MSE News

Santander customers caught out by cash withdrawal fees at Spanish branch ATMs

Santander customers caught out by cash withdrawal fees at Spanish branch ATMs

Hundreds of ATMs at Santander branches in Spain are charging UK customers with current accounts at the bank to withdraw cash, MoneySavingExpert.com can reveal – even though withdrawals for Santander customers at Santander branches are usually free.

The problem's arisen after Santander bought Spanish bank Banco Popular in 2017. Banco Popular branches were recently rebranded as part of Santander - but about 500 ATMs at these branches haven't yet been replaced with Santander-managed machines and so are charging UK current account customers to withdraw cash over the peak holiday season.

Holidaymakers are being hit with a 2.75% foreign exchange fee and a 1.5% cash-handling fee (a minimum of £1.99), even though Santander usually waives these charges for its current account-holders who make withdrawals in euros from Santander-branded cash machines in Spain. In one case, a MoneySaver was charged about £9.50 more than expected for a €200 withdrawal.

Santander says the ATMs in question do warn customers they will be charged, but some travellers claim "it is not obvious" and have been refunded after complaining. Santander is urging customers who think they have been wrongly charged to get in touch with its customer service team so it can investigate.

For full help on how to avoid unexpected charges when taking out cash abroad, see our 19 cheapest ways to get travel money.

'It's the start of UK holiday season – people need to be aware'

We've spoken to two Santander customers who were unexpectedly charged for withdrawing cash from these ATMs. Both were later refunded by Santander after complaining.

MoneySaver David told us: "I've been a Santander UK customer for many years and I regularly travel to the Costa Blanca. 

"On my last visit, I went to my usual ATM but found it was out of order so I went to a newly opened Santander branch a couple of miles away. This branch had an ATM in the wall and I noticed that there was no Santander branding but as it was definitely on their shop front, I felt confident to use it. I withdrew €200 the first time and €100 on the second.

"On both days the rate quoted on my statement was around 0.89 so €200 should have been about £178 but I was charged £184.79 plus a cash withdrawal handling fee of £2.70. €100 should have been £90 but I was charged £92.20 plus a £1.99 handling fee."

Another traveller, who asked not to be named, said: "We recently made a withdrawal from a Santander cash machine using a Santander card and we were charged – we used the same cash machine two months ago and received a free withdrawal. As it is nearly the start of UK holiday season, we wanted to make holidaymakers aware."

How to avoid being charged – and what to do if you are

The former Banco Popular branches are spread across Spain, so there's no easy way of checking if the Santander branch you're using is one. Santander says in total around 500 ATMs are still run by a "third party", but all of these have an on-screen warning about the charges, so make sure you check for a message.  

If you think you might have been charged, check your statements and look for a transaction note saying: 'CASH WITHDRAWAL HANDLING CHARGE'.

If you have been wrongly charged, contact Santander's customer service team:

Santander hasn't said that it's offering refunds to all those who have been unexpectedly charged, but the two customers we spoke to were both able to get the fees back. 

A Santander spokesperson said: "Our policy is that we do not charge Santander debit card-holders for ATM withdrawals from Santander-branded cash machines in Spain. We would encourage any customer who believes they have been wrongly charged to get in touch so we can investigate."

Santander says it's in the process of replacing all affected ATMs with Santander-managed machines.

'Don't assume you won't be charged when withdrawing cash'

Rosie Bannister, senior money analyst at MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "It's disappointing to see customers withdrawing cash in good faith from ATMs in Santander branches being stung with fees.

"If you've recently used a Santander ATM in Spain, check your statement to see if you've been charged – if you have, get in touch with Santander ASAP to demand a refund. And if you're heading to Spain soon, don't assume you won't be charged when withdrawing cash just because the cash machine's in a Santander branch – watch out for the warning."