The Hidden Holiday Charges Top 10
New research uncovers stealth charges adding £100s to holiday costs
New research from consumer revenge website MoneySavingExpert.com has revealed 10 major hidden charges holidaymakers get smacked with abroad, resulting in a fistful of extra costs. Yet, for every charge banks levy, there’s a counter move to avoid it …
(Solutions can be quoted as from Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert.com)
Charge 1. Debit cards that fine you every time you spend
Shockingly, the single most expensive stealth charge when abroad is levied by debit, not credit cards. Many add an up to £1.50 fee every time you spend, so buy something for £5 of euros and you pay £6.50. So, make 30 purchases on the plastic over a holiday and that’s £45 extra.
Culprits: The ‘debit cards from hell’ of Halifax, Lloyds, NatWest, RBS, Santander and IF.
MoneySavingExpert’s Solution: Simply avoid these cards if you can. If not, better to take out a lump sum from the ATM and spend that instead.
Charge 2. Cash withdrawal fees, even on debit cards
Use your credit card or debit card at an overseas ATM, and you’ll pay a fee to withdraw money.
Culprits: Almost all debit and credit cards.
MoneySavingExpert’s Solution: Provided your card isn’t one of the debit cards from hell (see above), you’re better off paying on the card than withdrawing cash.
Charge 3. A hidden load on the exchange rate
Card providers themselves get the perfect exchange rate, yet no matter what the currency, they then add a hidden ‘load’ to your rate. Worse, this isn’t split out on your statement, it’s incorporated in the rate you get, so it’s hard to spot. Typically, the load is 2.75%, so spend £100 worth of dollars and it’d cost you £102.75.
Culprits: Almost every debit and credit card.
MoneySavingExpert’s Solution: Grab a specialist overseas credit card for using abroad – as these add no or a low load. In fact they are by far the cheapest way to spend abroad, beating even the best bureau de change. Yet do ensure you repay them in full to minimise interest, for full best-buy info see www.moneysavingexpert.com/travelcards.
Charge 4. Nightmare airport exchange rates
Never change your foreign currency at the airport terminal. You’ll pay substantially more, as they know you’re a captive customer – typically on €500, you’ll pay about £40 more.
Culprits: Almost all airport and ferry terminal bureaux de change.
MoneySavingExpert’s Solution: If you’re so late you need airport pick-up, simply pre-order it and collect it there for a much better rate (though it’s even better to use the www.TravelMoneyMax.com comparison service to get the best rate).
Charge 5. Interest even if you repay in full
Normally, repay a credit card in full at the end of the month and it’s interest free. Yet withdraw cash from an ATM on a credit card and you’ll pay even if you clear the card. At a typical cash withdrawal rate of 25% APR, the cost for the month is £2 per £100.
Culprits: Almost all credit cards.
MoneySavingExpert’s Solution: If you use a credit card overseas, it’s better to pay on the card than to withdraw cash and use that to pay.
Charge 6. Fees for using plastic at bureaux de change
Buy currency from a UK bureau de change and most cards treat it as if you’re withdrawing cash abroad and charge a typical fee of 2.5% of the amount withdrawn.
Culprits: All credit cards and the following debit cards: Santander, Alliance & Leicester, Barclays, Cahoot, Co-op, Lloyds TSB, Smile, Natwest & RBS.
MoneySavingExpert’s Solution: Avoid the fee by using your debit card to withdraw cash from an ATM and pay with that. If you’re doing it online, try to use a card that doesn’t charge; if not the cost should be offset by using the cheapest bureau.
Charge 7. The ‘commission-free is cheapest’ lie
Don’t believe the ‘commission free’ hype. It’s meaningless, as while the bureau doesn’t charge you a fee, it may give you the worst exchange rate out there.
Culprits: Many bureaux de change
MoneySavingExpert’s Solution: Simply ask the question: “If I give you £400, how many euros/dollars/shekels will you give me after all charges?” and compare who offers the most.
Charge 8. Anti-security cash withdrawal fees
Withdraw cash while abroad and you pay a fee usually set up as the higher of £3 or 2.5%, so the proportionate cost is more for smaller amounts e.g, it’s nearly a third on top for £10 worth of foreign currency. This means you’re pushed to get larger amounts – not brilliant for budgeting or security.
Culprits: Almost every debit and credit card.
MoneySavingExpert’s Solution: Withdraw larger amounts less often, if possible, aim for the amount where the percentage costs equal the minimum fee, eg, on £3 or 2.5%, withdraw £120, as at that amount £3 is 2.5%.
Charge 9. Poor exchange rates at high street bureaux de change
Comparing exchange rates isn’t easy, as they move daily. Many high street bureaux de change take advantage by giving poor rates. Change ?500, and the best charge just £417, the worst as much as £470.
Culprits: Many High Street bureaux de change
MoneySavingExpert’s Solution: Quickly check the free www.TravelMoneyMax.com currency comparison site to find which provider gives the best deal for all currencies.
Charge 10. Pay more for paying in pounds
If you’re shopping abroad and the shop asks “do you want to pay in pounds or euros?”, pick pounds and as the shop does the conversion, the rate could be atrocious.
Culprits: Foreign shops and banks
MoneySavingExpert’s Solution: It’s always safer to pay in foreign currency, not pounds, as then at least you’ve a defined exchange rate. This is especially true if you’re using one of the specialist cheap foreign cards.
Martin Lewis, creator of MoneySavingExpert.com, comments:
“Companies aren’t stupid. They know we relax when we go on holiday and don’t take note of fees and charges too often, so they take advantage by adding huge numbers of tough-to-spot stealth charges, which can shift £100s from our pockets into their coffers.”
“So whether you’re eating out on colons in Costa Rica, calling home with ringgits in Malaysia or doing whatever with your dong in Vietnam, be careful. If possible act early and put one of the specialist cheap travel credit cards in your pocket, paid off in full each month, as that is the cheapest way to spend abroad full-stop – meaning you will get home to a much smaller bill.