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The EU has a €30 billion hidden fees problem

Hidden fees in international payments are not new. They’ve been banned by law since 2020 for cross-border payments within the EU.

Yet they remain a problem that cost people and businesses in the European Union a whopping €30 billion in 2023 alone.

For European consumers, that’s money that could have been used for daily spending, savings or investment, especially during a time of high inflation.

For the EU’s small and medium-sized businesses — who are hit the hardest by hidden fees — that’s money that could have gone to hiring, product investment, marketing or rainy day savings.

What are hidden fees?

They are the markup that financial providers add to the exchange rate used to convert money — often without communicating it.

Hidden fees affect everyone in Europe

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The EU should act now to end hidden fees in international payments

In 2023, the European Commission revealed the Payment Services Regulation (PSR) to put an end to this issue. It is currently going through the negotiation process. The European Parliament has just finalised its position (and it’s great!): it states that exchange rate mark-ups should be displayed upfront, in a transparent, distinguishable and easily understandable way, before final execution of the payment. The Council of the EU is next in line to give its feedback in the coming months.

True price transparency is the only way consumers and businesses are able to actually compare the market and shop around. Through the Payment Services Regulation, all payment service providers should be required to disclose their exchange rate mark-ups against a live, neutral benchmark rate — ideally, the mid-market exchange rate.

The PSR could put a stop to hidden fees, enabling consumers and businesses to finally know exactly how much they pay.

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Sign our petition and we will deliver it to the EU lawmakers

Dear EU lawmakers,

We are delivering this petition to request that the EU bans hidden fees in all cross-border payments, by maintaining strong fee transparency requirements throughout the Payment Services Regulation (PSR) legislative process. In particular, the PSR should require payment services providers to transparently disclose all of their fees upfront, including their exchange rate markups, for international payments. This cannot be watered down.

Today, consumers and small businesses are unable to compare costs or providers when sending, spending or withdrawing money abroad, or when shopping online with international retailers. In 2023 alone, European citizens and SMEs lost €30 billion to these hidden charges. That’s money that could have gone into savings, daily spending, hiring or international expansion.

The petitioners therefore request that EU lawmakers ensure that the transparency language in the Payment Services Regulation is robust and ends hidden fees for good: financial institutions must clearly show all exchange rate markups or fees associated with an international payment. The PSR should require providers to use a benchmark exchange rate — a live, aggregated mid-market exchange rate compliant with the Benchmark Regulation — to accurately calculate exchange rate markups, so consumers and businesses can see the total cost and comparison-shop. In addition, EU lawmakers should end the Corporate Opt-Out outlined in the article 38 of the Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) that excludes small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) from getting the payments transparency they deserve.

This will ensure that both consumers and SMEs know, clearly and upfront, exactly how much they’re paying and help them make an informed choice.


Sign our petition and we will deliver it to the EU lawmakers.

What else can you do?

If your bank is not transparent, report it to your local consumer organisation

International payments are financial transactions where the payer and the recipient are based in separate countries.

About the research

The research, conducted by independent research firm Capital Economics on behalf of Wise in January 2024, estimated the fees paid on foreign exchange transactions by EU consumers and SMBs in the EU (27 countries), in the eurozone (20 countries), non-euro EU (7 markets) and in France, Belgium, Germany and the UK.

The fees paid on foreign currency transactions, including both explicit transaction fees and ‘hidden’ exchange rate margin fees, have been estimated each year from 2018 to 2023 in four areas:

  1. Personal travel spending abroad — travellers face fees on purchases and cash withdrawals they make abroad using debit, credit and prepaid cards, as well as on cash exchanged pre-trip for foreign currency.

  2. Outgoing remittances — fees paid by those sending money to people who live abroad.

  3. Incoming remittances — fees faced by those receiving money sent by people living abroad.

  4. International trade by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)— fees paid by SMEs to convert foreign currency earnings into domestic currency and to obtain foreign currency to pay for imports priced in foreign currency.