Ruth Emery
By Ruth Emery
Finance Journalist
Updated 03 May 2024
|Read time: 5 mins

Check the fees to avoid card charges abroad

If you’re thinking of using a bank card abroad, make sure you check what fees you could be charged. Card providers may levy a foreign exchange fee, when the money is converted from pounds into the local currency, and a fee when withdrawing money at an ATM.

Some specialist travel debit or credit cards have no fees. Our Partnership card can be used as your travel companion, but please keep in mind, there is a fee on each foreign transaction. 

There are a few ways to reduce the costs of using a bank card abroad. One way is to make sure you plan how often you want to draw cash from ATMs. If you do it less frequently you can limit the cost of withdrawing cash abroad.

Try not to withdraw cash on your credit card, unless you have a specialist fee-free card. This is because most credit card providers charge fees and interest on withdrawals from overseas ATMs.

Getting some local currency in advance of your trip, so you can arrive at your destination with some euros or dollars in your pocket, is also a good way to avoid card charges abroad. For no fee commission foreign currency, pop into one of the bureaux de change in our John Lewis & Partners shops, or order online. You can pick up the travel money at a John Lewis or Waitrose, or have it delivered to your home. 

Exchange rates in our shops may vary from those offered online.

Can I withdraw money abroad?

Yes, you can take money out of ATMs when you’re abroad on holiday, just watch out for any fees levied by your card provider and the ATM provider. If you’re struggling to find an ATM, use the Mastercard global ATM locator to discover your nearest one.

Is it better to pay in local currency on my card?

You may have noticed the option to pay in pounds or the local currency when paying with your card on holiday. You may think selecting sterling might be the better option, as it's the currency of your card. But in most cases, it could cost you more.

When you pay with your card in sterling in a foreign country, your card provider will determine the exchange rates, and may add additional transaction fees and markups to your purchase. Whereas if you pay in the local currency, you’ll likely only have to pay the exchange rate and a transaction fee, which usually means the transaction will cost you less. This depends on what the exchange rate for that time of purchase will be, so you can check ahead before your trip.

Can I use my Partnership Card abroad?

It’s easy to use your Partnership Card abroad, and there are several perks of packing it for your next trip:

  • Our systems will constantly monitor and protect your account without being prompted (there’s no need to tell us you’re travelling abroad)

  • We use competitive exchange rates to convert your money

  • You can keep track of your spending with our app

Please note using your Partnership Card abroad will include an additional exchange fee.

Is it better to pay with credit or debit cards?

This comes down to personal preference, as well as any international fees charged by your card provider. If the fees are similar on your credit and debit card, consider which payment method you prefer when you’re at home. You might also like to weigh up other factors, like the legal protection you get if you pay for something expensive on your credit card, and the fact that withdrawing cash abroad on a credit card can be expensive.

Will my card get blocked if I spend abroad?

If your card provider notices unusual spending patterns they may block the card to keep your money safe. While Partnership Card-holders do not need to tell John Lewis they’re travelling overseas, other card providers may recommend their customers tell them before any trips abroad.

Can I withdraw money abroad with my credit card?

It is possible to withdraw money abroad with your credit card – just watch out for any fees and interest. If you want no withdrawal fees abroad, it might be worth exploring a specialist travel credit card that offers free ATM withdrawals.

Travel money made easy

It’s always useful to have some local cash with you when travelling abroad. For foreign currency at great rates, pop to one of the Bureaux de change in our John Lewis & Partners shops around the UK or order online using our converter.

Exchange rates in our shops may vary from those offered online.

Here we explain the answer to “how much money can I take abroad?” as well as rules around bringing cash into the UK.

By planning ahead , you can reduce the charges and get a great deal on your holiday money.

Dealing with different cultures can be confusing – especially when it comes to tipping.

John Lewis Finance and John Lewis & Partners Bureau de Change are both trading names of John Lewis plc. Registered office: 171 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5NN. Registered in England (Registered Company Number 233462). John Lewis plc introduce the panel of carefully chosen providers in Bureau de Change products and services, whom each hold the appropriate licences with the Financial Conduct Authority and HMRC.

Foreign Currency online from both John Lewis Finance and John Lewis & Partners is provided by First Rate Exchange Services Limited registration number 04287490 (Money Service Business licence number MLR-64068), whose registered office is at Great West House, Great West Road, Brentford, West London, TW8 9DF England.

Copyright © John Lewis Partnership
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