Looking forward to going abroad? Don't let credit card fees spoil your holiday. Here's our roundup of the cheapest foreign usage and fee-free travel credit cards.
Many credit cards provider promise 'fee-free spending abroad'.
However, if you use your credit card to withdraw cash abroad you could get charged up to 5%, which is a big problem for travellers, particularly outside Europe.
Luckily, there is an increasing number of cards which also allow fee-free cash withdrawal, including the new Tandem Journey Card, which is available for beginners.
It's worth noting that you get charged interest on cash from the day that you withdraw it (with the exception of the Barclaycard below) so you'll want to pay off your balance as soon as possible to minimise the interest.
Keep in mind that the exchange rate each one offers will be different (Mastercard's exchange rate is generally better) and you might want to take that into consideration when you're comparing deals.
Why use a credit card for spending abroad?
You could, of course, choose to pay for things with your debit card.
However, the big benefit of using a credit card is that you're protected if any purchases you make over £100 turn out to be faulty or damaged.
Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, you can claim compensation either from the merchant or your credit card provider.
You could also earn cashback on your purchases, both in the UK and abroad.
So let’s take a closer look at the credit cards that don't charge you for using them abroad - or you can just head straight to our best buy tables to compare deals.
Always pay in local currency
Travel credit cards are great - providing you pay in the local currency.
Shops and restaurants abroad may offer you the chance to pay in pounds. This is known as 'dynamic currency conversion' and means you're likely to get a terrible conversion rate, ruining the benefits of your credit card.
Always, always opt to pay in local currency.
Barclaycard Platinum Cashback Plus
If you frequently visit countries that mainly use cash, then Barclaycard's offering (representative APR 21.9%) may be best for you.
That's because it's currently the only credit card currently on the market which doesn't charge interest on foreign cash withdrawals as soon as you take the money out (you could of course just use a fee-free debit card instead).
Providing you withdraw in local currency, and pay off the balance within a month, you won't get charged anything. The same applies to foreign spending - so no fees until 31 August 2023.
It also pays 0.25% cashback on all spending – you could get four times that with a specialised cashback card (and a whopping 5% for the first three months), but it's still a welcome bonus.
It's also got a limited time bonus offer of £15 cashback if you spend £1500 in the first three months
You'll need four years of experience in managing credit to get this card, so it's not suitable for beginners.
Tandem's flagship card (representative APR 18.9%) is the best fee-free travel card for cashback.
You'll earn 0.5% of all spending in the UK and overseas and if you pay off your balance in full each month you won't have to pay interest on spending. Interest will still be charged on cash withdrawals from the day of withdrawing, however.
Halifax Clarity Mastercard
The Halifax Clarity card (representative APR 19.9%) won't charge you for purchases anywhere in the world.
If you make any cash withdrawals, you won't be charged a fee but you will be charged interest (19.9%-25.95%) from the date the withdrawal is made – so you should still avoid using this card at an ATM if possible.
Not to be confused with the Tandem Cashback Mastercard (see above), the Journey Card (representative APR 24.9%) offers fee-free spending and cash withdrawal abroad.
Unlike most travel cards, it is available to those with a limited credit history, making it a good first credit card.
You can check your eligibility and apply for the Tandem Journey card here.
The Santander Zero Mastercard (representative APR 18.9%) offers fee-free spending and cash withdrawals worldwide.
It also offers 12 months interest-free on purchases.
Just watch out when withdrawing cash on a credit card as interest is charged as soon as you take the money out.
With the Santander Zero card, you can also earn up to 15% cashback at selected retailers through the Santander Retailer Offers programme.
Creation Everyday Mastercard
At 12.9%, Creation's credit card has the lowest interest rate for a fee-free card.
It's worth noting that if you don't withdraw cash and pay off the balance in full every month you shouldn't have to pay any interest on the other cards in this guide, however.
You will get charged interest immediately if you withdraw cash on Creation's card.
How they compare to debit cards
Challenger banks Starling and Monzo don't charge foreign spending or ATM fees - although the latter limits you to £200 cash withdrawals every 30 days. Revolut is mainly fee-free and uses the interbank exchange rate, which it claims gives better rates.
Metro Bank won't charge fees for spending or withdrawals in Europe only.
For more take a look at The best debit cards to use abroad.
Prepaid currency cards
Another option is prepaid currency cards. The great thing about these cards is that they allow you to load up your card with funds before you jet off abroad – as well as when you’re out there, making it easier (in theory) to stick to a budget.
Certain cards don’t charge you for making purchases overseas or making cash withdrawals. And because these cards are prepaid, there’s no need to worry about interest rates. What’s more, you’ll generally get a competitive exchange rate.
But they do come with some fees, so read the small print carefully. Check out: The best UK prepaid cards for spending abroad for more.
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