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Travel Credit Cards

One of the cheapest ways to spend abroad

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Helen S | Edited by Johanna

Updated Weekly

travel credit cardsGoing abroad or spending on foreign websites? Get a specialist travel credit card for near-perfect exchange rates worldwide. This guide includes best-buy cards, the cards to avoid, and how to check what your card's charging you when you use it overseas.

How do travel credit cards work?

Specialist travel cards are so good for spending abroad because they don't charge fees. Use your everyday plastic while on holiday and you could be hit by a host of hidden charges (for full details, read the hidden holiday spending charges note). These include adding a non-sterling transaction fee of around 3%, cash withdrawal fees and interest charges even if you pay off in full (on credit cards).

But there are credit and debit cards that don't charge these fees, making them ideal to use when you're on holiday or buying from overseas websites. Use this checker to find out what you'll pay when using your existing card and check out our best buy cards below to find cards that don't charge.

How much does your card charge? Find how much you pay to use your card abroad

Please select an credit or debit card from the list.

Tool last updated: July 2017

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Exchange Load ATM Charge Spending Charge Cash Withdrawal Interest
(min £)

If you think any cards should be added to the tool, please email us.

Use our eligibility calculator to find cards you're most likely to get, without hitting your credit score

Making an application is recorded on your credit file. While a single one is not a big problem, especially if you've a good credit score, lots in a short time are problematic.

So use our Travel Credit Card Eligibility Calculator to show cards you're most likely to get, so you don't waste an application. And it's NOT recorded as a hard search on your credit file.

    The 8 need-to-knows when spending abroad

    Before you go on holiday, there are some things you need to know about how credit and debit cards work overseas. Get this wrong and it can cost you large, so please read the following (even if you only have time to read and remember the headlines, it should help protect your pocket).

  • You can save £100s per holiday using a specialist card

  • If you're using a credit card, ALWAYS pay it off IN FULL every month

  • If they ask 'want to pay in pounds or euros?', say 'euros'

  • First use our eligibility calculator to find cards you're most likely to get – and protect your credit score

  • Beware your debit card – it could be the worst way to spend

  • Is spending or withdrawing cash cheaper when I'm on holiday?

  • Not all cards are equal – check if the card you're applying for has the Mastercard, Visa or Amex logo

  • Looking to 'lock-in' a rate? Consider a prepaid card instead

Top travel credit cards

These specialist cards have near-perfect spending rates but tend to charge fees or interest on cash withdrawals. We've picked out the top credit cards that allow you to spend for free overseas here.

Barclaycard card image* - Worldwide 0% load & no cash withdrawal fee

Good if you regularly withdraw cash

Barclaycard Platinum Travel Credit Card

The Barclaycard Platinum travel card has no fees on spending or cash withdrawals overseas till August 2022, giving a decent amount of certainty.

And if you pay off your balance in full each month, you won't be charged interest on overseas cash you withdraw, unlike other cards in the guide, which charge daily interest on cash until it's paid off. However, this card uses the Visa exchange rate, which is typically worse than the Mastercard rate used by the majority of cards in this guide.

Need-to-knows
  • You can't get this card if you're an existing Barclaycard customer or have had a Barclaycard within the past six months.
  • Any cash withdrawals in pounds will be subject to a 2.99% fee (min £ 2.99) and interest will be charged from the day you make them at 27.9% representative APR, so it's best to avoid.
  • Make sure you pay off any purchases IN FULL before the 0% period ends or you'll be charged 19.9% interest, which'll quickly wipe the gain from this being fee free overseas.
ELIGIBILITY CHECK NOT AVAILABLE
APPLY
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Exchange rate fee: Europe: 0% | Worldwide: 0%
  • Cash withdrawal fee: None abroad, 2.99% (min £2.99) in UK | Interest on cash withdrawals? Only if not repaid in full
  • Representative APR on spending: 19.9% (see Official APR Examples)
  • Interest rate on ATM withdrawals: 27.9%
  • Card issuer: Visa
Aqua Reward* - Great for spending, but high fees for cash withdrawals

Good for overseas spending and you earn cashback on every spend

Tandem*

The Tandem* credit card has no fees for overseas spending It's also a Mastercard, which typically offers better rates than Visa. As an added bonus, you earn 0.5% cashback when you spend on the card abroad (and in the UK). This is credited to your account on each statement date.

However, this card does charge interest on cash withdrawals, so if you're likely to make a lot of them, the Barclaycard above – which doesn't charge interest on withdrawals if repaid in full – may be a better fit.

As this is a newish card, we've little feedback, so let us know if you've used it.

