Best cards for overseas spending

Finding a cost efficient way to exchange your cash can be a good financial move if you’re looking to keep your travel costs down.

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.

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

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

The Halifax Clarity Credit Card remains a firm favourite with travellers as there are no fees to use it for purchases or cash advances anywhere in the world. Be aware that you will pay interest on any cash withdrawn from the date of transaction at a rate of 18.9% APR.

There are no promotional 0% balance transfers or 0% purchase deals with this card.

The Creation Everyday Card also has no fees on international spending, across the whole world. It has a representative 12.9% APR and charges interest on cash withdrawals from the day they are made.

Best debit cards

The Metro Bank current account is free to use in mainland Europe. If you go any further afield you'll pay transaction fees of 1.9% on any debit card purchases, and a £1 fee for any cash withdrawals. You'll have to sign up for an account in branch, which are mainly in London and the South East. 

Finally, the Nationwide Building Society Flex Plus Account charges no fees to use cash machines in other countries, though there’s a 2% fee for any transactions in a foreign currency. 

This is a packaged bank account, which includes annual family worldwide travel insurance amongst its range of benefits, although the account does come with a £10 monthly fee.

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  :-)