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Travel Credit Cards The best credit cards to use abroad

Going abroad, or spending on foreign websites? You can save £100s by using specialist travel spending cards for the best possible exchange rates.

This step-by-step guide includes best buy credit, debit and prepaid cards, plus how to compare currencies with our free TravelMoneyMax tool.

Top facts everyone should know

Martin Lewis’ Travel Money Tips Video – filmed in conjunction with the Telegraph June 2014

How good is your current plastic?

Use your plastic overseas and you could be hit by a thwack of hidden charges (for full details, read the hidden holiday spending charges note). These charges include:

  • Adding a 'load' on the exchange rate - spending £100 of foreign currency costs £103
  • Cash withdrawal fees on both credit and debit cards
  • Interest charges even if you pay off in full
  • Some even charge a penalty each time you spend.

Previously, banks and credit card providers didn't have to show a breakdown of these charges on your statements. This all changed at the beginning of 2014, causing some confusion with consumers thinking they are only now beginning to pay. So we've done a report to show the true cost of overseas spending. For more information read the Overseas Credit & Debit Card Charges report.

The overall best cards are detailed below. First, find out how much the cards you already have charge abroad - as you may not have the time to switch before your hols, or you may find you don't need to switch at all. To help, we've built a checker to find out what you'll pay when using any cards in your wallet abroad.

Tool last updated: January 2015

If you think any extra cards should be added to the tool, please email us and we'll see what we can do.

Debit cards from Hell

Eight debit cards have nightmarish charges every time you use them overseas. With most debit cards, you pay a load fee for spending, and a charge if you withdraw cash abroad. These cards have another sneaky charge - a spending fee of between £1 and £1.50 every time.

Imagine you buy something for £5 in a shop. With the worst of these cards, it can end up costing you £6.65 after the load & charges are added on - an entire third more than you'd spend if you used a top card from this guide!

Which are the cards from hell ?

While the right card is absolutely the best way to spend abroad, the wrong one is absolutely the worst way.

Let's make this plain – do not use the following cards for spending overseas. Any of the methods below beat them.

Halifax Debit Card
Spending penalty: £1.50. Load fee: 2.75%. Cash withdrawal fee: £1.50

IF Debit Card
Spending penalty: £1.50 Load fee: 2.25%. Cash withdrawal fee: £1.50

Santander Debit Card
Spending penalty: £1.25. Load fee: 2.75%. Cash withdrawal: 1.5% min £1.99

Bank of Scotland Debit Card
Spending penalty: £1. Load fee: 2.99%. Cash withdrawal: 1.5% min £2 max £4.50

Lloyds Debit Card
Spending penalty: £1. Load fee: 2.99%. Cash withdrawal: 1.5% min £2 max £4.50

TSB Debit Card
Spending penalty: £1. Load fee: 2.99%. Cash withdrawal: 1.5% min £2 max £4.50

The cards below don't have a spending fee, but do charge at least £1 every time you spend making them hellish for small transactions - spend £5 and it'll cost you £6.

RBS Debit Card
Spending penalty: none. Load fee: 2.75% (min £1). Cash withdrawal: 2% min £2 max £5

NatWest Debit Card
Spending penalty: none. Load fee: 2.75% (min £1). Cash withdrawal: 2% min £2 max £5

Full list of charges for major UK credit and debit cards.

If you're using a credit card, that can also become a payment method from hell...

Any credit card which you’re not paying off in full is a nightmare and will cost you serious cash.

If you can’t pay it off in full, choose based on the lowest interest rate for spending, not the cheapest overseas card.

Cheapest overseas spending

If you're looking for cards offering more than overseas spending, see our credit card guides page.

The credit cards below avoid most hidden charges and push themselves as specialist overseas plastic, hoping you’ll also use them in the UK where they’re not so competitive. Simply get one for overseas spending only and you'll beat the system (do you have an overseas wallet?).

However, even on these cards, there's a trap. So always follow the golden rule:

Set up a direct debit to repay in full every month,
or the interest charges dwarf the cheap currency gains.

On these cards, it's far cheaper to spend on them than withdraw cash and spend it.

Check My eligibility for the cards before I apply

You can find out your odds of getting these best buy travel credit cards by using our eligibility checker tool. It works with all the cards below (except Nationwide).

  • We'll check your details against what credit card firms are looking for in customers.
  • It's a 'soft' search. YOU can see it, but lenders CAN'T, so there's no impact on your credit file.
  • We'll show you your chances of being accepted for the card.

It's not a guarantee you'll be accepted - but you'll get a good idea of your odds.

