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Australians pay higher currency conversion fees, says government

Australians pay higher currency conversion fees, says government

Changing money to a different currency is costing more than you might think, and it’s something the government isn’t happy about.

Every time you travel to anywhere not Australia, there’s a good chance you’re being charged more than just what you expect to pay for food, lodging, and entertainment. In fact, there’s a chance you’re being charged more for the privilege.

This week, the Australian government has asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to look into this matter, with excessive fees being put under the microscope.

According to the government, currency conversion fees in Australia are higher locally than they would be overseas, with $5,000 on credit card spend expecting to incur $140 in foreign exchange transaction fees while a transfer of $1,000 would see around $80 in fees.

In fact, the government suggests Australians are being hit with a 30 per cent markup, adding to what is $2 billion in foreign transaction fees every year, applying to most foreign currency conversions, including transferring money overseas, converting money overseas into a foreign currency, using debit or credit cards online to make purchases in a different currency, and the use of debit and credit cards overseas.

While most credit card providers charge foreign transaction fees, there are some credit cards with no foreign transaction feeswith ING one such example, last year scrapping all international ATM, credit, and debit card charges for customers.

The ACCC request comes off the back of evidence from the Productivity Commission suggesting Australians are being hit with higher fees than in other countries, and is part of the government’s commitment to ensure fair pricing to consumers.

A report is expected early next year.

Transaction accounts that have no international fees

BankO/S ATM feeFee from ATM providerCurrency conversion feeAdmin feesNotes
ING Orange Everyday$0Refunded$0$0Must deposit $1K and make 5 transactions a month to qualify for free ATMs.
Citibank Plus$0At cost$0$0Fee-free international money transfers.
RAMS Action$0At cost$0$0Overseas ATM must display the cirrus or maestro logo.
Macquarie transaction account$0At cost$0$0Macquarie are currently running a special that waives their overseas ATM fee.
HSBC everyday global account$0At cost*$0$0This account lets you load up to 10 currencies. *Foreign ATMs charge a fee but HSBC branded ATMs are fee free.
Ubank$0At cost$0$0

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Fact Checked -

This article was reviewed by Head of Content Leigh Stark before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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Learn more about credit cards

What to consider before transferring money from your credit card to your bank account in Citibank?

You can transfer money from a Citibank credit card to a bank account depending on the available limit of each. The process is known as a cash advance transaction, and Citibank should allow you to transfer some portion of the total credit limit.

Transferring funds from a credit card to a bank account is likely to attract additional charges, so please consider the following potential costs:

  • A cash advance fee, which is a per cent of the total transfer amount
  • A 2 per cent transaction fee when you transfer money from a Citibank credit card to a bank account
  • Cash advance interest rate applicable on the transfer amount without any interest-free period.

To learn more about such transfers, you can contact the bank via the online service desk, email, or by calling 13 CITI (13 24 84).

Can I transfer money from my American Express credit card to my bank account?

If you’re an American Express credit card customer, you may not be able to transfer money from your credit card to your bank account. However, you may be eligible for cash advances, which involves withdrawing money through an ATM. 

To qualify for a cash advance, you’ll likely have to enrol for American Express Membership Rewards. Consider checking your online credit card account to see if you can withdraw a cash advance and, if so, the fees and charges you’ll incur for this transaction. 

You should remember that cash advances are different from balance transfers, which were available with some American Express credit cards earlier. Balance transfers allow customers to consolidate debt from high-interest credit cards to a credit card offering a lower interest rate. If you only recently applied for an American Express credit card, balance transfers may not be available irrespective of the card you own. 

How do credit cards work?

Think of credit cards as a short-term loan where you use the bank’s money to buy something up front and then pay for it later. Unlike a debit card which uses your own money to pay, a credit card essentially borrows the bank’s money to fund the purchase. When you apply for a credit card, the bank assesses your income and assigns you a credit limit based on what you can afford to pay back. At the end of each billing cycle, which is usually monthly, the bank will send you a statement showing the minimum amount you have to pay back, including any interest payable on the balance.

Current Annual Fees

These are the current annual fees on your existing credit card.

How do you use a credit card?

Credit cards are a quick and convenient way to pay for items in store, online or over the phone. You can use a credit card as a cashless way to pay for goods or services, both locally and overseas. You can also use a credit card to make a cash advance, which gives you the flexibility to withdraw cash from your credit card account. Because a credit card uses the bank’s funds instead of your own, you will be charged interest on the money you spend – unless you pay off the entire debt within the interest-free period. If you pay the minimum monthly repayment, you will be charged interest. There are many different credit card options on the market, all offering different interest rates and reward options.

Can a pensioner get a credit card?

It is possible to get a credit card as a pensioner. There are some factors to keep in mind, including:

  • Annual income. Look for credit cards with minimum annual income requirements you can meet. 
  • Annual fees. If high fees are a concern for you, opt for a card with a low or $0 annual fee. 
  • Interest rate. Make sure you won’t have any nasty surprises on your credit card bill. Compare cards with a low interest rates to minimise risk.

What is a credit card?

