Using your own debit and credit card abroad carries with it any number of potential hidden charges. 

These may include:

  • Foreign exchange fees – expect overseas purchases to be hit with foreign exchange fees or loading charges ranging anywhere from 2.5% to 3%.
  • Cash withdrawal fees – withdrawing cash at ATMs abroad? There go another 2% to 3%!
  • Interest charges – credit card balance not paid in full? Brace yourself for an interest charge.
  • Flat fees – some card providers may charge you a flat fee, typically in the region of $1 to $3, on each and every overseas transaction.
  • Card exchange rates – making purchases in a foreign currency? Expect the worst! Settlement exchange fees are determined by your specific (Visa, MasterCard, AMEX or other) card scheme, and are often much higher than intermediate (SPOT) exchange rates.
  • DCC (Dynamic Currency Conversion) – most retailers and merchant points of sale overseas will offer you DCC, the option to pay the bill in your own home currency. They won’t be doing this out of the goodness of their heart, however. Remember – every time you pay or withdraw cash using DCC, you’ll be charged a relatively high exchange rate, and everyone will be splitting up the earnings – at your expense!
  • ATM surcharge – many ATMs, and especially 3rd-party ATMs, will only be too happy to slap additional flat usage fees on top of your card provider’s standard charges.

Bottom line? Always check the terms and conditions before using your card abroad.