The top overseas spending cards

Halifax Clarity*Worldwide 0% load & no cash withdrawal fee

  • Loading (exchange rate fee). Europe: 0% | Worldwide: 0%
  • Cash withdrawals. Fee: FREE | Interest on cash withdrawals?: Yes, until it's repaid in full
  • Representative APRs. Spending: 12.9% | Cash: 12.9% (see official rate example)
  • Card issuer: Mastercard

Top card for spending and ATM withdrawals abroad -
it gives a 'perfect' exchange rate and has few other fees

The Halifax Clarity* credit card has no foreign exchange fee anywhere in the world (you can use our eligibility calculator for this card), so you can get the best rate possible.

The rate you'll get is set by Mastercard, which you can check here, although the most recent rate you'll be able to see is that from the previous day. Please also note that this rate is not connected to Halifax's own travel money bureau, which generally offers far lower rates.

There's no fee for cash withdrawals, though you'll be charged interest at a fairly low 12.9% representative APR, until you pay it off in full. So it works out at about £1/month for each £100 withdrawn.

But there’s a trick you can use to minimise this cost. You’re only charged interest until you’ve fully repaid the balance, so if you pay off the withdrawal amount as soon as you can (via internet banking while abroad, or as soon as you return home) to minimise interest costs.

You don’t get charged interest on spending abroad, provided you pay this off in full by the date shown on your statement. Some poorer credit scorers will get higher APRs, of up to 21.9%, which'll make cash withdrawal interest more expensive.

Monthly cost of £100 of Spending Cash withdrawals Total
Worldwide £0 approx £1/month £1

Aqua Reward* Great for spending, but high fees for cash withdrawals

  • Loading (exchange rate fee). Europe: 0% | Worldwide: 0%
  • Cash withdrawals. Fee: 3% (min £3) | Interest: Yes, until it's repaid in full
  • Representative APR. Spending: 34.9% | Cash: 39.9%-59.9% (see official rate example)
  • Cashback: 0.5% on all spending in UK & abroad
  • Card issuer: Mastercard

The Aqua Reward* card (you can use our eligibility calculator for this card) has no load fee worldwide, so you get the best possible rate. Plus 0.5% cashback on spending in the UK and overseas - making it a top pick for spending abroad. You'll also get a £20 Amazon voucher if you apply through the link above.

This card's designed for those with poor credit history and will accept those with past CCJs or defaults providing they're a year old, or bankruptcies over 18 months. The downside is the low credit limit (£250-£1,200) and a huge interest rate. So it's vital you ALWAYS repay in full every month, otherwise you'll be charged 34.9% rep APR.

A top pick for spending, plus it's easy to get,
but not it's good for cash withdrawals

Unlike other specialist overseas cards, such as the Halifax Clarity above, ATM fees are high, at 3% (min £3) with 39.9%-59.9% APR (about 3% a month) But you’re only charged interest until you’ve fully repaid the balance, so if you pay off the withdrawal amount as soon as you can (via internet banking while abroad, or as soon as you return home) you can minimise interest costs.

To avoid paying any interest at all, it's best to only spend on the card. Don’t withdraw cash with it, get some cheap travel money before you go instead.

Monthly cost of £100 of: Spending Cash withdrawals Total
Worldwide £0 approx £3.30/month + £3 £6.30
Full 'perfect' exchange rate credit cards comparison
Includes alternatives to the top options - it's not worth switching if you have one
Worldwide load fee ATM fee Cash w/d interest
(fully repaid)
(if not repaid)
UK cashback Check your chances of getting it
Halifax Clarity* None None 12.9% 12.9% - Eligibility calculator
Post Office* None £3 or 2.5% 27.9% 17.8% - Eligibility calculator
Aqua Reward* None £3 or 3% 39.9%-59.9% 34.9% 0.5% Eligibility calculator
Aqua Advance* None £3 or 3% 39.9%-59.9% 34.9% - Eligibility calculator
Saga* (1) None £2 or 2% None 11.9% (Cash 19.6%) - Eligibility calculator
Lloyds Avios* (£24 annual fee) (2) None £3 or 3% 17.9% 23.7% incl fee (Cash 17.9%) - Eligibility calculator
Nationwide* (current account custs only) None £3 or 2.5% 27.9% 15.9% 0.5% Not available
None None 27.9% 18.9% - Not available
1. Over 50s, may not be accepted if you've four or more credit/store cards. † Not accepting new applications. £10 dormancy fee, never been charged (2) New card holders from November 2013.

Think before adding the 'insurance'

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Do you want a debit card instead?

It’s also possible to get load-free debit cards – but to do that, you’ll need to genuinely shift bank account. It’s questionable whether its worth it just for this (as you’re forgoing other bank account perks – see Best Bank Accounts) which is why we favour just getting a credit card and using it right.

