Nationwide Travel Money: Foreign Currency Rates & Fees Explained


If you’re planning a get away soon, you’re probably trying to figure out the best place to get the foreign currency you’ll need to pay your way while you travel. There are plenty of choices, including high street currency exchange services, banks, and alternative providers such as Wise. Each option has a different fee structure, so it’s worth doing a bit of research to find the right deal for you.

Nationwide is the largest building society in the world, and one of the biggest providers of mortgages, savings products and current accounts to the British public. If you already hold an account with them, you might be considering using Nationwide to fund your travels. Here’s all you need to know about arranging your travel money with Nationwide.

What products does Nationwide offer to get your holiday money sorted

Nationwide does not offer a foreign exchange service, so you won’t be able to visit a branch and get foreign currency before you travel. However, there are a couple of ways you can use your Nationwide account to fund your trip.

Use your Nationwide credit or debit card while you travel

You can use your Nationwide credit or debit card to make purchases, or take local currency out of cash machines as you travel. There are costs involved in this, which are set out below.

Nationwide credit cards come with an opportunity to earn commission free spending while you travel. For every purchase you make in pounds, you’ll be given an allowance which you can use to offset the charges on purchases made overseas. The full details are on your Nationwide credit card statement, or in your terms and conditions which can be found online.

Make an international transfer to cover your costs

Another option is to make an international payment from your Nationwide account, to cover some or all of your travel costs. You could use this to pay for a tour or hotel in advance, for example, or send money to a trusted friend with a bank account wherever you’re headed, and withdraw the money in local currency from fee free ATMs once you arrive.

What are the fees for getting your travel money with Nationwide?

Here’s what you need to know about Nationwide’s fee structure for spending and sending money overseas.

ServiceNationwide fee
Using your Nationwide card for purchases in a foreign currencyFlexAccount Debit Card: 2.75% of transaction cost. FlexBasic Debit Card: 2.75% of transaction cost. Nationwide Credit Card: 2% of transaction cost not covered by your commission free allowance
Using your Nationwide card for international ATM withdrawalsFlexAccount Debit Card: 2.75% of withdrawal amount + £1 per withdrawal. FlexBasic Debit Card: 2.75% of withdrawal amount + £1 per withdrawal. Nationwide Credit Card: 2.5% of withdrawal amount, minimum £3. There may be an additional charge added by the ATM operator
International transfersSWIFT transfers to accounts held outside of the UK: £20 + possible intermediary charges connected to the SWIFT network SEPA payments to euro accounts: £9
Exchange rate markupIt’s worth checking the exchange rate used for any international transfer or spending, to see if a markup has been added to the exchange rate. More on that later.

If you’re thinking of making an international transfer to cover some or all of your holiday spending, it’s worth knowing a bit about how the SWIFT network operates. The SWIFT network is commonly used when banks process international payments, and involves a series of connected banks, known as intermediaries, working together to move your payment to the right place.

Up to 3 banks can work together to process a single payment - and each one could deduct a fee for their service. This means that your recipient might get less than you’re expecting them to, if your payment is routed using the SWIFT network. You can avoid the SWIFT network by using an alternative provider of international payments, such as Wise.

What is the exchange rate you’ll get with Nationwide?

If you decide to make an international payment with Nationwide, you can find the exchange rates that will be used on the Nationwide website. The rate will also be shown before you confirm your SWIFT or SEPA transfer, so you can double check you’re happy with it.

It’s worth checking the rate offered by Nationwide against the mid-market exchange rate. The mid-market rate is the one you’ll find if you google your currency pair, or use an online currency converter. However, many banks and international transfer services don’t actually pass this rate on to their customers. Instead, it’s common practise to add a markup to the rate used. The provider can then keep the difference as their profit.

Before you choose an international payment provider, compare the travel money costs of a few different services, including an alternative which offers transfers using the mid-market rate, like Wise, to make sure you get a good deal.

Can you order travel money with Nationwide online?

You can not order foreign currency online with Nationwide.

To get your local cash if you’re visiting friends or family overseas, you might consider making an international transfer to their local bank account before you travel, and have them withdraw the cash for you once you arrive via fee free ATMs.

You’ll have to pay to make the transfer, but you’ll then avoid the international ATM withdrawal costs which are added when you take out local cash using your sterling debit card. The costs for an international transfer with Nationwide are included in the table above. Compare them to the price of an international payment through Wise, to see how they stack up.

Does Nationwide offer a travel money card?

Travel money cards allow users to load up foreign currency before they travel, and then either withdraw it in local cash, or spend it in shops and restaurants while they’re away. They’re popular with holidaymakers because they are as convenient as using a debit card but usually aren’t linked to your main bank account, making them somewhat safer.

Nationwide doesn’t offer a travel money card, so if you want to get one to fund your spending while you’re away, you’ll need an alternative provider. One great option is to get yourself a multi-currency borderless account and debit card from Wise.

It’s free to open a borderless account, and there is no monthly fee or minimum balance. Once your account is up and running, you can choose any of over 40 different currencies, and hold them all in the one account for convenience. You’ll get a linked travel money card for ATM withdrawals and spending while you’re abroad, so you can simply top up your borderless balance before you travel, and use your linked card in the same way as you might a travel money card.

If you’re planning on using any type of credit, debit or prepaid card while you travel, one thing you must look out for is dynamic currency conversion - DCC.

DCC is an unexpected cost that can prove a headache for many travellers. You’ll see it when you use your card to make a purchase or withdraw money from a cash machine, and you’re asked if you want to pay in the local currency or in pounds. Paying in pounds sounds convenient because you don’t need to figure out the currency conversion. However, if you choose to do this, the exchange rate will be selected by the ATM operator or retailer, and they could add a fee, too. This is usually more expensive in the end - so always choose to pay in local currency to get the best deal.

If you have a Nationwide current account and want to use it to pay for your holiday spending, you have a couple of options including using your credit or debit card, or sending money abroad to cover your costs. But before you decide how to get your travel money, it’s worth researching several options and comparing these with the offer from Nationwide to make sure you get the right deal for you. Then you can just relax and enjoy your break.

All sources correct as of 27 December 2018

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