Using your card abroad - fees and charges explained

Taking your cards with you when you head overseas means you won’t have to rely on just cash. However, there are fees to be aware of when using your debit or credit card for purchases or withdrawing cash abroad.

What are the charges for using your cards abroad?

You may be charged a fee when you use your debit or credit card abroad to make purchases or withdraw cash from ATMs in a foreign currency. These are the three charges you need to be aware of.

Non-sterling transaction fee

If you use your card to spend in shops, bars and restaurants, or withdraw money from a cash machine in a country that doesn’t use GBP, you’ll usually be charged a fee to convert the currency.

If you pay in the local currency, a non-sterling transaction fee may be added to the cost of your purchase. The fee will be a percentage of the value of the transaction - for HSBC customers this is typically 2.75 per cent for debit cards and 2.99 per cent for credit cards. The total amount is converted to GBP when the transaction is debited to your account.

If you choose to convert to GBP at the point of sale, the conversion rate is set by the merchant and fees can often be high. In most cases it’s cheaper to pay in the local currency, then either Visa or Mastercard will do the currency conversion at their current rate. You should always have the right to select which currency to pay in.

Explore more: Should you pay in local currency abroad?

Non-sterling cash fee

If you use your card to withdraw money from a cash machine, there is often a separate ATM fee on top of the non-sterling transaction fee.

For HSBC customers there is a non-sterling cash fee of around 2 per cent (minimum £1.75) on withdrawals using a debit card. With a credit card the cash fee may be around 3 per cent (minimum £3). 

If you’re an HSBC Premier or Advance customer, you won’t be charged a non-sterling cash fee for using your debit card to withdraw money from an ATM abroad.

Explore more: Should you use your card or travel money abroad?

Interest charges

If you use your credit card to withdraw cash or make purchases abroad, interest charges will apply in the same way they do at home.

Do fees appear on your statement?

Your bank statement will show details of your overseas transactions, including a breakdown of any charges incurred.

It should include the exchange rate and cost of the purchase when converted to pounds, plus the non-sterling transaction fee and non-sterling cash fee if you’ve withdrawn money with your card.

What next?