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Using your card overseas

Whether you are going overseas on holiday or for business, paying by card is an extremely convenient, flexible and cost-effective way to pay.

You will be able to use American Express, MasterCard or Visa cards at most shops and cash machines around the world.

The great benefit of using a debit or credit card is that if you do not get what you paid for, if the goods or services turn out to be faulty or you are a victim of card fraud, you will get your money back.

Charges when paying overseas

In the UK we are used to free transactions when paying by card, or using an ATM. However, card transactions sometimes carry a cost overseas.

If you are planning to use your debit or credit card abroad it is worth knowing about the charges you may incur.

You can check the fees for using your credit card on the back of your monthly statement and the fees for using your debit card will be set out in your card issuer’s terms and conditions.

There is also a lot of information about the fees for using your card overseas in the travel section of your issuer’s website.

This includes information on:

  • the exchange rate used in the conversion of the transaction and where to find this, as well as link to an exchange rate database containing at least 12 months’ data
  • what fees apply in specific circumstances and if more than one fee will apply to the same transaction. For example, ATM transactions may be subject to a non-sterling cash fee as well as a non-sterling transaction fee
  • the costs of alternative travel money products offered by the provider so that you can make the best choice
  • in the case of credit cards, whether interest will apply from the date of the transaction.

Some card issuers do not impose fees and charges on foreign transactions, so it is worth shopping around.

Paying in the local currency or your home currency

Some shops, restaurants and cash machines abroad offer a service called dynamic currency conversion (DCC).

When paying by credit or debit card, you may be given the option of paying in the local currency – using the exchange rate offered by your card company – or having the transaction converted into your home currency (i.e. Sterling) there and then, using an exchange rate set by the retailer.

Paying in your home currency can be useful for knowing exactly how much will appear on your statement when withdrawing cash at a cash machine or paying for goods or services abroad.

However, you should always be mindful of whether the exchange rate used in the conversion offers value for money, as the exchange rate used by the retailer may not be as competitive as the rate offered by your card issuer.

A commission charge may also be added by the retailer or ATM.

If a retailer is operating DCC, you can always choose the currency of the country you are in. If you are in any doubt, ask for the bill in the local currency.

There is more information about paying overseas in our Using your cards overseas guide.

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