Payments, transfers and cheques
When you make a cross-border payment in euros, Romanian lei and Swedish krona within the EU, your bank can't charge you more than it would for an equivalent national transaction. Even banks based in EU countries outside the euro area must apply this rule.
This includes any:
- transfers between bank accounts in different EU countries
- withdrawals from cash machines/ATMs in EU countries
- payments by debit or credit card across the EU
- direct debit transactions
For example, if your bank charges you 1 EUR each time you withdraw money in your home country from a cash machine outside your bank network, they can charge you the same amount when you make a withdrawal in another EU country.
Charges for using your card
When you pay for something in the EU using your credit or debit card, traders and banks cannot charge you an extra fee – also known as "surcharging" – just for using a particular card. This rule applies to all card purchases (in shops and online) made within your home country or in another EU country.
American Express, Diners Club, and business or corporate credit cards, where your employer is billed instead of you, are not covered by EU rules on payment services, and you can still be charged extra for using these cards.
You should be aware that if you're paying in EU currencies other than euros, you may still be charged a currency conversion fee by your card provider when you use your card in another country.
You shouldn't be charged extra for using your card
Clara from Austria wanted to buy flight tickets online. She selected her tickets on the airline's website and went to pay. However, when she entered her credit card information, the airline added an extra EUR 10 to the cost of her order as a charge for using a VISA card.
Clara contacted her local European Consumer Centre, who raised a complaint with the airline. The airline refunded the EUR 10 charge for her booking, and modified their rules to remove the illegal surcharge from their booking process.
Card and payment fraud
EU rules limit the amount you can be asked to pay if you're the victim of card or payment fraud – where your card or your account is debited without your permission. In all cases, you can only be asked to pay a maximum of EUR 50 towards the cost of the fraudulent payments.
However, in cases where you were unaware of the loss, theft or misappropriation of funds (i.e. your account was hacked, or your card was cloned and charged without your knowledge), then you don't have to pay anything. Your bank or card provider should cover all the costs. This rule also applies if the loss was caused by a bank employee.
Blocked money on your card
Sometimes when you make a reservation, such as a hotel booking or car rental, you may be asked to give your card details to guarantee your booking. The trader may also ask to block a certain amount of money on your card when you make your reservation. This means the trader reserves part of your credit limit or account balance to cover any charge they expect you to build up, such as room service in a hotel, or possible damage to a hire car.
You should be informed by the trader if they intend to block an amount on your credit card, and you must give your approval for this and for the exact amount being blocked.
As soon as you have made the real payment – for example, when you check out of your hotel and use your credit card to pay for your room, or when you return your hire car and pay the final bill – the bank must immediately release the blocked amount from your credit card.
Blocked amounts must be released as soon as you pay
Boris from Hungary went to Venice for the weekend with his girlfriend. When they arrived at their hotel, the hotel took a copy of Boris' credit card. The hotel informed Boris that they would like to block EUR 500 to cover his reservation and any use of the mini-bar and restaurant services during their stay. Boris agreed to have his card blocked with this amount.
Before leaving the hotel, Boris paid his hotel bill using his credit card. A week later, when he tried to book some flights with his credit card, Boris realised that EUR 500 was still blocked on his credit card. He called the hotel to complain, who apologised for their mistake and immediately asked the bank to release the blocked amount.
If you have a direct debit set up from your bank account, it may happen that a payment is made by mistake or the wrong amount is taken – for example if you cancelled a contract with a supplier, but the direct debit was still made after the contract was terminated. In these situations, you have the right to get a payment refunded within 8 weeks. This applies to all direct debits, both within your home country and cross-border direct debits within the EU.
What to do if you have a problem
If you have any problems making payments within the EU, you should contact your bank or card provider. They must give a written response to your complaint within 15 days (or up to 35 days in certain exceptional circumstances). They should also have a formal complaints procedure in place for consumers.
If you need any help getting your rights recognised, you can contact FIN-NET for problems with financial service providers, or ECC-Net for problems with traders.
EU rules on bank charges for international and national payments do not apply to cheques.
There are sometimes very high transaction fees for cashing a cheque from another EU country. In many countries, cheques are also no longer accepted as a means of payment.