There are a couple of current account providers offering load-free debit cards...

  • Norwich & Peterborough BS: The Norwich & Peterborough BS Gold Classic current account has 0% overseas spending fees and no cash withdrawal fee worldwide. You need to pay in £500 a month (£6,000 salary) or keep £5,000 in the account to avoid its £5/mth fee.

  • Metro Bank (London & SE only): The Metro Bank current account charges no foreign exchange loading or cash withdrawal fees when you use its debit card in Europe. In the rest of the world it will charge a load of 1.9%, and its ATM withdrawal fee will be £1. For full details, see Metro Bank to charge for debit card use outside Europe.

    This is a branch based account, so you have to go to one of its branches, which are in London or the south-east of England, to get one. More branches are opening - but in the same area.

  • Cumberland Building Society (NW England & SW Scotland): If you have a standard, Reward, Plus, Offset or Cumberland Plus current account with Cumberland Building Society, it charges no foreign exchange loading or cash withdrawal fees on the debit card that comes with the account. However, you need to live in its operating area - it has branches in Cumbria, Lancashire and Dumfries & Galloway.

Getting the cheapest foreign cash

If you want to get the best deal for spending overseas, it involves a combination of the best exchange rate and the lowest commission (read more on commission versus rate).

To cut through this, we’ve built a special daily (often hourly) updated free website at It whizzes to all the main online bureaux de change to compare who'll give you the most foreign cash, after all charges and exchange rates.

Though do remember if your money is held by a currency provider - if you're buying in advance for example - it's not protected if it goes bust, so be careful. can only search companies with an online presence, though luckily these usually undercut their high street competitors. It’s occasionally possible to get a better rate at some local specialist dealers.

However this is rare and they’re only located in areas with large amounts of overseas visitors where competition on rates is very high, such as Bayswater in central London.

Quick Tips

Beware extra charges when using credit cards to pay for bureau de change cash

Pick it up at the airport, but always order it in advance

Top prepaid cards

If you can’t get the top credit card or don’t trust yourself with one, next best is a prepaid card - effectively an electronic travellers cheque. You just load it up with cash in advance and use it when away, like a debit card.

But, before you go ahead, there's five things you need to know

These are our top picks. We've deliberately picked cards with good exchange rates & low fees. We regularly compare cards to ensure the cards below are still top deals.

Best card if you're loading less than £500

Ukash's rates are the best we've found on prepaid cards, though the top cards are usually close, so the differences are slight. However, we don't have a huge amount of feedback on Ukash, and what we do have is mixed, so please do let us know if you use them.

Top card on rates alone: Ukash* Top card if you're loading £500 or less onto your card

  • Cash withdrawals: Free outside UK
  • Top up: Free via debit card online
  • Currencies: Euros/dollars
  • Replacement charge: $13/€9.50
  • Exchange rate: Ukash's own rate, determined daily

The new Euro and Dollar prepaid cards from Ukash* charge no fees for spending or for withdrawing cash abroad. They're also free to get, and free to operate - so you won't be charged to top it up.

No fees, and top exchange rate - BUT limited feedback.

As with all prepaid card providers, Ukash sets its own exchange rates, so there is no guaranteed consistency. Yet in our random surveys of rate since it launched, so far it has come out top every time.

It is worth noting this is a new card, from a company we have had little contact with, so we’ve little feedback to go on. However, as with all prepaid cards that are FCA regulated, the money you deposit is ring-fenced so in the event there were problems with the firm the money is safe.

Quick notes:

  • Spend in a currency other than the card’s and you’re hit by an additional 2.75% per transaction, which isn't great.
  • There's also a €12/$17 fee to close the card, but you don't get charged for not using it, so don’t close it. However, do try not to overload the card, as you'll need to close it to get any remaining money back.
  • The card will take up to 10 working days to arrive.

Best if you're loading £500+

We've analysed the top cards on offer, and due to its array of perks, FairFX comes top if you need to load £500 or more of currency.

Good for spending: FairFX*Good card for spending, no transaction or 'load' fees

  • Cash withdrawals: €1.50 / $2 / £1
  • Currencies: Euros/dollars/sterling
  • Top up: Free via debit card online/bank transfer
  • Replacement charge: £6/$12/€9
  • Exchange rate: FairFX's own rate, determined daily
  • Any freebies? A discount of £8 (euro/dollar) or £5 (sterling) when you load £500+

The FairFX euro*, dollar* and sterling* cards are the best deal if you're loading £500 or more of currency. Although its exchange rate tends to be very slightly lower than the Ukash card, if you apply via these links, FairFX will knock £8 off the bill when you load £500+ on a euro or dollar card, and £5 off when you load £500+ on to its sterling card.

