UK travellers hit by Brexit fees on EU cash withdrawals — here’s how to avoid them

Mar 28, 2022

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French bank Credit Agricole is now charging U.K. travellers an additional €5 (£4.20) fee for all ATM withdrawals, and a whopping €18 (£15) fee on cash transfers made in EU countries using UK-issued credit and debit cards.

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As the second biggest bank in France and the third-largest bank in the whole of Europe, it’s sure to create quite the minefield for tourists looking take out money as they travel throughout the continent.

Prior to Brexit and Britain exiting the European Union, a Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) rule dictated that EU-wide charges must not exceed domestic charges.

But now, cut adrift from the EU, the cost cap no longer applies and Credit Agricole has duly seen fit to impose extra financial levies for those using U.K.-issued credit and debit cards.

Photo by Innocenti/ Getty

Following criticism from The European Consumer Centre, who had hoped for a U-turn on the charges, a spokesman for Credit Agricole said: “I can confirm that the commission is different if the country operating the payment is or is not part of the European Economic Area, whether they belong to SEPA or not.”

According to Anglo-French magazine The Connexion, other European banks are set to follow suit, which would not only pose further financial cost to tourists but those with second homes abroad as well.

Related: Eurostar is once again travelling direct from London to Disneyland Paris 

courtesy image source via getty images
Photo by: Getty Images

How to avoid cash withdrawal charges in the EU

Related: The world’s most powerful passports revealed – where does yours rank?

While circumnavigating the dreaded ATM fee is a bit trickier, if you avoid cash altogether and stick to direct purchases using a credit card that does charge a foreign transaction fee.

While most cards will charge you this fee for purchases in foreign currencies, Virgin Money no longer charges this fee for purchases in the European Economic Area – which covers 30 countries from Austria to Sweden.

Related: What is the best card to use while travelling abroad?

(Photo by Josh Gribben for The Points Guy)

This means you can use this card (and its no-annual-fee Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit Card version) when you’re in most of mainland Europe and earn points without incurring a fee. Best of all, you’ll earn a generous 1.5 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles per £1 or foreign currency equivalent spent.

You can read a full review of this card here.

If you prefer to use a debit card — though it’s worth noting you won’t earn any rewards on transactions — the Starling Bank Debit Card is also a good bet. Just remember that you’ll need to make sure to transfer sufficient funds onto the card before you travel.

Related: The Battle of the Travel Debit Cards: Revolut vs. Monzo vs. Starling vs. N26 vs. Curve

You can read a review of the Starling Bank card, as well as some of the other innovative travel debit cards available right now, here.

There are also ways to avoid extra charges on money transfers, such as signing up to a ‘borderless’ international money account such as Wise whenever sending money to foreign accounts that have imposed extra tariffs on UK-registered cards.

Bottom line

One of Europe’s largest banks has started charging Brits for ATM withdrawals when abroad and cash transfers to European accounts. This is an unfortunate side effect of Brexit and it’s likely that other banks will follow suit in due course.

While it can be tricky to avoid the charges altogether if you’re using a British bank card there are credit card options that would allow you to avoid foreign transaction fees on purchases, as well as some travel card debt options.

Of course, ATM fees aren’t the only additional costs looming over British travellers heading into mainland Europe this year. Back in January the European Commission confirmed that all U.K. travellers will soon have to pay a €7 visa fee in order to access all EU countries, which is set to come into force later this year.

If these post-Brexit charges continue we’ve a sneaky feeling passengers may soon be left feeling as blue as their passports.

Featured image by Westend61 / Getty Images.

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