Need-to-knows
  • You don't get charged interest on spending abroad, provided you pay this off in full by the date shown on your statement.
  • There's no fee for cash withdrawals overseas, yet you will be charged interest at 18.9% representative APR even if you pay it off in full. So it works out at about £1.50/mth for each £100 withdrawn (if you get this APR; some might get a higher APR).
  • You can minimise the cost of this interest: you're only charged it 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 when you get home) you can minimise interest.
  • Some poorer credit scorers will get 24.9% APR, which will make cash withdrawal interest more expensive.
Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Exchange rate fee: Europe: 0% | Worldwide: 0%
  • Cash withdrawal fee: None (overseas), 2.5% (in UK, min £2.50) | Interest on cash withdrawals? Yes, until it's repaid in full
  • Representative APR on spending: 18.9% (see Official APR Examples)
  • Interest rate on ATM withdrawals: 18.9% to 24.9%
  • Card issuer: Mastercard
Barclaycard card image* - Worldwide 0% load & no cash withdrawal fee

Near-perfect rates and cheap withdrawals

Halifax Clarity Mastercard*

The Halifax Clarity* has been one of our top picks for years due to its great feedback, low rates and no fees on spending or withdrawing cash abroad. It's a Mastercard too, which typically offers better rates than ones from other issuers.

Need-to-knows
  • You don't get charged interest on spending abroad, provided you pay this off in full by the date shown on your statement.
  • There's no fee for cash withdrawals, yet you'll be charged interest at 18.9% representative APR even if you pay it off in full. So it works out at about £1.50/month for each £100 withdrawn (if you get this APR) if you wait until your statement to pay it off.
  • You can cut this cost by paying off the withdrawal amount as soon as you can (via internet banking while abroad, or when you get home) to minimise interest.
  • This rate is only for the Clarity credit card, not Halifax's own travel money bureau, which generally offers lower exchange rates.
  • You can get the Clarity credit card even if you already have a Halifax credit card.
  • Some poorer credit scorers will get 25.9% APR, which will make cash withdrawal interest more expensive.
Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Exchange rate fee: Europe: 0% | Worldwide: 0%
  • Cash withdrawal fee: None | Interest on cash withdrawals? Yes, until it's repaid in full
  • Representative APR on spending: 18.9% (see Official APR Examples)
  • Interest rate on ATM withdrawals: 18.9%
  • Card issuer: Mastercard
Key questions

Are there any limits on cash withdrawals? If you're making a lot of ATM withdrawals, be aware that you can only withdraw a total of 50% of your credit limit as cash. So, if your credit limit is £1,000 on the card, you'll only be able to withdraw the equivalent of £500 as cash. Therefore it's best to prioritise spending where you can.

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

Easier-to-get card that's good for spending, plus 0.5% cashback, but high withdrawal interest

Aqua Reward Mastercard*

The Aqua Reward* card is designed for those with lower credit scores, but it still gives near-perfect rates worldwide. It also gives 0.5% cashback on all spending – even abroad (max £100/yr cashback). It's another Mastercard, menaing you'll get near-perfect rates.

However, primarily use this only to spend as its 44.9% rep APR is charged on cash withdrawals even if you clear in full, plus a 3% fee.

Need-to-knows
  • This card's designed for those with poor credit history and will accept those with past county court judgments or defaults providing they're a year old, or bankruptcies over 18 months old.
  • Credit limits are low, from £250 to £1,200.
  • The rate you'll get is set by Mastercard.
  • 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 59.9%, or 69.9% for cash withdrawals.
  • If you do withdraw cash, pay it off as soon as you can (via internet banking while abroad, or as soon as you get home) so you minimise interest costs.
Eligibility Calculator
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

Stats box
  • Exchange rate fee: Europe: 0% | Worldwide: 0%
  • Cash withdrawal fee: 3% (min £3) | Interest: Yes, until it's repaid in full
  • Cashback: 0.5% on all spending in UK & abroad | Card issuer: Mastercard
  • Representative APR on spending: 34.9% (see Official APR Examples)
  • Interest rate on ATM withdrawals: 44.9% to 69.9%

Best of the rest

There are a few other cards that don't charge non-sterling exchange fees when you use them to spend overseas. If you're choosing a card, remember that Mastercard's exchange rate almost always beats Visa's rate, so factor this in when making your decision.

We've included Barclaycard, Tandem, Halifax Clarity and Aqua at the top of the table for comparison, but if you already have one of the cards below, it's usually not worth switching as the gains are small. Here are the 'best of the rest' of the cheapest overseas spending cards.

