Best cards for overseas spending

Published by Adam Williams on 01 July 2014.
Last updated on 15 January 2018

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 Credit Card
No fees on worldwide spending or cash withdrawals plus £20 cashback, representative 18.9% 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 18.9% APR on any cash withdrawals from the date of transaction. 

Apply for this account before 28 February 2018 and make a transaction in a foreign currency by 31 March 2018 to receive £20 in cashback.

Barclaycard Platinum Travel Credit Card
No fees on worldwide spending or cash withdrawals, representative 19.9% APR variable

If you're making frequent cash withdrawals you should consider the Barclaycard Platinum Travel Card. Unlike the other accounts listed, this doesn't charge interest from the day of withdrawal.

This means overseas withdrawals will cost nothing, providing you pay off your bill at the end of the month. The no fees guarantee lasts until the end of August 2022

Creation Everyday Credit Card
No fees on worldwide spending or cash withdrawals, representative 12.9% APR variable

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

Santander Zero Credit Card
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. 

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 - the only debit card provider to do so. 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 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 must open your 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.

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.

Leave a comment

My husband and I spend 4-5

My husband and I spend 4-5 months in India each winter. Last season we were caught up in the currency problems in India. Can you confirm which cards would be right for us to use in India with no charges for spending or cash withdrawals. Our credit cards are c;leared each month by direct debit from our current account which is Santander Select Account. thank you.
Jennifer.

Hi Jennifer, as above the

Hi Jennifer, as above the Halifax Clarity Credit Card is our top all-round pick as there are no fees to use it for purchases or cash advances worldwide, plus there is a £20 cashback offer for new customers. You will pay interest at a rate of 18.9% APR on any cash withdrawals from the date of transaction, but that shouldn't amount to much if you pay the card off in full at the end of the month. If you're making frequent, large cash withdrawals then the other option would be the Barclaycard Platinum Travel Card, which doesn't charge daily interest on cash withdrawals but also has no sign-up bonuses.

Can't understand why the

Can't understand why the Nationwide Flex Plus debit card is never mentioned for drawing money out abroad or the Nationwide Select Credit card which again has no charges on use abroad, I never travel without them.

Hi Dorothy, the Nationwide

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.

Please note that the

Please note that the Barclaycard Platinum Travel Card is really just the standard Barclaycard Platinum Card with a concession that there's no overseas fees until 2022. Consequently I now have 2 identical Baclaycard Platinum card accounts, a new one with the concession and my original one without. The cards are the same - no mention of "travel" on the travel one. The new card also comes with the standard documentation saying that you WILL pay fees. This could have been rolled out better by Barclaycard.

I have a SAGA platinum card -

I have a SAGA platinum card - have had for about 9 years. No added charges for using it abroad (not in Europe, anyway) and when I've checked, the exchange rate they use is at least as good as the bank's. I am over 50, though!

How come you do not mention

How come you do not mention the Nationwide credit card who do not charge any fees abroad and their Flexplus debit card you can draw from atm abroad with no charges ??

Hi there, the Nationwide

Hi there, the Nationwide FlexPlus doesn't make it into our top picks as that account has a £13 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.

You did not mention any of

You did not mention any of the preloaded travel cards like Fairfx. In the climate of a drooping pound, these are useful as well as not charging fees for direct expenditures where a mastercard or visa card are acceptable.. Also possible to top up online.

Hi Jeremy, the FairFX cards

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.

I'd be interested to know if

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...

Hi Nicky, the WeSwap card

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. 

Hi Adam, thanks for replying

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...

How do you get a cash advance

How do you get a cash advance abroad with Halifax? My N&P free ATM a/c is no more so would be helpful

Zero used to only be IN EC or at Santander ATMs. Has that changed?

Hi John, the Halifax Clarity

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.

Thanks Adam

Thanks Adam

I remember now it was paying interest from day I withdrew that put me off. I wanted to pay some money into account before I went away so I was in credit but they said I couldnt.
Ive just got the Barclays Platinum Travel card so that gives me a few years of free ATM withdrawals with no interest and purchases.

I have a Nationwide credit

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

I have a Saga Platinum credit

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.