2017 Charges for international ATM withdrawals and POS payments with your South African debit #credit


Posted On Aug 13 2017 by

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A few people have asked me what is the best method to make payments when travelling internationally or when purchasing items from an international website.

When I travel abroad I always try to carry some foreign currency notes. I also carry my debit and credit cards which I use to withdraw cash from foreign ATM s or make POS (point of sale) purchases at foreign merchants. I decided to look at the rates that my bank and other South African banks charge for debit and credit card ATM withdrawals and POS purchases and I m stunned by the high amounts.

The South African card providers charge different card administration rates and service fees. Some of your debit card rates are dependent on the account package and pricing option you selected from your local bank. There may be various perks included such as travel insurance. reward programs and air lounge access. If you are interested in the other fees I have provided a link to the 2017 pricing tables from each card provider.

Credit Card International ATM Withdrawal Fees *

International ATM withdrawals is R50, currency conversion 2.75%

American Express Credit Card

R40,00 plus R1,32 per R100,00 or part thereof + currency conversion fee (2%)

R 35 + R2 per R100+ 2.75% conversion fee

Capitec Credit Card

R50 ATM withdrawal fee. MasterCard may charge a 0.2% currency conversion fee.

Capitec feedback: you are only charged the withdrawal fee the external bank will automatically convert the foreign currency rates for the specific day

International (levied by foreign bank) R35.00 Base fee + R2.20 per R100

R60 plus 1.85% of transaction value plus 2.75% conversion fee

FNB Gold and Premier

Gold: R1.85 per R100 (minimum R60) + 2.75% conversion fee

Premier: R60 + R1.85 per R100 + 2.75% conversion fee

If the indicative exchange rate for 1 US dollar is displayed as R14 for the day, if you swipe your card and are being charged 2% commission you are actually paying R14.28 for 1 US dollar. That is 28c more per dollar.

At 2,75% commission if the indicative exchange rate for 1 US dollar is R14 then you are actually paying R14.385, or 38.5c more per dollar. This is before any service fees may be added.

Debit / Cheque Card International ATM Withdrawals *

R50. Global Alliance partners: R35,00. Currency conversion 2.75%

Capitec Global One Account

R50 plus MasterCard may charge a 0.2% currency conversion fee.

Capitec feedback: you are only charged the withdrawal fee the external bank will automatically convert the foreign currency rates for the specific day

FNB Gold and Premier

Gold: R50 + 2.75% conversion fee

Premier: R60 + R1.85 per R100 + 2.75% conversion fee

2,75% (Note: 0.25% more than the credit card rate)

Unless you have told your card provider that you are travelling abroad they may put a block on the card due to suspicious activity if they see the card being used for an international transaction. This can be annoying if you are not roaming and the card provider cannot get hold of you to confirm the transaction.Debit and credit cards do offer convenience in allowing you to draw cash when you need it (particularly if it is a Visa or MasterCard branded card which is accepted in most countries). However, you are charged using the exchange rate of the particular day you perform the transaction on. Exchange rates fluctuate and you may not be know the exact amount you are paying.

Alternatives to credit and debit cards:

Prepaid cards / Travel Wallets

These are prepaid Visa or MasterCard debit cards that you load at home with foreign currency at a fixed exchange rate before you commence your trip. These cards may attract initiation, admin, reload, ATM withdrawal, POS purchase and commission / currency conversion fees. A limited number of currencies may be available on these cards.

Some of the providers:

Bidvest World Currency Card™

A pre-paid foreign currency card on Visa for 18 currencies.

Currency commission fee when loading the card 2.20%, min R72.00

Various fees apply (Card activation R150, card admin: R79 + VAT, Card Reload: Commission +admin fee).

Subsequent POS transaction fees abroad are free.

See ATM withdrawal and other fees here: Pricing

American Express Global Travel Card No longer possible to reload after November 2016

Travellers Checks are also an option if you are going to a destination that has many exchange bureaus available for you to conveniently change your currency. I ve never used travellers checks and I believe their usage is on the decline.

Debit and Credit cards are the most convenient, but you re generally paying a price for that convenience. You should however always carry a debit or credit card in case of emergency. Prepaid travel cards are worth it if you want your conversion rate fixed and if you re planning to spend above a specific amount where the lower currency conversion fees covers the card administration fees.

If you can, try opening a local bank account in the USA. You may just need a passport and proof of residence (in your foreign country) at a bank like Wells Fargo. Then make a SWIFT transfer of funds from your South African bank account to the US Account (I was charged 0.5% commission by Standard Bank), and use your US Credit card for purchases. The fees are much lower this way if you re a frequent traveler.

At the end of the day you need to do a little homework to determine the best solution(s) that suits you. Depending on where you are going and how much you plan to spend you should determine which solution(s) best meet your needs. I ve listed some of the options available to you with my understanding of the pricing (you need to double check the pricing guides yourself and consult with your financial institution for their advice ).

Travel Gadgets to consider

If you re carrying cash, consider these locally available products that can reduce the risk of pick-pocketing / losing your items.

Insert this little device into your wallet or other valuable items. You ll be able to trace it with your phone if it s within range of your phone (+-30m) or other people s phones if they re using the same tech.

This is a lightweight wallet that you wear around your neck, and conceal behind your clothing. It has RFID protection to protect your credit cards from unwanted scans.

This is a secure pocket wallet which is almost invisible to thieves, and can t be snatched away from you.

There s quite a large variety of travel wallet options available. Click here to see more options.

I am not a financial adviser and I am not recommending any specific product(s). The information I ve shared is all in the public domain (with links to the source pricing info). Remember that you need to comply with South African Exchange Control Regulations when dealing with foreign currency. Financial Institutions, if I have made any errors in my interpretation please advise. I will make the necessary corrections.

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Last Updated on: August 13th, 2017 at 11:51 am, by


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