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Sun, sea, sand…..and credit cards

Sun, sea, sand…..and credit cards

Category: Credit cards

Updated: 30/11/2012
First Published: 26/11/2012

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 It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

Escaping the harsh British weather over the next few months is sadly just a dream for most of us.

If you are fortunate enough to be flying or sailing away to sunnier climes this winter, take some time to plan your spending costs before leaving the UK.

Using your credit card or debit card can be an easy and convenient way to cover your costs on holiday, but choosing the right one for you is vital.

Here are some quick tips on using your cards abroad this winter to avoid being left with costly bills once the tan fades:

• Keep your options open

Taking two types of card with you abroad can help, particularly if you are planning on travelling to far flung regions.

The two big card types, MasterCard and Visa, are accepted in some areas more than others. For example, MasterCard tends to be accepted widely in Europe, with Visa more acceptable worldwide.

• Never withdraw cash on your credit card

Always avoid making cash withdrawals on your credit card, both at home and abroad.

Not only is the interest much higher than making purchases, but it will be charged immediately with no grace period.

A cash handling fee, typically 3% of the amount withdrawn, and foreign usage charge, up to 2.99%, will also be applied.

Some overseas banks may charge you for using their ATM. If you are an existing customer with an international bank such as HSBC or Santander, you may not be charged, although it is always a good idea to double check before making a transaction.

A £100 withdrawal abroad could result in:

• £2.37 (one month's interest at 27.9%)
• £3.00 cash withdrawal fee
• £2.99 foreign usage fee

This will bring the total charges to £8.36, excluding any charges for using the bank's cash machine. A rather costly cash withdrawal I'm sure you will agree!

• What if I need to access money in an emergency?

If you have to make cash withdrawals abroad, try to keep them to a minimum. Repeated cash machine transactions will result in you being charged each time and mount up costs even more.

• Can I use my debit card abroad?

Of course, just beware of the charges for doing so.

Paying for goods abroad, such as food, drinks or the obligatory tacky gifts for loved ones, on a debit card will be hit by a retail conversion fee which differs depending on the provider. An additional transaction charge may also be charged.

Withdrawing cash on your card abroad will often be subject to a fee. Try to avoid making numerous cash withdrawals, however small. Plan ahead a few days at a time to keep your transaction levels to a minimum.

• Do your homework before jetting off

Planning financially for your holiday should be as important as packing the right clothes and heaps of sun screen.

Check the foreign usage terms and conditions on your existing credit and debit cards to see if they suit your needs.

Shopping around for the best cards to use abroad before taking off will mean you can relax and enjoy your holiday without worrying about any mounting costs.

What Next?

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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.