The Fixer: overseas debit card charges

Using most debit or credit cards abroad will cost you a packet.

Updated: 
Have you been left out of pocket due to poor service or sharp practice? Do you have a money problem that won't go away?

It can seem impossible to get a fair result when you are battling a financial issue alone. But never fear! The AOL Money Fixer is here to help.

Dear Fixer,
I just got back from a month-long trip to America. I had a great time, but I was shocked to see the state of my bank account on my return.

I was staying with family most of the time, and was careful to stick to my spending budget as I am a student and I knew I had some bills to pay later this month.

But NatWest has been charging me huge amounts every time I made a cash machine withdrawal and also landing me with massive charges when I have used my card to pay in shops and restaurants.

In total, the charges add up to more than £100. I am very annoyed, but the bank says that these charges are completely normal. Can you help?

M Hunt, London

Dear Mr Hunt,

Overseas debit card cash withdrawals often attract high charges, with most banks imposing a fee of around 2.5% of the value of each withdrawal.

NatWest is unwilling to refund the charges because its terms and conditions state that it takes a 2% fee of at least £2 and no more than £5, plus a 2.75% Non-Sterling Transaction Fee that is also charged on purchases.

However, even though you cannot claim these charges back, you can take steps to ensure you are not stung a second time.

Top tips for cheaper overseas spending include ordering holiday currency online from a 0% commission provider such as Travelex, the Post Office or Sainsbury's before leaving the UK, remembering to shop around for the best deal.

When you are buying something on card overseas, it is also sensible to choose to pay in pounds rather than the local currency.

That's because local charges can add around 5% to the overall cost if you opt to pay in pounds.

Once you are working, it may also make financial sense to apply for a credit card that allows you to spend overseas fee free - as long as you clear the balance in full each month.

Compare credit cards with no fee for using abroad

The Fixer

Whatever your financial problem, write to themoneyfixer@aim.com and The AOL Money Fixer will get on the case.

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