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60 seconds on withdrawing cash abroad

Helen S

Updated April 2017

Withdrawing cash on a credit card when abroad is bad for your credit score. But a top overseas card is a cheap way to do it. So should you?

Withdrawing cash on a credit card when abroad is bad for your credit score. But if you've got one of the top overseas credit cards, it's a cheap way to get cash abroad. So should you do it?

Why is withdrawing cash on a credit card bad for my credit score? Well, the first thing to say is that if you withdraw cash on your credit card, that's recorded on your credit record. If another lender saw that, it would likely see it as a danger sign.

It would probably assume that you're having to make the cash withdrawal because you have no money left in your bank account and are relying on your credit card to pay for essentials.

If a lender's searching your record because you've applied for a loan and it sees cash withdrawals, it could be a flag that you can't manage your money – and it may question whether you'd be able to pay it back.

It's also expensive to withdraw cash on a credit card. And while that fact doesn't affect your credit score, it does affect your finances. That's why our usual mantra is: NEVER, EVER withdraw cash on a credit card.

That's what I read in your credit scoring guide. But in your cheap overseas guide, you say I should withdraw cash on my credit card. Yes. This is the exception that proves the rule – withdrawing cash on a specialist overseas credit card when you're on holiday overseas can actually be a good MoneySaving thing to do, as it's often the cheapest way to get cash.

But you shouldn't just withdraw cash overseas on any credit card – most will charge you a fortune for it.

So you need to know which one to pick – with some of the Cheap Travel Credit Cards, and the Halifax Clarity in particular, the charges to withdraw cash are so low that doing so beats any bureaux de change.

Aargh! You're confusing me. Should I do it or not? We've spoken to lenders and credit reference agencies. In isolation, withdrawing cash on your credit card shouldn't kibosh any credit applications you make (though other lenders won't know that's why you're withdrawing cash).

This is because lenders don't make decisions about whether to grant you credit solely based on your credit record. When you apply for credit, your lender will credit check you. But it'll also use anything you've told it on your application form, and information on any other accounts you have with it when deciding.

Provided these present you as the epitome of good financial management, and the rest of your credit record's polished (so no missed payments or payday loans, both signs you're in trouble), there's little chance of the cash withdrawals meaning the difference between a pass and a fail.

I've bought my score from a credit reference agency, and it was only 'fair'. It must be because of the cash withdrawals – all my accounts are up to date. Let's stop you there for a sec. You shouldn't pay too much attention to your credit score.

The indicative word there is that you 'bought' your score. It's a way for the credit reference agencies to make money. But they're only scoring you based on your credit file. This can be generally indicative, but as we've said, any lender you apply to for credit knows way more about you than the credit reference agency does.

I'm about to apply for a mortgage, though. Surely it pays to be cautious? Caution's always good, and while we know of many people who've been granted mortgages with these cash withdrawals on their file, you may want to avoid withdrawing cash on a credit card for at least three months before applying, as the mortgage is just so much more important.

So use your overseas credit card for spending on when abroad, but get your cash before you go – use our Travel Money Comparison to find the best deal.

To reassure you – one person who wrote to us with this problem was marked as 'fair' by a credit reference agency. But because all his other accounts were up-to-date, and his bank statements showed sensible spending habits, he was granted a five-year fixed mortgage at a (then) low 3.29%.

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