Best cards for overseas spending

16 March 2020

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 withdrawing cash abroad, making them one of the cheapest ways to get dollars, euros or whatever else you need when you're out of the country.

These cards also give you a better rate than at the majority of bureaux de change, not to mention the security benefits plastic has over cash. But remember it is 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.

Every week we select our Moneywise Best Buys, highlighting the best credit and debit cards for use abroad.

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.

Most travel credit cards charge interest on cash withdrawals from the day of the transaction. You can get around these interest charges by paying off your balance on the same date you withdraw cash, although remember you may not be able to access your online banking if you are abroad.

Halifax Clarity
No fees on worldwide spending or cash withdrawals, representative 19.9% APR variable

The Halifax Clarity credit 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 19.9% APR on any cash withdrawals from the date of transaction. 

Santander Zero
No fees on worldwide spending or cash withdrawals, representative 18.9% APR variable

Another option is the Santander Zero card. This also has no fees on worldwide spending or cash withdrawals. Interest is charged from the day you withdraw cash at a rate of 18.9% APR. 

118 118 Credit Card
No fees on worldwide spending or cash withdrawals, representative 34% APR variable

The 118 118 Money credit card has no foreign transaction or cash withdrawal fees. As long as you pay in full you won’t be charged interest on spending or withdrawals. However, the credit limit is low at £500. It has an APR of 34%.

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.

Starling Bank Current Account
No fees on worldwide spending or cash withdrawals

App-only provider Starling Bank offers no fees on worldwide spending or cash withdrawals. This account also pays 0.5% interest on balances up to £2,000 and 0.25% between £2,000 and £85,000.

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 34 European countries. However, if you go any further afield you'll pay transaction fees of 2.75%.

You can open your account online or in branch, which are mainly located in London and the South East.

How are Moneywise Best Buys selected?

We look across as much of the market as possible to find the best deals using industry data from Defaqto.

All our picks are nationally available - online, by post or by phone. We try and pick products that are available to both new and existing customers, but we’ll highlight some offers for existing customers if they’re much better than what else is on offer.

Our choices offer the cheapest spending and cash withdrawals overseas. We prioritise cards and accounts that do not charge a monthly fee.

We reserve the right to use our discretion at all times.

First published on 1 July 2014

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hi Dorothy, the Nationwide Flex Plus doesn't make it into our top picks as that account has a £10 monthly fee and also charges a transaction fee for foreign purchases. The Nationwide Select credit card charges a minimum £3 non-sterling cash withdrawal fee, making it much cheaper to use the credit cards we have listed above.

In reply to by john stone (not verified)

Hi John, the Halifax Clarity card allows cash withdrawals in the same way you would use a debit card. However, you are charged interest from the day of withdrawal so be aware of that. The Santander Zero card has no fees worldwide at any and can be used at any provider (although remember the local bank or cash machine may charge a fee). Again, this charges interest from the date of cash withdrawal.

In reply to by Nicky Atkinson (not verified)

Hi Nicky, the WeSwap card hasn't been included as it has cash machine fees for small withdrawals and also charges a currency swap fee. 

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

How do you get a cash advance abroad with Halifax? My N&P free ATM a/c is no more so would be helpfulZero used to only be IN EC or at Santander ATMs. Has that changed?

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I'd be interested to know if currency apps such as We Swap were considered? I've used this for years and love the breakdown provided in the app to remind me what I've spent and where (updated within 24 hours of the purchase) as well as the various currencies and FX rates you get are superior plus planning is rewarded with lower fees eg last minute currency needs attract higher fees than those needed a week or more away...

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Why is there no mention of Nationwide credit card and the Flex plus account for cash withdrawals abroad?

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hi Adam Williams and Moneywise - 3 questions: -1. I have an old Nationwide Classic Credit Card (so not linked to any Nationwide Current Account), which also does not charge a monthly fee or anything for purchases. Is this still a better bet than one of the new cards listed above or equally as good?2. Also, I noticed that on a recent trip to Greece, the exchange rate Nationwide gave me for purchases was better than any rate I could have got on exchanging cash before I went abroad, which I believe is also an important consideration. So do all the above providers offer a similar exchange rate for purchases as this could make a big difference over a long holiday or where major purchases are involved?3. You have answered several enquirers regarding the Nationwide cards linked to their Flex account that the credit cards do not make it onto your Best Buy lists because of the fees charged on the Current Account; but I am sure that when you have reviewed Current Accounts the Nationwide flex account has made it on to your Best Buy lists - so surely if you are providing a comprehensive recommendation, the Nationwide Credit Card should be a Best Buy for anyone who has an existing Nationwide Current Account?

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Post Office Credit Card should surely figure somewhere?

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

For many years now, my wife and I have used pre-paid debit cards (Caxton) for all our overseas spending. They enable you to load the card with the currency you will be using, eg. euros, any time before you travel. Which means that by keeping your eye on the exchange rate, you can buy when the rate is favourable. Also there are NO charges at any stage and no annual fees!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Why do you not mention the Saga Platinum card? It’s excellent.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I have been reading your article on using credit cards overseas. I always use my Nationwide Select credit card which you reply to a comment that this card has a transaction fee for foreign purchases. I didn't think this was correct and have phoned Nationwide tonight and they have confirmed that there is no transaction fee on their Select card. I also checked my most recent statement and there is no added transaction fee to the sterling cost. I know there is monthly fee but that also covers other benefits like travel insurance and breakdown cover.

In reply to by Linda Evans (not verified)


I think the commenter was saying when using it to withdraw money, there was a charge.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I used to have a Norwich and Peterborough Account which had no fees overseas. I have got two credit cards that don't have fees though I hate to go into debt. I did think about getting a Virgin Essentials Account however the £1.50 fee for using a cash machine overseas is not appealing.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I thought SAGA offered fee free foreign use?

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I am always interested to hear about the best cards to use abroad for spending and withdrawing cash. What is not mentioned is the exchange rate applied nor the fact that some banks abroad will charge for withdrawals of cash or give an appalling rate so that it is worth taking the local currency from the U.K.

In reply to by Adam Williams

Serves people right for drawing cash on a Credit card at home OR abroad except in totally DIRE emergency

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I have a Saga Platinum credit card which incurs no charges for use abroad - Europe and Worldwide, and has a very good exchange rate. Only available to over 50's though.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I have a Nationwide credit card which I payoff each month & I get a superb exchange rate whilst abroad . Why is it never mentioned .

In reply to by Adam Williams

Hi Adam, thanks for replying - small note (can't help myself - sorry!) - I believe most if not all the cards mentioned charge interest (or a fee) for cash access so parity on this point. Also yes there is an FX fee however its explicit versus implicit in the FX rates awarded against purchases made on the above methods...

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hi Jeremy, the FairFX cards have extra charges, such as fees for withdrawing cash commission fees on top. This means the cards listed above are a better deal, providing you're accepted for the accounts. However, prepaid cards can be a useful way to manage your cash and make sure you don't spend more than you want to.

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