing balance or transaction requirements and the flexibility to hold up to 10 currencies. Apple Pay and Google Pay available.
ING Orange Everyday Account
Visa
$0
$2.50
2.5%
Receive a rebate on any international transaction fees and international ATM fees when you deposit at least $1,000 a month and make at least 5 card purchases.
Citi Global Currency Account
Mastercard
$0
$0
Earn up to 1.4% p.a. interest on your AUD balance.
$0 monthly account fee.
Enjoy one linked debit card to hold up to 10 currencies and receive foreign currencies for free.
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How can you avoid foreign currency exchange fees?

No foreign transaction fee credit cards

Most credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee of around 3% each time you spend in an international currency. If you're travelling overseas, you could consider a credit card that charges 0% foreign transaction fees. Some of these cards also charge no annual fees and no ATM withdrawal fees, but you still may be charged an overseas cash advance fee if you withdraw cash from an ATM. Some of these cards also offer other travel-centric perks like complimentary insurance, frequent flyer points and global wifi.

These cards usually charge high purchase interest rates. With this in mind, it's important that you pay your balance in full before the end of the statement period so any that your foreign transaction fee savings aren't outweighed by interest costs.

Prepaid travel money cards

You can load a prepaid travel money card with Australian dollars and then convert it into a supported currency and pay no foreign transaction fees when you spend in that currency. These cards usually support up to 10 foreign currencies including USD, GBP, NZD, EUR and JPY. You can use these cards to pay at the checkout and withdraw cash from an ATM overseas. You may be charged additional fees for topping up your account balance, withdrawing cash or closing the card depending on the card. If you spend in a currency that isn't supported by the card, you'll be charged a foreign transaction fee.

As you're spending your own money, you won't be charged any interest rates. When you move your Australian dollars into one of the supported currency wallets, it will be locked in at the exchange rate that's in place at the time. While this can protect your budget from fluctuating exchange rates, these cards don't always offer the most competitive foreign exchange rates.

Debit cards with no foreign transaction fees

Most Australian debit cards charge fees for overseas transactions, so you may want to consider a debit card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees. Some of these cards also charge $0 ATM withdrawal and account fees. If you're withdrawing cash, local ATM fees may apply. Unlike a prepaid travel card, the current exchange rates will apply each time you make a transaction and withdraw cash.

Using cash

Using cash is another way to spend fee-free while you're overseas. It's not safe to carry your entire travel budget in cash, so you should aim to keep some cash on you and the rest in a secure spot (like your locked suitcase or hotel safe). If you're using a card that charges no or low ATM withdrawal fees, you can also withdraw small amounts throughout the duration of your trip to keep your funds secure.

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What are the other costs and features to consider?

  • ATM fees. If you’re not careful, you could end up paying fees for using an overseas ATM twice. Unless your bank has a global ATM alliance that allows you to make international withdrawals for free, you could be charged by your bank and the issuing bank for withdrawals and account balance enquiries when travelling.
  • Supported currencies and global acceptance. Make sure the card you’re using will work where you're travelling. Make sure that your credit card is accepted worldwide, as you can expect with a Visa, Mastercard or American Express. If you’re using a travel money card, make sure it supports the local currency you’ll be using or doesn’t charge a currency conversion fee.
  • Merchant fees. You might find in some places that the merchant adds a surcharge to your transaction for using a foreign issued credit card. Check your bill before paying to avoid these fees and have backup travel money options (such as cash or a travel card) on hand if this is the case.
  • Exchange rates. Check to see how often exchange rates are updated and if there are additional fees for currency conversion. A good way to avoid negative exchange rate movements is to lock in the rates with a travel money card.
  • Additional travel perks. Credit cards with complimentary travel insurance, a 24/7 global emergency customer service line and frequent flyer rewards programs are all extras that could help you get more value from your card.

How often you travel, the length of your stay and the way that you spend money abroad all factor into your decision about the type of credit, debit or travel card to use abroad. When you're travelling, it's wise to spread your budget over multiple options so that in the event of an emergency (for example, if your card is lost, stolen or used for fraudulent transactions) you have access to funds.

Pictures: Shutterstock

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Related Posts

Credit Cards Comparison

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Purchase rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate Annual fee
HSBC Platinum Credit Card - Balance Transfer Offer
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 22 months
$129 p.a.
Save with a 22-month balance transfer offer. Plus, lounge passes, travel insurance and an annual fee refund when you spend an eligible $6k/year.
St.George Vertigo Classic
13.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 18 months
$55 p.a.
Get 0% p.a. on balance transfers for up to 18 months with no balance transfer fee. Plus, a low annual fee and purchase rate. Ends 2 June 2020.
ANZ Frequent Flyer Black
20.24% p.a.
20.24% p.a.
$425 p.a.
Earn 120,000 bonus Qantas Points & $275 back when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. Plus, airport lounge passes. Ends 9 June 2020.
Westpac Low Rate Card
2019 Winner
Westpac Low Rate Card
13.74% p.a.
0% p.a. for 16 months
$59 p.a.
A no frills, low rate card offering 0% p.a. interest on balance transfers for the first 16 months, with no balance transfer fee.
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* The credit card offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of credit cards finder.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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