Best cards for overseas spending

Finding a cost efficient way to spend while overseas can help you keep your travel costs down. 

A handful of cards have either no or low fees for spending and withdrawals abroad, making them one of the cheapest ways to get dollars, euros or whatever else you need when you're out of the country.

The cards you’ll find on this page will give you a better rate than you’ll get at the vast majority of bureaux de changes, not to mention the security benefits plastic has over cash.

Whatever option you pick, it's always wise to carry more than one form of payment so even if your card or wallet is lost then you are still able to spend. Read our guide on how to get the best deal on your travel money.

Remember many cards charge extortionate rates of interest or per-transaction charges on spending outside the UK, so finding the right card is key. 

When you're away, if you're given the choice to spend in pounds or the local currency always pick the local currency. If you don’t, you’ll pay the expensive local exchange rate set by the retailer, which is a sneaky way to hike the price you’ll pay.

Find the best credit card with Moneywise Best Buys

Best credit cards for spending abroad

It's often sensible to pay for purchases when you're abroad by credit card – if anything untoward does happen you will usually be covered by your provider for purchases over £100. 

Creation Everyday Card
No fees on worldwide spending, representative 12.9% APR variable

This card from Creation Financial Services has no fees on international spending anywhere in the world. If you withdraw cash using this card abroad you'll be charged interest from the day of the transaction at a rate of 12.9%.

This card is marketed for those heading overseas often so there are no promotional 0% balance transfers or 0% purchase deals available.

Halifax Clarity Card
No fees on worldwide spending, representative 18.9% APR variable

The Halifax Clarity card remains a firm favourite with travellers as there are no fees to use it for purchases or cash advances worldwide. But be aware that you will pay interest at a rate of 18.9% APR on any cash withdrawals from the date of transaction.

Best debit cards for overseas travel

If you're unable or unwilling to take out a credit card then these debit cards are a good option for travel abroad.

Metro Bank current account 
No fees on European spending or cash withdrawals

Metro Bank's current account is free to use for purchases and cash withdrawals in 33 European countries. However, if you go any further afield you'll pay transaction fees of 2.5% on any debit card purchases, and 2.5% (plus a £1.50 fee) for any cash withdrawals.

You have to sign up for an account in branch, which are mainly located in London and the South East. 

Virgin Money Essential account
No fees on worldwide spending

If you don't live in London and the South East - or are travelling outside Europe - then the Virgin Money Essential current account is our top pick. This has no charges on debit card spending anywhere in the world.

But be careful when using a cash machine abroad as you'll be charged a flat £1.50 fee for each withdrawal. This account must be opened in person but Virgin Money has branches in most major towns and cities.

To see more credit cards on the market today visit the Moneywise credit card comparison tool.

 

Your Comments

With interest rates so low the best value is surely to be obtained by one of the prepaid conversion cards.  If you are happy basing things on your smart phone - though you still can have a card for use at retailers and ATMS you could try Revolut.  I have one and find it very efficient.

Thanks Pragmatical. 

This article looks at the best debit and credit cards, but prepaid conversion cards can be good value too.

Revolut is one of the better prepaid cards out there, but I do think it could be a little more upfront about its charges, particularly as it boasts 'zero hidden fees'. 

To be fair, the fees are low - nothing on debit card transactions, and 2% on any cash withdrawals over £500 each month. Replacement cards cost a fiver. 

But you need to dig into the small print to find the pricing structure, and these charges aren't included in the tools on Revolut's site that claim to show how much you'll save. 

We asked Revolut about this. A spokesperson said it is a fair point and they'll look into it.

 

I have post office credit card does that now charge you when you pay with it when abroad

Thanks Gene.

The Post Office Platinum card is good for spending overseas, with no fees like you say. It's more expensive for cash withdrawals though. You'll be charged a 2.5% fee if you withdraw cash (minimum £3), and the Post Office will start charging interest immediately. 

Outside of northern Europe & North America, American Express acceptance is thin to say the least. 

 

I appreciate that the article does make a reference to the acceptability issues with American Express; but with Visa or MasterCard credit card options around with zero non-Sterling transaction fees, surely the impracticability of using American Express cards must exclude any such card from top spot in a list of 'best travel cards'?

I am a bit puzzled that you haven't mentioned the Halifax Clarity card.  This is a very good overseas fee free card and you also pay a low interest rate if you need to use it to withdraw at an ATM

Hi Liz, 

Competely agree the Halifax Clarity Card is a good option for holiday spending. You're right it's fee free, but the interest rates are a little higher than the credit cards we've selected here. 

Hello, sorry for the late reply but this has only just come up in my newsletter!
Not including the Halifax Clarity card is astonishing, frankly. Your point about the interest rate is valid, but this newsletter is not aimed at people running up credit card debt - it's largely about investing. If you clear your balance every month, the Clarity card is the single best rated card for spending overseas by Martin's Money for the last few years. For withdrawing cash, you can either use the Clarity card and simply pay the outstanding balance off immediately, incurring no interest charges, or use a pre-paid card like Caxton FX.
Excluding the Clarity card based on interest charges makes no sense. If you want to offer "independent" advice, up your game  :-)