British travellers wishing to make withdrawals at Credit Agricole ATMs within the European Union, or to transfer money to Credit Agricole account holders in the region, will now be subject to charges.
ATM withdrawals will cost €5 ($5.50) for those with UK-issued or registered bank cards, while cash transfers will cost €18. The fees are likely to adversely affect millions of people, from tourists and business travellers to second-home owners and expats.
The move by the French bank is one other European banks look set to follow, according to reports in regional media.
When Britain was a member of the EU, such a move was prohibited by the SEPA rule which dictates that EU-wide charges must not exceed domestic charges.
Following Brexit, the diktat no longer applies, even though Britain opted to retain access to SEPA infrastructure.
The move was not unforetold with the UK's Financial Conduct Authority previously warning ATM withdrawals would become more expensive following Brexit.
“We expect firms to let you know about any changes in charges that affect products you have,” the regulator said.
The charges will compound existing charges levied by UK banks on foreign transactions, which may well now find themselves under pressure to remove or reduce them all together.
One person already hit by the fees is Deborah Elliot. She owns a second home in France and has a Credit Agricole account for bills.
“We bank with Santander in the UK, which doesn’t have any fees for withdrawing euros on our UK debit cards,” she told magazine The Connexxion.
“So we often top up our French bank account by taking out cash with the UK card over a few days and then pay it into the French account, as this avoids our UK bank’s flat fee of £25 per international transfer.”
Fees contested by lobby group
Credit Agricole's move has been called unlawful by the European Consumer Centre which lobbies on cross-border payments.
The ECC believes SEPA rules should still apply to the UK as it remains a SEPA member. The claim was strongly rejected by Credit Agricole, which reportedly said SEPA membership has no bearing on the decision and that membership of the European Economic Area is the key determinant.
The fees come up on top of €7 per person levy for UK residents to enter the EU which is to be implemented later this year when Britain joins the European Travel and Information and Authorisation Scheme.