Top travel credit cards that charge no fees on purchases
Card issuer ATM fee Cash w/d interest Rep APR (if not repaid) Check your chances of getting it
Barclaycard Platinum Travel (1) Visa None None 19.9% (Cash 27.9% (2)) -
Tandem Credit Card* Mastercard None 18.9-24.9% 18.9% Eligibility calculator
Halifax Clarity* Mastercard None 18.9-25.9% 18.9% Eligibility calculator
Creation Everyday Mastercard None 12.9-21.9% 12.9% -
Aqua Reward* Mastercard £3 or 3% 44.9-69.9% 34.9% Eligibility calculator
Santander Zero* Mastercard None 18.9% 18.9% Eligibility calculator
Post Office Platinum Mastercard £3 or 2.5% 27.9% 18.9% -
Aqua Advance* Mastercard £3 or 3% 44.9-69.9% 34.9% Eligibility calculator
Saga Platinum (3) Visa £2 or 2% None 11.9% (Cash 19.6% (4)) -
B Credit Card Mastercard £3 or 3% 27.9% 9.9% -
Nationwide Select (current account custs only) Visa £3 or 2.5% 15.9% 15.9% -
(1) No non-sterling fees until 31 August 2022 (2) You'll pay interest on non-sterling cash withdrawals if you don't repay your balance in full each month. Sterling cash withdrawals attract interest from the day you make the withdrawal. (3) Over 50s only – you may not be accepted if you've four or more credit/store cards. (4) You'll pay interest on cash withdrawals if you don't repay your balance in full each month. (5) New card holders from November 2013.

Top overseas debit cards

It's also possible to get non-sterling transaction fee-free debit cards, but you'll need to shift bank account. It's questionable whether it's 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 four current account providers offering debit cards without non-sterling transaction fees, although two of them are restricted to certain areas or are only non-sterling transaction fee-free in Europe.

Starling Bank Debit Card

Fee-free spending & withdrawals worldwide with no full credit check

Starling Bank*

App-based Starling Bank* has a current account that charges no non-sterling transaction or cash withdrawal fees when you use its debit card worldwide. While it's a current account, you don't have to switch to it, nor do you need to pay in a minimum amount or have direct debits set up (so you can treat it like a prepaid card). The exchange rate you'll get is set by Mastercard, which tends to be slightly higher than Visa's.

Plus, you won't have a full credit check that other lenders can see on your file if you apply for an account (as long as you don't request an overdraft), so it could be a good option if you don't want that.

Starling Bank is a new challenger bank, which opened applications to its current account in May 2017. It's regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and has the full £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee. For now it has no overseas fees, though it's possible this'll change in future. Initial feedback has been positive – please let us know your experiences with it.

Need-to-knows
  • You can download Starling Bank's app for iOS or Android.
  • You can make up to three cash withdrawals a day, totalling a max £300.
  • Money in your account will earn 0.5% AER interest on up to £2,000 and 0.25% AER interest up to £85,000.
  • You can apply for an overdraft if you want one – you won't automatically be given one.
Stats box
  • Exchange rate fee: Europe: 0% | Worldwide: 0%
  • Cash withdrawal fee: None
  • Card type: Mastercard debit | In-credit interest: 0.5% AER interest up to £2,000; 0.25% between £2,000 and £85,000
  • Minimum monthly pay in: N/A
  • Arranged overdraft cost: 15% EAR variable
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: 15% EAR variable
Starling Bank Debit Card

Fee-free overseas spending & withdrawals, though withdrawals are limited

Monzo Bank

Monzo Bank offers an app-based current account that has no fees for overseas spending or cash withdrawals. It's also a Mastercard, so you'll get near-perfect rates.

While it's a similar offering to the Starling card above, fee-free overseas cash withdrawals are limited to £200 in any 30-day period - a 3% fee applies above this.

Monzo Bank is another challenger bank, which opened up current account applications in Oct 2017. It's regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and has the full £85,000 UK savings safety guarantee.

Need-to-knows
  • You can download Monzo Bank's app for iOS or Android.
  • You can apply for an overdraft if you want one – you won't automatically be given one.
Stats box
  • Exchange rate fee: Europe: 0% | Worldwide: 0%
  • Cash withdrawal fee: None up to £200 per 30-day period, 3% above.
  • Card type: Mastercard debit | In-credit interest: None
  • Minimum monthly pay in: N/A
  • Arranged overdraft cost: £20 buffer then 50p per day (max £15.50/mth)
  • Unarranged overdraft cost: £20 buffer then 50p per day (max £15.50/mth)

While the accounts above are our top picks, here are some other current accounts to consider:

  • Metro Bank: With its current account Metro Bank charges no non-sterling transaction fees or cash withdrawal fees when you use its debit card in 34 European countries. Outside Europe, you'll pay a non-sterling transaction fee of 2.75%. You can open the account online or in branch.
  • Cumberland Building Society: If you have a Cumberland Plus current account with Cumberland Building Society, it charges no foreign exchange fee or cash withdrawal fees on the debit card that comes with the account. However, you need to live in its operating area – it covers Cumbria, South West Scotland, West Northumberland and North Lancashire.

Currency & credit cards Q&A

  • Do I get the rate on the day that I spend on the card?

  • Do the same rules apply when buying off overseas websites?

  • My card was blocked while I was abroad. Can I prevent this?

  • When's the best time to buy currency?

  • Should I get my travel money out in the UK or overseas?

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