A credit card is a payment method which lets you pay for goods and services without using your own money. It’s essentially a short-term loan which lets you borrow the bank’s money to pay for things which you can pay back – potentially with interest – at a later date. Credit cards can also be used to withdraw money from an ATM, which is known as a cash advance. Because you’re borrowing money from a bank, credit cards charge you interest on the money you use (unless you repay the entire debt during the interest-free period). When you apply for a credit card, the bank gives you a credit limit which sets the maximum amount you can borrow using your card. Credit cards are one of the most popular methods of payments and can be a convenient way of paying for goods and services in store, online and all around the globe.

Can I transfer money from a credit card to a bank account with HSBC?

With HSBC’s cash transfer function, you can transfer money from a credit card to a bank account. Customers who wish to make cash transfers have to apply through HSBC and are charged interest on the transactions, but no other fees. Under the program, customers can:

  • Borrow between $500 and $15,000, so long at least 20 per cent of the credit limit is still available after the transfer
  • Transfer to any nominated bank account quickly. 


Registered HSBC online banking users can log in to their accounts and select credit cards online from the My Banking tab. They can then complete the form from the Cash Transfer option. On approval, the requested amount is transferred to the nominated bank account within three days.

Customers can also register for the cash transfer program via the Mobile Banking app. Don’t forget to check the interest rate you’ll be charged, both before and after any promotional period.

How to get a free credit card

There's no such thing as a free lunch. All credit cards come with associated costs when used to make purchases, even if it’s simply the cost of making repayments.

However, many lenders offer incentives for customers such as a $0 annual fee or 0 per cent interest on purchases during an introductory period. Additionally, paying off your balance in full during an interest-free period means you could only have to pay back the cost of purchases without interest. You could also be eligible for additional rewards such as cashback during that time, saving you more money.

How do you cancel a credit card?

It’s important to cancel your old cards to avoid any additional fees. Unless you’re doing a balance transfer, you’ll need to pay the outstanding balance before you cancel your credit card. If you’ve opted for a card with reward points, make sure you redeem or transfer the points before you close your account. To avoid any bounced payments and save yourself an admin headache, redirect all your direct debits to a new card or account. Once you’ve done all the preparation, call your bank or credit card provider to get the cancellation underway. Once you receive a confirmation letter, destroy your card and make sure the numbers aren’t legible.

How do I transfer money from my Commonwealth bank credit card to my bank account?

Your Commonwealth bank credit card may include a cash advance benefit, but you won't be able to transfer money to your bank account. 

You can, however, withdraw cash from your credit card at an ATM. You should remember that you have to pay a fee for such transactions, and you’ll be charged interest from the day you withdraw the cash. 

Unlike other credit card transactions, you don’t get an interest-free repayment period for cash advances. Also, you may not be able to access your full credit card limit for a cash advance.

What is the American Express credit card insurance coverage?

Several American Express credit cards, including the Gold, Platinum and Green cards, come with international and domestic travel insurance, shopping and purchase protection and smartphone screen insurance. All you have to do to activate your American Express credit card insurance cover is use it to pay for eligible purchases, travel, and a smartphone.

The complimentary travel insurance requires you to be less than 80 years old with no pre-existing diseases and your travel must begin and end in Australia.

To make an American Express credit card insurance claim, you’ll need to lodge your request with Chubb Claim Centre within 30 days. Submit the form along with supporting documents like medical reports, original invoices and receipts. You can also contact Chubb on 1800 139 149 or file a claim via the Chubb website.

Who is eligible for Bankwest credit card insurance

Bankwest offers complimentary overseas travel insurance to its Gold MasterCard, Platinum MasterCard and World MasterCard cardholders. Eligible Gold and Platinum MasterCard customers are covered for up to 31 consecutive days of travel, while the World MasterCard holders are covered for six successive months.

To receive the complimentary Bankwest credit card insurance, cardholders need to:

  • Be under 80 years old
  • Be travelling to a foreign destination
  • Not have a cancelled or suspended card.


The complimentary insurance is also available to spouses and children if they travel with you for the entire period. The level of cover depends on the type of card and its  credit limit. Some of the standard types of cover include:

  • Overseas emergency medical assistance
  • Personal liability
  • Accidental demise
  • Baggage and personal goods.


It’s important to remember that pre-existing conditions are not covered by the complimentary Bankwest credit card insurance. Other terms and conditions also apply. 

If you are an eligible cardholder and need to make a claim, it can either be done online or by calling +612 8907 5615. 

How do I increase my Virgin credit card limit?

If you’re a Virgin Money cardholder and you’re looking at increasing your credit card limit, the first step is to get in touch with Virgin’s credit team on 13 37 39. 

Once you request a Virgin Money credit card limit increase, the lender will do an assessment of your current financial position to make sure you can repay the credit. Virgin Money will typically take 7 to 10 working days to complete this process.

Virgin Money has strict terms around credit increases. To be eligible, you must have opened your account no less than nine months before making the application. Also, at least six months must have passed since your last credit limit increase. The maximum increase you can expect will be 50 per cent of your existing credit limit.