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Top travel cards to use abroad

Top travel cards to use abroad

Category: Travel

Updated: 24/06/2015
First Published: 24/06/2015

MONEYFACTS ARCHIVE
This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

There are now only four weeks to go until the start of the school summer holidays, and if you're set to jet off and are planning what to take with you, one thing that needs to be at the top of the list is travel money! However, make sure to pack wisely, because using the wrong card on holiday can cost you dearly…

Make the most of spending money – without getting stung

Moneyfacts' calculations show that the cost of using a typical debit card for withdrawing £200 in cash abroad will be £9.50, and that's before additional fees are added in. Bank charges apply every time you use your debit card abroad, which typically include a conversion fee of around 2.75% on the amount you spend, as well as a set charge for ATM withdrawals or retail purchases, which are generally in the region of between £1 and £5 per transaction.

Normal credit cards, meanwhile, can charge up to £11.50 for withdrawing £200 in cash, and that's before card interest is added on. So don't run the risk! The key to avoiding these kinds of charges is to use a card that's been specifically designed for foreign use, thereby ensuring you're not spending more than you need to on your holiday purchases.

"Counting up the cost of using credit abroad can be a headache, which is why it's always a good idea to plan ahead before your trip", said Rachel Springall, finance expert at Moneyfacts. "Why be charged excessive fees when you can get away with not paying any? If consumers apply for the best credit card for use abroad, they could avoid extra charges completely."

Find the right card for your needs

We want to help ensure you're not hit with unexpected charges for using your card abroad, so here's a quick run-through of the top cards and holiday spending methods that can make your money go further.

  • Travel credit card

Travel credit cards have been specifically designed for use abroad, with low foreign usage fees and minimal associated charges. Just remember to not use these cards on home soil – they generally don't come with 0% purchase terms or low interest rates, but if you pay the balance in full when you return, you've got nothing to worry about and can simply benefit from the lack of foreign charges. Here are a few top picks:

Cash Fee / Min Charge Foreign Usage Charges
EU World
Additional Information
Halifax

Clarity Credit Card MasterCard
0.00% / Min: £0.00

0.00%

0.00%
  • No balance transfer fee
  • Rates dependent on credit rating
  • Manage your card online
Representative Example: Based on a credit limit of £1200.00 charged at 18.95% variable per annum for purchases. Representative 18.9% APR variable.
Cash Fee / Min Charge Foreign Usage Charges
EU World
Additional Information
SAGA

Over 50's Platinum Visa
2.00% / Min: £2.00

0.00%

0.00%
  • Discounts within the Saga travel group
  • No transfers from other Allied Irish Bank cards
  • Emergency cash service available
Representative Example: Based on a credit limit of £1200.00 charged at 11.9% variable per annum for purchases. Representative 11.9% APR variable.
Cash Fee / Min Charge Foreign Usage Charges
EU World
Additional Information
Post Office Money®

Post Office Money Platinum MasterCard
2.50% / Min: £3.00

0.00%

0.00%
  • 0% commission on purchases abroad
  • No Contactless payments
  • Manage your account online
Representative Example: Based on a credit limit of £1200.00 charged at 11.9% variable per annum for purchases. Representative 11.9% APR variable.
  • Debit cards

If you're set on avoiding credit and want to stick to debit cards, consider taking out a new current account. "This can have its advantages", said Rachel, as "some have much lower charges for foreign use, and the account could always sit side-by-side with your main bank account. A good example of a cost-effective option is Norwich & Peterborough Building Society's Gold Account, which has no foreign usage fees".

  • Pre-paid cards

Alternatively, what about pre-paid travel cards? As Rachel points out, "these are an ideal choice when planning your spending, because you load the card with your budget". This way, there's no risk of overspending by accident – just load the card with your designated spending money, and you're good to go. Customers who would rather not apply for a new credit card or take out a new current account may well prefer applying for one of these instead, so here are the top picks:

Currency Transaction Fees Foreign Exchange Fees Issue Fees ATM Charges Additional Information

Even Card
Sterling (GB£) Nil Nil Nil Nil
  • Internet
  • Debit Card
  • BACS
  • £50 Annual fee, or £5 monthly.
  • Valuable points based rewards scheme.
  • Range of cashbacks at household names from 3 - 15%
  • Currency Transaction Fees Foreign Exchange Fees Issue Fees ATM Charges Additional Information

    Travelex Cash Passport
    Sterling (GB£) Nil 5.75% Nil Nil
  • Internet
  • Phone
  • BACS
  • In Store
  • Debit Card
  • Credit Card
  • 24/7 Card Services team to assist with all queries
  • Free replacement card or emergency cash service (up to the available balance on the card) available*
  • Currency Transaction Fees Foreign Exchange Fees Issue Fees ATM Charges Additional Information

    ICE Travellers Cashcard
    Sterling (GB£) Nil Nil £4.75 (if less than £700 loaded) Nil
  • BACS
  • Debit Card
  • Credit Card
  • Free backup card
    • Exchange currency

    The final option isn't a card but it's the one that's most commonplace, although it may not be ideal. "The majority of consumers will take out cash before they travel abroad, but this has its dangers," added Rachel. "If you lose your credit card, debit card or pre-paid card, your money will be protected from thieves by your PIN. These cards can also be replaced, unlike cash, where if you lose it, it's gone forever!"

    If you really want to bring cash with you, make sure to be as careful as possible with it. Keep it locked in your room safe and only take out the cash you think you'll need each day, or even consider travellers cheques so you're covered if they're lost or stolen. And, if you're exchanging currency, make sure to get the best rate! Don't leave it until the last minute and definitely don't exchange your money at the airport, as this will invariably lead to a poor-value outcome.

    It all comes down to planning ahead, as with all of the methods outlined, but if you're prepared, you can make sure you've got the spending solution that's right for you and your holiday.

    Disclaimer: Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.

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