Debit and Credit Card Charges on Non-Euro Purchases


When you use your Irish debit card or credit card for purchases in non Euro currencies – (including online) … you will nearly always be charged currency conversion fees by your bank. These charges will be on top of any “normal” bank transaction charges.
Most Irish banks will also make extra charges for non-Euro cash withdrawals at ATMs.


How much do Irish banks charge on purchases in foreign currency?

We did a comparison of bank charges when spending with a Debit Card , a Credit Card or using cash from an ATM .

We used a non-euro purchase worth the equivalent of €100 as an example. 

Debit Card Charges

  • bunq Travel Card  – no charge.
  • N26no charge
  • EBS  charge 1%  (minimum €0.30,maximum €6.00).
  • PTSB charge 1.75% (Minimum €0.46, maximum €11.43
  • KBC  charge 1.75% (Minimum €0.46, maximum €11.43
  • AIB charge 1.75% (minimum €0.45, maximum €11.00)
  • Bank of Ireland  charge 2% (maximum €11.43)
  • Ulster Bank charges 2%  (min €0.50, max 12)
  • Credit Unions charge 2% (Max €12)
  • An Post charge 3% (no cap)

Credit Card Charges

  • AIB Visa 1.75% in Europe; 2.75% Rest of World
  • AIB Mastercard 1.75%
  • PTSB Visa 1.75%
  • Ulster Mastercard  2%
  • BOI  2.25%
  • KBC 2%
  • An Post / Avant  2.65%


Using an ATM

Withdrawing cash at an ATM will cost you more than using a debit or credit card to purchase outside the Eurozone.
See  more details of ATM charges  Here


Irish Bank Card Charges on spending in a non-Euro currency (equivalent to €100).


Cheapest options are highlighted in bold.

Bank Debit CardCredit CardATM
N26€0.00n/a€1.75
bunq€0.00n/a€0.99
EBS€1.00n/a€1.91
PTSB€1.75€1.75€3.50
KBC€1.75€2€3.50
AIB€1.75€2.75€4.50
Credit Union€2n/a€3.50
BOI€2€2.25€3.50
Ulster€2€2€4.50
An Post€3€2.65€3.90
Avantcardn/an/a€3.90
Irish Bank Card Charges on Non Euro Spending

Summary of Debit and Credit Card Charges

  • 1. Using cards for non euro purchases works out cheaper than using cash from an ATM – especially for customers of N26 (no charge) .
  • 2. Using a debit card will usually work out cheaper than a credit card – especially on larger purchases.

Alternatives to the Main Banks

N26

N26 is an “online-only” bank based in Germany. It is covered by the EU bank guarantee and is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. You will need a smartphone to operate the account but it can also be used on a computer/laptop.
You won’t be able to 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.

Transferwise

The TransferWise multi-currency account is is authorised by the UK Financial Conduct Authority under the Electronic Money Regulations. Their “borderless account” comes with a debit card and a smartphone app . You can add and convert money, get instant notifications, and freeze or unfreeze your card anytime. There are small fees for transfers and spending (about 0.4%) . But the card exchange rate at Transferwise is usually slightly better than Visa/ Mastercard rates.

Bunq

bunq is a Dutch bank that provides an app and a “travel card” . With the bunq Travel card there are no fees on any card spending inside or outside the Eurozone.

One other very useful feature of the bunq Travel Card is that it is a prepaid Mastercard credit card. However , with the bunq Travel Card , unlike a real credit card,- you can’t spend more than your balance. Every payment will be immediately deducted from your Travel Card balance. But it will be accepted like a credit card for car hire and all hotel reservations, unlike prepaid debit cards such as Revolut.

The Irish government stamp duty of €30 is NOT charged on the bunq travel card and no credit checks are required.

You can find more details here about the Travel Card from bunq


Revolut is another “online-only” debit card option available in Ireland. It is not a fully licenced bank account (yet) – but it comes with a prepaid debit card that has low fees when spending in non Euro currencies .

Comparison of Revolut Vs N26

More about other Prepaid Debit Cards in Ireland.


Remember – there are 9 countries in the EU that don’t use the Euro as currency – they are Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Sweden and the UK.


Fees on Larger Purchases

There is no cap on credit card charges for purchases made outside the Eurozone – but debit card charges are capped at all banks in Ireland.

  • Debit card caps on charges :
    • Ulster Bank and Credit Union  cap is €12
    • BOI and PTSB cap is €11.43 ,
    • AIB is €11.

Example :  – for a non-euro purchase costing the equivalent of €1000  this is what you would be charged by the banks:-


BankDebit CardCredit Card
N26ZeroN/A
bunqZeroZero
BOI€11.43€22.50
Ulster Bank€12€20
AIB€11€27.50

All the figures above also apply to online purchases made in currencies other than Euro.


As you can see above –   it will work out cheaper to use your Irish debit card instead of a credit card for larger purchases in a currency other than Euros. This applies to online purchases too.

Compare bank card fees with Paypal and Amazon’s currency converter

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.

The same applies to the bunq Travel Card they dont charge fees.


Protection when Buying with a Card


In Ireland, Credit cards and Debit cards have exactly the same level of protection. More about card protection in Ireland here.

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) .


More information here about the cheapest way to exchange larger amounts of currency 


Spending Tips :

  • When using your card in a country that doesn’t use the Euro some shops or hotels will give you the option of having your 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.

Exchange rates used on debit and credit cards.

The vast majority of debit and 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.  There may be small differences between the rates used by Mastercard and Visa.
We have seen research from the UK showing that Mastercard has better rates than Visa the majority of the time. (Average of 0.5% better – but sometimes a difference of 3% !)

All Figures checked  September 2020


Note – For AIB Visa – the countries that are classed as “Europe”are
Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Liechtenstein, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK.