Two-thirds of Brits have been caught out by unexpected costs while abroad

Amanda Bullock / October 26,2022
Two-thirds of Brits have been caught out by unexpected costs while abroad

The top financial mishaps that have caused unexpected costs for holidaymaking Brits include not understanding exchange rates – and not haggling for an item when it is expected.

A poll of 2,014 adults found that one in ten (11%) have lost foreign currency while abroad – or had it stolen – while six in ten have been stung by fees for making withdrawals or debit card transactions overseas.

A further 12% have failed to understand exchange rates, and ended up wildly overpaying for something, while a fifth (22%) have been caught out paying hotel rates for excursions, that were cheaper elsewhere.

In all, two-thirds of travellers (65%) admit they have faced financial issues that have cost them cash while abroad.

This research, commissioned by HSBC UK to launch its new account, Global Money, allows customers to spend abroad (withdraw cash or make card purchases) without the bank charging fees.

Two-thirds of Brits have been caught out by unexpected costs while abroad

Tom Wolfenden, head of retail at the bank, said: “As the research shows, spending abroad can be mind boggling if you don’t fully understand conversion rates and local currency.

“This year many people will be travelling internationally again, but with the rising cost of living they’ll also be keeping a close eye on their finances.

“The most popular way to spend abroad is with a debit card – but traditionally, this incurs fees, and exactly what people are paying isn’t always clear.

“Customers should be able to manage their money whenever and wherever they want without worrying about fees.

“We want to make it easier for our customers to manage their spending so they can focus on enjoying their trip.”

More than half of travellers (56%) don’t know how much their debit card provider charges for purchases or cash withdrawals.

And almost three in ten (28%) couldn’t say how much they paid in fees last time they went away.

Two in three Brits say the rising cost of living has changed the way they holiday abroad – with travelling outside of peak season (20%), and sticking to a tight spending budget (27%), among the most popular ways of saving money.

Travel journalist & broadcaster Simon Calder added: “Like many travellers, I’ve moved most of my holiday spending from cash to card over the past couple of years, and with finances under pressure it is essential to keep track of your holiday spending – and avoid unnecessary transaction fees when paying by card.

“I’m all in favour of cutting complexity – and you can’t get simpler than “no fee” when spending or withdrawing money from a local ATM.

“It all helps bring down the cost of a holiday, which is needed more than ever at the moment.”


  1. Getting a taxi to/from airport instead of public transport
  2. Forgetting an item(s) and paying more than you would do at home for that item(s) at your destination
  3. Not haggling for a purchase when it is expected
  4. Underestimating the cost of goods/average cost of living at your chosen holiday destination, and not taking enough money with you
  5. Paying in UK currency instead of local currency when making a card purchase
  6. Getting a taxi to travel from place to place during the holiday when a free/discounted shuttle is available
  7. Not understanding the local currency and therefore overpaying for items/meals
  8. Going crazy in Duty Free


  1. Pay in local currency – When using your debit card abroad, make sure you choose to pay in local currency instead of GBP.
  2. Only withdraw what you need – If you are withdrawing money from a cash machine, only take out the amount you think you will need, in order to avoid bringing leftover cash home with you.
  3. Don't tip excessively – While 20% is the norm in the US, in many European nations service is included in menu prices.
  4. Renting a car? – Avoid airport surcharges by taking public transport into the city and picking up a vehicle there.
  5. Take advantage of free public transport – For instance, in locations such as Melbourne (free trams in the city centre) and Boston (free bus from the airport to downtown).