The FairFX cards are free to spend, hold & top up, but they do charge a fee on all cash withdrawals, so try to limit the number that you make to minimise charges.

Another perk if you use the links above is that you get the card free too. They usually cost £9.95 on application, but this is waived if you top up more than £50 worth of euros, dollars or pounds.

Good if you're spending, not making ATM withdrawals. Gives an £8 discount when you load £500 or more.

Quick notes:

  • We've listed this as best for £500+, but it's not a bad card if you don't need to load that much. It's exchange rates are usually only slightly less than Ukash's, and it beats the other cards listed. But watch the ATM fees.
  • There's a 1.4% transaction fee if you spend in a different currency to the one you loaded up - this is one of the lowest conversion fees on the market.
  • You get an £8 discount on your bill if you load more than £500 of currency on the euro or dollar card using the links above.
  • You get a £5 discount on your bill if you load more than £500 of currency on the sterling card using the link above.

Other top specialist prepaid cards

These are other top cards that are worth a look - their exchange rates tend to be decent, but don't rival the two cards above. Both providers are longer established currency providers, and have a good track record of feedback. However, as with all prepaid cards, do check the charges and limits, and make sure to pick the right card for you.

The next cheapest: CaxtonFXNo fees for withdrawing cash or spending

  • Cash withdrawals: Free outside UK
  • Currencies: Euros/dollars/sterling
  • Top up: Free via debit card online / phone
  • Replacement cost: £5/$10/€7.50
  • Exchange rate: Caxton's own rate, determined daily

The next best prepaid card is from Caxton FX, which also charges no ATM fees or spending fees when you use the card abroad. It's also free to get and free to operate - there's no charges to hold the card, spend, top it up, or make cash withdrawals.

No fees, but slightly poorer exchange rate

You get Caxton's exchange rate, which is decent, but it doesn't beat Ukash's prepaid card above. The card can be topped up online or over the phone for free by debit card.

As with all other prepaid cards in this guide, Caxton's authorised & regulated by the FCA, so the chance of you losing your money if Caxton FX had problems is lessened.

Quick notes:

  • There's a Global Traveller version of the card which you load in sterling. However, that card will charge a 2.75% fee for every transaction & cash withdrawal not made in sterling, making it a bog standard travel card.
  • You need to load at least £100/€150/$200 of currency.

Travelex Cash Passport*Available for more currencies, good if you need a card quicktravelex

  • Cash withdrawals: FREE (2.49% for global card)
  • Top up: Free (2% for sterling card)
  • Currencies: NZ $/AUS $/SA rand/euros/US dollars/CA dollars/sterling
  • Replacement cost: Free
  • Exchange rate: Travelex's, determined daily

Not far behind is foreign exchange giant Travelex’s Cash Passport, which comes in euro*, dollar* and global* versions.

On the euro or dollar versions of this card there's no fee for spending abroad or to top up online, by phone or in stores. The global card charges a 2.49% fee for each cash withdrawal and purchase made regardless of the currency.

Has the largest range of currencies

You’ll get the prevailing Travelex exchange rate, generally not as good as FairFX/Caxton, or the exchange rates you get on the best credit and debit cards.

Quick notes:

  • However, if you spend on a currency different to the one you selected, you'll be hit with a massive 5.75% charge for every transaction and ATM withdrawal.
  • It charges £2/€3/$3.50 each month if the card goes unused for a year. If you’re heading towards that, simply cancel the card as it’s rarely worth the extra cost.

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Currency Q&A


Join in the Forum Discussion:
Travel Credit Cards
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What the * means above

If a link has a * by it, that means it is an affiliated link and therefore it helps MoneySavingExpert stay free to use, as it is tracked to us. If you go through it, it can sometimes result in a payment to the site. It's worth noting this means the third party used may be named on any credit agreements.

You shouldn’t notice any difference and the link will never negatively impact the product. Plus the editorial line (the things we write) is NEVER impacted by these links. We aim to look at all available products. If it isn't possible to get an affiliate link for the top deal, it is still included in exactly the same way, just with a non-paying link. For more details, read How This Site Is Financed.

Duplicate links of the * links above for the sake of transparency, but this version doesn't help Aqua Advance, Aqua Reward, FairFX, Halifax Clarity, Lloyds Avios, Nationwide, Post Office, Saga, Travelex, UKash

Cheap Travel Money

Find the best online rate for holiday cash with MSE's TravelMoneyMax.

Find the best online rate for your holiday cash with MoneySavingExpert's TravelMoneyMax.