Debit and Credit Card Charges Abroad

Debit and Credit Card Charges Abroad .

Is it cheaper to use your debit or credit card  , get cash from an ATM,  or buy the foreign currency before you leave Ireland ?

When you use your Irish debit card or credit card for purchases in non Euro currencies – you will be charged extra fees  by your bank on top of any “normal” transaction charges . Most banks also make extra charges for non Euro cash withdrawals at ATMs – but which option works out the cheapest?

We did a  quick comparison of the spending options abroad and the charges incurred when using a Debit Card , a Credit Card or using cash from an ATM or bringing cash with you that you exchanged here in Ireland. This time we have included a debit card from N26 – a new app-based online-only bank that is available to people in Ireland.

You can read more about ATM charges abroad in our article  about ATM charges for Non Euro Cash

Using a non euro purchase worth the equivalent of €200 as an example we have compared the bank charges made when using a debit card , a credit card or a cash ATM withdrawal.

Paying By Debit Card

  • Ulster Bank charge 1% of transaction value (minimum €0.25, maximum €6.00) plus additional 1% currency conversion fee (minimum €0.25, maximum €6.00)
  • BOI  charge 2% (maximum €11.43)
  • AIB charge 1.75% (minimum €0.45, maximum €11.00)
  • PTSB and KBC  charge 1.75% (Minimum €0.46, maximum €11.43
  • N26no charge

So – a purchase made with a debit card in a Non Euro currency the equivalent of €200 would incur charges as follows:

  • Zero with online bank N26
  • €4.00 with Bank of Ireland
  • €4.00 with Ulster Bank
  • €3.50 with PTSB, KBC or AIB

If you like the sound of this N26 bank – you can find out more on the N26 website. It is an “online only” bank based in Germany. You will need a smartphone to operate the account , you can’t pay in cash or cheques – so it might not suit everyone – but it might be a useful “second” account to take advantage of the low fees when making purchases in other currencies.

Paying By Credit Card  : Non Euro Purchases

Avant Card  2.65%
BOI Mastercard 2.25%
Ulster Mastercard  2%
KBC Mastercard 2%
AIB Visa 1.75%
PTSB Visa 1.75%

So  – the credit card fees on a €200 equivalent spend would be …
€5.30 with Avant
€4.50 at BOI
€4 with Ulster and KBC
€3.50.with PTSB / AIB

Using an ATM
Withdrawing cash would cost you more than using a card to purchase outside the Eurozone. An ATM withdrawal of the local currency equivalent of €200 would incur charges of €8.05 with most banks and €4.33 with N26
(NB  Ulster customers using a RBS or NAtWest ATM in the UK are not charged.) More Here

Verdict – using cards for non euro purchases works out cheaper than using cash from a ATM – espcially for customers of N26 (no charge)

Summary of Overseas Charges for spending the equivalent of €200 on a credit or debit card compared with taking out cash from an ATM

Bank Debit
€200 Cash
N26 €0 n/a €3.40 **
Ulster €4 €4 €7 **
BOI €4 €4.50 €7
AIB €3.50 €3.50 €7
€3.50 €4 €7
PTSB €3.50 €3.50 €7
Avant n/a €5.30 n/a

Exchanging Money before You Travel

Some people like to pay for stuff with cash when abroad . If you plan ahead – you can order travel currency before you leave Ireland. In our recent   currency exchange rate comparison we found the best Euro to Sterling exchange rate for cash in Ireland was from No1 Currency .
Ordering £1000 cash  in Sterling here in Ireland would cost  €1162.39  with them. (Figure from 12th Jan 2018)
(Order and pay for it online and get it delivered to your door for free.).

Larger Purchases:  There is no cap on credit card charges for puchases made outside the Eurozone – but debit card charges are capped at all Irish banks. (Ulster bank cap is €12 , BOI and PTSB are €11.43 , AIB is €11.)

Example :  – for  a non euro purchase costing the equivalent of €1000  you would be charged:

  •  €11.43 by Bank of Ireland when using a debit card but the charge would be €22.50 with a credit card.
  • Ulster Bank would charge you €20 on your credit card but using their debit card would incur a lower charge of  €12.
  • N26 would not charge you anything for spending on your debit card abroad.


The figures above also apply to online purchases made in currecncies other than Euro.

So – if you have the money in your current account it will work out cheaper to use a debit card instead of a credit card  for larger purchases outside the Eurozone. This applies to online purchases too.

If you open an N26 account – you will not have to pay any fees on foreign currency purchases with their debit card. They use the same exchange rates as all other Mastercards – so you won’t be worse off that way.

Many people assume that they are better protected when purchasing with a credit card if goods are faulty or don’t turn up. But under Irish law this is not the case (unlike the UK) .
In Ireland Credit cards and Debit cards have the same level of protection . More about that here.

More information here about the cheapest method of exchanging larger amounts of currency 

Tips : Often when abroad  (Non Euro Currency)  shops or hotels might give you the option of having your Irish debit or credit card payment converted to euros at the point of sale . Be aware that in most  (if not all) situations the final cost to you will be higher than if you paid in the foreign currency and let your card provider convert it to euro. So, when asked if you want to pay in Euros – say NO Thanks .

Ulster Bank debit cards can be used in the UK at ATMs in Nat West Bank or RBS and there will be no extra fees.

Note – Exchange rates used on credit cards. The main credit cards in use by Irish providers are either Visa or Mastercard . The exchange rates  are set on a daily basis by Visa and Mastercard . This means that when comparing a Visa card from AIB with a Visa card from Ulster Bank etc you shouldn’t need to take into account exchange rate differences because they should all use the same rate on a given day.
Figures checked  February 2018