New research from MoneySavingExpert has revealed stealth charges can add £100s to holiday costs.

These include 'debit cards from hell' to use overseas, hidden exchange rates on cards, paying more for pounds abroad and lousy exchange rates at bureaux de change (see the Cheap Travel Money guide).

But for every stealth charge, there is a counter move to avoid the fistful of extra costs that holidaymakers get smacked with abroad.

Martin Lewis, creator of, says: "Companies aren't stupid. They know we relax when we go on holiday and don't take note of fees and charges too often, so they take advantage by adding huge numbers of tough-to-spot stealth charges, which can shift £100s from our pockets into their coffers.

"So whether you're eating out on colons in Costa Rica, calling home with ringgits in Malaysia or doing whatever with your dong in Vietnam, be careful.

"If possible, act early and put one of the specialist cheap travel credit cards in your pocket, paid off in full each month, as that is the cheapest way to spend abroad full-stop - meaning you will get home to a much smaller bill."

Here are the top ten tips to avoid extra charges when abroad:

  • Charge 1. Debit cards that fine you every time you spend

    Shockingly, the single most expensive stealth charge when abroad is levied by debit, not credit cards. Many add an up to a £1.50 fee every time you spend, so buy something for £5 of euros and you pay £6.50. So, make 30 purchases on the plastic over a holiday and that's £45 extra.

    : The 'debit cards from hell' are Halifax, Lloyds, NatWest, RBS, Santander and IF.

    MoneySavingExpert's Solution:
    Simply avoid these cards if you can. If not, better to take out a lump sum from the ATM and spend that instead.

  • Charge 2. Cash withdrawal fees, even on debit cards

    Use your credit card or debit card at an overseas ATM, and you'll pay a fee to withdraw money.

    Almost all debit and credit cards.

    MoneySavingExpert's Solution:
    Provided your card isn't one of the debit cards from hell (see above), you're better off paying on the card than withdrawing cash.

  • Charge 3. A hidden load on the exchange rate

    Card providers themselves get the perfect exchange rate, yet no matter what the currency, they then add a hidden 'load' to your rate. Worse, this isn't split out on your statement, it's incorporated in the rate you get, so it's hard to spot.

    Typically, the load is 2.75%, so spend £100 worth of dollars and it'd cost you £102.75.

    Almost every debit and credit card.

    MoneySavingExpert's Solution: Grab a specialist overseas credit card for using abroad, as these add no or just a low load. In fact they are by far the cheapest way to spend abroad, beating even the best bureau de change.

    Yet do ensure you repay them in full to minimise interest (see the Cheap Travel Money guide).

  • Charge 4. Nightmare airport exchange rates

    Never change your foreign currency at the airport terminal. You'll pay substantially more, as they know you're a captive customer. Typically on €500, you'll pay about £40 more.

    Almost all airport and ferry terminal bureaux de change.

    MoneySavingExpert's Solution: If you're so late you need airport pick-up, simply pre-order it and collect it there for a much better rate (see for a comparison service to get the best rate).

  • Charge 5. Interest even if you repay in full

    Normally, repay a credit card in full at the end of the month and it's interest free. Yet withdraw cash from an ATM on a credit card and you'll pay even if you clear the card. At a typical cash withdrawal rate of 25% APR, the cost for the month is £2 per £100.

    Almost all credit cards.

    MoneySavingExpert's Solution: If you use a credit card overseas, it's better to pay on the card than to withdraw cash and use that to pay.

  • Charge 6. Fees for using plastic at bureaux de change

    Buy currency from a UK bureau de change and most cards treat it as if you're withdrawing cash abroad and charge a typical fee of 2.5% of the amount withdrawn.

    All credit cards and the following debit cards: Santander, Alliance & Leicester, Barclays, Cahoot, Co-op, Lloyds TSB, Smile, Natwest and RBS.

    MoneySavingExpert's Solution: Avoid the fee by using your debit card to withdraw cash from an ATM and pay with that. If you're doing it online, try to use a card that doesn't charge; if not the cost should be offset by using the cheapest bureau.

  • Charge 7. The 'commission-free is cheapest' lie

    Don't believe the 'commission free' hype. It's meaningless, as while the bureau doesn't charge you a fee, it may give you the worst exchange rate out there.

    Many bureaux de change.

    MoneySavingExpert's Solution: Simply ask the question: "If I give you £400, how many euros/dollars/shekels will you give me after all charges?" and compare who offers the most.

  • Charge 8. Anti-security cash withdrawal fees

    Withdraw cash while abroad and you pay a fee usually set up as the higher of £3 or 2.5%, so the proportionate cost is more for smaller amounts e.g, it's nearly a third on top for £10 worth of foreign currency. This means you're pushed to get larger amounts, which is not brilliant for budgeting or security.

    Almost every debit and credit card.

    MoneySavingExpert's Solution: Withdraw larger amounts less often and, if possible, aim for the amount where the percentage costs equal the minimum fee. Fror example, on £3 or 2.5%, withdraw £120, as at that amount £3 is 2.5%.

  • Charge 9. Poor exchange rates at high street bureaux de change

    Comparing exchange rates isn't easy, as they move daily. Many high street bureaux de change take advantage by giving poor rates. Change €500, and the best charge just £417, the worst as much as £470.

    Many High Street bureaux de change.

    MoneySavingExpert's Solution:
    Use a free currency comparison site to find which provider gives the best deal for all currencies (see the tool).

  • Charge 10. Pay more for paying in pounds

    If you're shopping abroad and the shop asks "do you want to pay in pounds or euros?", if you pick pounds, the rate could be atrocious as the shop does the conversion.

    Foreign shops and banks.

    MoneySavingExpert's Solution:
    It's always safer to pay in foreign currency, not pounds, as then at least you've a defined exchange rate. This is especially true if you're using one of the specialist cheap foreign cards.

Further reading/Key links
Save on your travel money costs: Cheap Travel Money,
Cut the cost of holidays: Cheap Flights, Cheap Hotels, Cheap Travel Insurance