Watch out for charges when buying foreign currency

Holiday goers are getting hit for using their debit cards to buy foreign currency in a bureau de change in the UK, Which? warns.

That’s an extra charge on top of the commission you can already expect to pay. Worst offenders are the Co-op who charge an extra 2%. Barclays, Santander, Natwest, RBS and Lloyds TSB do much the same.

They justify this by wording their charging rules cannily. Instead of saying, ‘we’ll charge you for using your card abroad’ they say ‘we’ll charge you for transactions in a foreign currency.’

Which? principal researcher Martyn Saville said: "You'd expect to pay extra fees for paying by credit card – cash withdrawals on credit cards are notoriously expensive, with most imposing transaction fees, APRs of around 30% and no interest-free period. But you wouldn’t expect this of a debit card.

‘And yet, pop down to the Post Office, Marks & Spencer or your local bureau de change to buy some currency before you go on holiday and it’s likely you’ll get stung by your bank for debit card charges. If some banks can still make a profit without hitting their local current account customers with sneaky charges, why can’t the others?’

We don’t know. Because they’re nice? Hmm.

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