With Nationwide increasing its overseas charges and pre-paid cards still being hit by additional fees, paying to take your money out abroad can be expensive. Shouldn’t banks do more to help travellers?
As a regular traveller abroad, one of my biggest financial headaches is deciding what pieces of plastic to keep in my wallet when I leave British shores.
For many years, I’ve begrudgingly put up with the charges that my bank has stung me with.
But as fees have risen, and I began to travel more, I decided I should take a new approach.
Pre-paid cards offer promising rates
So this year, I took out a Travelex Globe Passport pre-paid card, which promised to only charge me 1.5% for each transaction or cash withdrawal – not a penny more.
This compares favourably to the 3% I get charged when I pay by credit card, and the whopping 4.75% that I get stung with when I make a cash withdrawal using my HSBC debit card.
I know there are a small number of credit cards out there that don’t charge fees for overseas purchases, but I wasn’t in the market for a new credit card, so a pre-paid card seemed a good compromise. Part of the attraction was that no approval was needed and I could pick up my card at the airport, with the minimum amount of hassle.
Sadly, my pre-paid card experience has not quite lived up to expectations. Staff at Travelex airport kiosks clearly don’t sell many of these, as the first person I spoke to had never heard of the Globe Passport card, and looked at my confirmation email blankly.
A whole 45 minutes later, I did finally get my card – but then, when I used it to take out cash abroad, I kept getting hit with additional fees from foreign banks for using their cash machines – something that Travelex has no control over.
Avoiding fees abroad almost impossible
After Nationwide increased its overseas card charges this month (something many of you have told us you’re not happy about) the sad truth is that it’s now very hard to avoid card fees when you travel.
Norwich & Peterborough has said it plans to stop charging fees for overseas debit card use from January, which is great news. But even if you manage to get your hands on a fee-free debit card, there’s still no guarantee that foreign cash machines won’t hit you with charges.
Banks could be doing much more to help consumers understand exactly what they get charged and how to avoid additional fees abroad. For the moment, however, it’s a minefield.