Do you know how much it costs to use your debit card abroad?

Hands up. How many of us have, at one point or another, used our UK debit or credit cards to spend on holiday? To those of you there, waving frantically at the back – you’re not alone.

In 2016, British travellers spent £26.4 billion overseas using UK debit and credit cards, which is up from only £7 billion spent back in 2010! And it’s easy to see why, too. It’s handy, you don’t have to hike to a bureau, and it’s one less thing to have to think about when you go on holiday.

But if you’ve ever come home from a trip to discover all those little charges cluttering up your bank statement, you might have a sense of the price we pay for that convenience.

But how much are the fees, really? And are they worth the effort trying to avoid them? We’ve looked at the fees charged by typical UK debit card providers and reveal all, below. Spoiler alert: it’s worth avoiding them.


Fees on top of fees

Most UK debit cards charge a minimum “non-sterling transaction fee” of around 2.75% – 3%. That means that for every £500 you spend, you’ll pay an additional cost of around £13.75 – £15, from the off. Already not great, but unfortunately that’s only half the story.


major bank debit card fees
Debit card comparison table taken from Money Saving Expert


On top of this, several high-street banks such as Halifax, Lloyds, RBS, and Santander also charge a flat fee of between £1 and £1.50 for each individual transaction. So, assuming your £500 budget is spent over 25 transactions, that would mean an additional cost of around £37 (25 x £1.50). Add that to the £15 non-sterling fee, and you’ve already lost over £50. In fees.

OK, so what about withdrawing cash? Sorry, it’s not brilliant news here either. Most debit cards charge an ATM cash withdrawal fee of 1.5% – 2% – or a flat £1.50 – £2 – on top of the non-sterling transaction fee. So, if you decide to withdraw half of your £500 budget in cash, maybe to avoid those transaction fees, you could still end up paying nearly £12 for that one £250 withdrawal (2.75%*£250 + 2%*£250). Ouch.

How much does this all add up to? Assuming 50% of your £500 budget was spent on card over 10 transactions, and 50% taken out in one go in cash, here are the results.


Debit cards costs for Santander. Debit card costs for Lloyds. Debit card costs for Halifax. Debit card costs for Nat West. Debit card costs for Natwest. Debit card costs for bank of Scotland.
Charges checked on respective bank websites 13.03.17



So how do I avoid these?

Fed up with all this? We were too, which is why we [plug alert] stripped spending abroad back to basics with the WeSwap card. Check out the table below to see how WeSwap compares, taking into account all our fees, and assuming 50% was spent on card, and 50% was withdrawn from an ATM.


Comparison correct as of 13.03.2017.


With WeSwap, if you give us 7-day’s warning, you’ll only pay 1% to convert your currency. We don’t charge to pay with a WeSwap card abroad, and ATM withdrawals over £200 are also free, or £1.50 under this. It’s also free to apply for card and can be done in a matter of minutes. No fiddling about opening a new bank account required.

Which means that after everything, the money you’ll save using WeSwap vs your normal debit card means you’ll be left with at least an extra €34 to spend abroad. A round of bellinis on us, anyone?


WeSwap has a community of over 200,000 travellers swapping travel money instead of buying it from a bank. It is up to 90% cheaper than other travel money providers and we do not hide fees and commissions. Sign-up today.


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