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How to avoid foreign transaction fees

Foreign transaction fees can be 3% of the transaction value, or even higher. Here's how to avoid these fees and save money when travelling.

Updated

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It may take some time and patience to research and find a credit card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees. Consumers can carry cash but need to be mindful of who is around and to not show their cash. The safest and ideal option is to use traveller's cheques. Traveller's cheques can be spent just like cash, with the protection from loss and theft.

Foreign transaction fees are charged when a currency conversion happens. For example, when using your Australian debit card overseas or when shopping online from overseas stores. These fees can quickly add up, but there are a few ways you can avoid them which we'll outline in this guide.

Four easy ways to avoid foreign transaction fees

  1. Use a debit card with no foreign transaction fees
  2. Use a prepaid travel card loaded with the currency you need.
  3. Switch to a credit card with no foreign transaction fees
  4. Exchange your money for foreign cash before you go overseas.

Let's take a look at these four options in a bit more detail.

1. Use a debit card with no foreign transaction fees.

Several Australian debit cards don't charge any foreign transaction fees. This is a great option for Australians who travel often and want to use their Australian debit card overseas, instead of having to organise foreign cash or a special travel card. These accounts are free to open. You can compare a range of Australian debit cards that don't charge foreign transaction fees in the table below.

2. Use a prepaid travel card.

A prepaid travel card allows you to load up some foreign currency onto the card before you leave Australia. This means that when you're overseas, you can use the card to pay like a local. As you've already got the local currency on the card, no currency conversion occurs and no foreign transaction fees apply. Another benefit of using a travel money card is you can load up on the currency you need well before your trip when exchange rates are good.

3. Use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.

Like debit cards, there are also a number of Australian credit cards available that don't charge any foreign transaction fees. Plus, using a credit card might help you earn reward points and some even offer additional travel perks like discounted insurance and airport lounge access. You might also find a credit card will come in handy at a lot of international hotels that require a credit card on arrival as a deposit.

4. Pay in cash.

If you don't like the idea of opening a new debit card, prepaid travel card or credit card you could opt to get some foreign cash. You can buy some foreign cash in the currency you need before you leave Australia, then simply use cash to make purchases while you're overseas. Using cash to pay is an easy way to make sure you're not paying any foreign transaction fees. But keep in mind, there are safety implications of carrying a large amount of cash with you, so this option might be better suited to short trips only.

Compare debit cards, credit cards and travel cards with no foreign transaction fees

Data indicated here is updated regularly
$
Name Product Card access ATM Withdrawal Fee Fee Free Deposit p.m. Monthly Account Fee
HSBC Everyday Global Account
Visa
$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.
CUA Everyday Snap Account
Visa
$0
$0
Refund of international ATM withdrawal fees and international card transaction fees (conditions apply). Refund of overdrawn fees.
$0 monthly account fee. Unlimited fee-free everyday transactions.
Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay available. Savings Top Up tool automatically transfers to linked savings account.
Citi Global Currency Account
Mastercard
$0
$0
$0 transaction fee on international purchases.
Save on international transaction fees by using local currencies with your debit card.
If you’re shopping online on a US site, you can set your debit card transaction currency to USD to pay no international transaction fees.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Available Currencies ATM Withdrawal Fee Initial Load Fee Reload fee
Travelex Money Card
AUD,USD,CAD,EUR,GBP,HKD,JPY,NZD,SGD,THB

Overseas: $0

Domestic: 2.95% of the amount withdrawn

1.1% of initial load value or $15, whichever is greater
1.1% of transaction value or $15, whichever is greater
Lock in exchange rates for up to 10 currencies, pay no overseas ATM fees and get exclusive merchant offers.
7-Eleven Just Go Pre-Paid Travel Card
AUD,USD,EUR,GBP,NZD
EUR €0, GBP £0, AUD $0, USD $0, NZD $0
$0
$0
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Compare up to 4 providers

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Foreign currency conversion fee Overseas ATM withdrawal fee Purchase rate Annual fee
Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard
0%
$0
17.99% p.a.
$0
Offers a $0 annual fee, 0% foreign transaction fees, complimentary international travel insurance and a balance transfer offer.
Bankwest Breeze Platinum Mastercard
0%
$0
0% for 15 months, reverts to 10.99% p.a.
$69
Get 0% interest on purchases for 15 months, complimentary travel insurance and no foreign transaction fees.
Coles Rewards Mastercard - Exclusive Offer
0%
$5
19.99% p.a.
$0 annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
Finder Exclusive. Ends 29 October 2020
Save with $100 off a Coles Supermarket shop and a $0 first-year annual fee. Plus, 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 18 months (1.5% fee applies).
NAB StraightUp Card
0%
N/A
$0
Save with 0% interest charges and 0% foreign transaction fees. Plus, $0 monthly fees when you don't use the card or carry a balance.
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