Charges for international financial transactions

Re cead: without putting too fine a point on it - under communism there is no need to transfer funds because …

For Funds Transfers
I recommend using Currency Fair for funds transfers not involving USD, eg. AUD to Euro
The fees are tiny and the cost quoted includes any charges at the receiving end and shows the amount received by the recipient

NB always check the forex rate on beforehand and understand that the rate quoted is the interbank mid-rate

CHOICE has some great resources on travel money that are worth checking out. Trying to work out what’s going to save you $$ when you’re on holidays is a minefield, but hopefully this helps a little!

Carl I want to write to thank you for all of your excellent advice…!! I have taken notes of your ideas, and plan to implement all of them on my next overseas holiday. Thanks again, your help will come in very useful to me, and I am sure many other Choice customers and overseas travellers. Kind regards, and ta! :slight_smile:

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No worries - glad my information was useful. Please post your experiences and if you find a cheaper way to travel, let us know! Have fun on your next O/S holiday.



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Thanks to everyone for a really good discussion. I hope CHOICE will do another study of this topic for the benefit of us and very many members.
For me, although CurrencyFair looks like a very good prospect I’ve found that the bank I’m dealing with (in Malta) has never heard of it. Paypal looks like the best option for bringing foreign currency to Australia. But I’ll keep studying this thread for there are a lot of good ideas.

It seems like there’s a lot of interest in currency converters. We’ve definitely seen a rise in the number of apps advertised that offer this service.

I’ll pass this on to our investigations team and see if we can have someone take a look.


I found that if I get my $USD pension converted to $AUD on the US side and wire the $AUD to an Australian bank I will end up with about 5% more $AUD than if I wire the $USD to Australia and let our banks do the conversion. 5% is a pretty steep “non-fee”, especially when they also add their fees on top!

Tilly, I hope you’re still interested in an investigation of this. My experience, and that of our friends, points to a monumental gouging session being run by the banks against gullible consumers.

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I defer to @JodiBird the travel content whizz and @AndyKollmorgen money whizz.

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It certainly appears to be the case that banks use international financial transactions as an opportunity to charge customers more than it costs the bank to process the transaction. When it comes to overseas bank transfers, banks apply hefty exchange rate margins and often charge fees at both ends of the transaction, taking a significant bite out the transfer amount. With credit and debit cards, they often charge inflated overseas transaction and “purchase” fees as well as high ATM fees. Some banks and cards are certainly better than, others, though. The GE Money 28 Degrees card, despite shortcomings in other areas, is a good choice for overseas credit card purchases. And non-bank money transfer services are always a better option than banks.
Scroll down to the bottom of this story to see a comparison of overseas card charges:

And here’s a brief rundown on a few overseas money transfer services:

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It has been called to my attention that Westpac and perhaps others slug their customers 3% for withdrawing money from foreign ATMs as well as from foreign charges. If not in their global network, another $5, plus fees from the ATM owner. Our banks happily gouge whether from using a credit card, to a “travel cash card”, to withdrawing our money off shore. World’s top banking profits, courtesy of their customers. Our governmental response is to have our big bank CEOs answer mostly Dorothy Dix and soggy weetbix type questions for 3 hours a year.

I also have a US account with no annual fee and 0 fees for any of it. Interesting how real competition works in the customer’s favour.

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Thanks very much to TheBBG and other contributors. I’ve done a bit of legwork around the banks in Australia and have concluded that BankWest has better withdrawal rates than the others. At least I think so. They have, for credit cards, no conversion fees; they charge a $5 ATM cash advance fee and a 2% or $4 (whichever is greater) fee for withdrawals. This is also, of course, gouging but to a lesser degree than other banks to which I spoke.
I used to have a Euro account offshore but it was closed last year because the bank concerned decided it would shut down personal accounts for Australian residents (something to do with the costs of maintaining such accounts in the face of Australian Government red tape). It, like TheBBG’s USD account had minimal fees and there’s no cogent reasons why Australian banks can’t offer this kind of facility, especially as we are now supposed to be so globalised and “open for business”.
I really hope Choice can get into all this and help stimulate some real competition.


The related issue is banks charging a foreign exchange fee for purchases that were made for services in Australia advertised in Australian dollars. In particular, I have recently made two bookings on Airbnb for accommodation in Australia that was advertised in Australian dollars. The receipts from Airbnb and from Paypal were for the advertised amounts in Australian dollars. However the amounts taken out of my bank account were for significant more. I can only assume that the bank has added a currency conversion fee (Airbnb has a UK URL). Assuming this is the reason, it seems to me that it should be disclosed somewhere that the charge will not be in AUD as that would alert me to the likelihood that the bank would charge a currency conversion fee.


Pidgeon, that seems absolutely scandalous and well worth challenging. I’d be getting details from the bank, AirBnB and Paypal and raising a storm.

We’ve recently updated our travel cards review, including a side-by-side comparison of all cards.

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Is there different fees if your travel card doesn’t support certain countries like Indonesia

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If you don’t have a particular currency loaded onto a prepaid card, you can be charged a ‘cross-currency conversion’ fee. No shortage of fees and charges with travel cards.


The best travelling currency option I have come across is called Revolut and based in the UK. Their charges compare very well to other travel cards eg Qantas and I have had no problems using the card overseas, either in ATMs or direct shopping.

I am usually very attentive but today after having my car serviced I used my US issued card and the lady taking my money was working quickly and pushed once too often before I could stop her. She truly did not know the following, and apparently neither do her other foreign customers as we chatted about it. (US cards are still powered by steam so do not try to over-analyse the scenario described - no PINs and the routine is to press OK, OK, OK until it is done. Cards with PINs can be “stopped” if the card holder becomes aware of what is happening.)

The following is from an ANZ processed transaction that reflects what is essentially a banking scam to trap the unwary and add-on unnecessary charges that are pure profit for absolutely no value added.

The scam:
-> When the card terminal detects an overseas card it offers a guaranteed exchange rate. The rate is generally the worst or one of the worst xrates anywhere in the western world at that moment, But wait, there is more!

-> Although one can accept or decline that xrate and go with the Visa/Mastercard xrates that are always more favourable, the “offer” is presented in a way that most shop assistants see as informational not a yes/no to accepting the poor xrate.

-> To decline the offered xrate requires a push of the cancel button. Most shop assistants interpret having to “cancel” not as just rejecting the xrate, but as cancelling the transaction, so they don’t think anything more and push OK. That OK accepts the poor xrate. But wait, there is more!

-> ANZ proudly adds their 2.5% fee for currency conversion services on top of the poor xrate. At the end of the transaction the card holder has paid about 3% more in the native currency than if they had rejected the “offer” and processed the charge as an $AUD charge, not one in the card’s native currency.

Our banks are going to extract our dollars whether or not we are their customers, or whether or not they are providing any services at all, let alone “valuable services”.

Our banks are not the most profitable in the world because they are efficient or competitive. Caveat Emptor.

(today the Visa xrate was $AUD1=$USD0.763524 (and the $AUD is falling) while ANZ charged 0.7881, a 3.1% rip)


Thanks for posting TheBBG your information is duly noted.
What other Banking “scams” are they going to come up with next in order to extract more of our hard-earned dollars I wonder???

Buyer beware…