Best Credit Cards for Travel – For Brits!

Best Credit Cards for Travel – For Brits!

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You’ve saved hard, lived off pasta and had to bunk back at your folks’ home for half a year so don’t get ripped off spending money abroad! Fed up with only reading about points benefits for U.S credit and debit cards I’ve dug deep to research the best credit cards for travel for Scots and Brits (and debit and travel cards too).

Why do I need a different credit or debit card?

When travelling to different countries, whether they be European, or further afield, we are often hit with charges for using ATMs or making credit card transactions abroad. This is not always necessary if you are willing to leave your day to day cards at home while you hang around Havana or laze around Lisbon. Some of these debit and credit cards are free, others charge a monthly fee but also include other benefits such as car break down coverage in the UK, mobile phone insurance and the handy European travel insurance coverage.

⇨ Taking a trip? We saved £20K to travel for 18 months – check out our tips

What to look for

When researching for the ideal travel credit card you should look out for reviews on

  1. 0% foreign transaction fees (no fees on overseas) saving around 3% in fees
  2. 24/7 contact from abroad (call/email/social media) for lost or stolen cards especially
  3. reliable online banking
  4. APR (annual percentage rate – the rate you pay back at)
  5. Never take money out using the ATM using a credit card at home or abroad

Best credit cards for travel (UK)

1. Credit Card: Post Office Mastercard

This card has 0% foreign transaction fees, which is great, right? I used it for one month travelling around USA and also in South East Asia for another 5 weeks. However the Post Office Mastercard has its flaws, and this is mainly down to the website. It is not user friendly, often difficult to understand and when I spoke with customer service about this over the phone they laughed, agreed and apologised. I even missed a bill payment due to the site being awkward, the customer service advisor waived the fee and stated that they get frequent complaints about the website. There is no app either (hello, 2017!) The second alarm bells that ring is the very high APR coming in at 18.9% APR (up from 17% in 2014). Advice: do not use a credit card with high APR unless to plan to pay off the full balance each moth. A bonus is that the card is free of monthly or annual charges.

Pros

  • No overseas transaction fees
  • No monthly/annual account fee

Cons

  • Digital banking is poor
  • No app

Best credit cards to use abroad

Lloyds Bank Avios Awards Points Credit Card

I bypassed the Halifax Clarity card as at the time it looked as it the 0% transaction fee was only in Europe (as confirmed by financial advisor), although Money Saving Expert states it’s worldwide now. The Lloyds card is attractive as it has an awards points system attached to it through Avios. I also collect Avios points when I shop at Tesco, another thumbs up from me. With the Lloyds card you get two cards – American Express which you get 1.25 Avios points for every £1 you spend but they acknowledge that not everywhere accepts AMEX so they also provide you with a Mastercard (but the point collection is less – 1.25 points for every fiver). Customer service is great, digital banking is neat and there is an app. However, there is a £24 annual charge for the card. APR is also high at 18.94%-31.1% so the same goes as above, pay off the balance in full and avoid ATMs. We have two cardholders, which is always handy for racking up those points. We paid for a hotel in Germany and have enough for at least 2 flights to another European country (from London annoyingly)

Pros

  • No overseas transaction fees
  • Avois points collection
  • Excellent digital banking service
  • App

Cons

  • High APR
  • Annual fee of £24

What do you use? Tell us in the comments below

Using debit cards abroad

Do not take money out of ATMs with your debit card abroad if you can. Obviously, this is not an option for most people but this is where your purse is hit. For example, I used my Royal Bank of Scotland debit card in the USA and South East Asia, we were hit with a fee of 2.75% and then up to £5 charge on each withdrawal. Why don’t I just bend over?

Nationwide Flex Account Debit Card

I wanted to go with a bank I was familiar with hence bypassing Norwich & Peterborough and Metro Bank who are both recommending elsewhere online. I had a dormant account with Nationwide from when they offered ‘no to very low’ charges on transactions overseas (back in the early 2000s when I went inter-railing around Eastern Europe). I brought life back into this account because of the low 2% transaction fee for withdrawals overseas. This debit card account is free.

As of 2015, I now use the upgraded Nationwide Flex Plus account which has a month fee of £13. With this I get no charges of using ATMS abroad (just the rate of conversion), car break down in the UK and Europe, worldwide mobile phone insurance and free worldwide family European travel (including skiing bonus for Austria!).

⇨ For longer breaks we use True Traveller, I claimed in Vancouver for ear crystals (GP visit and two trips to the physio) and they paid out, fast.

A fellow traveller has also suggested CaxtonFX prepaid card which Money Saving Expert, Martin, says is decent if you want to withdraw money at ATMs but the exchange rate is determined by the company. You top up online, the card is free and if you lose the card (or it gets stolen, same travelling friend’s boyfriend was a drugged and mugged victim!) you get the money back. However I need to look into its use worldwide.

Best Credit Cards For Travel

Super Saving Tips

Saving money? I can help you. I’m a super saver, yes the stereotypical tight Scot! Browse the following articles for more tips.

How do you deal with money overseas? Please check the comments below for tips from readers too.

Comments 22

  1. A very helpful post guys, especially as so many ones in this vein are normally heard towards US citizens. I’ve currently got the Lloyds Avios Points Credit Card – free because I had an existing account with them. I do find it useful and customer serve good too. However, looks like Nationwide might be the better option now. Thanks!

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  2. Ooh I didn’t know about these! I’m quite lucky to have an Austrian Maestro so free withdrawals and transactions in all Euro countries and lower fees than my Lloyds/Santander cards in non-Euro countries!

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  3. I spent ages looking into this before I left for SE Asia and ended up with a revolut card. They are a pre paid card similar to the many others out there but you can use them for any currency. This was a big thing for me as so many didn’t do Thai bhat and I will be moving through several different areas. I have my money in my bank account that you link up to your card then you just top up doing the way. It is free to withdraw aside from the atm charges and has worked great for me so far (10 days in). It is app based so not sure how there customer service would rate but great for those not wanting/eligible for the credit cards

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      This sounds new to me Lucy, thanks for sharing! I am not enjoying paying the $4-5 ATM charges in the States just now, such a rip off! Will consider for our next trip fro the UK, haven’t tried pre-paid yet (was a bit nervous going away for 1.5 years and trying it out from scratch!)

  4. It’s a good compromise between the debit card and credit card charges. I use it as a debit card but just draw the money out as I can budget that way better and lots of places don’t take cards here in Thailand but it has a MasterCard logo so you can use it wherever you are the MasterCard sign. It’s working well for me so far and avoiding those pesky bank charges ?

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      I definitely going to look into this for next Summer, Philippines is the plan! Where are you in Thailand? I hope you make it to Pai, really enjoyed the ride up and the waterfalls and hotsprings!

  5. On our current trip we have mostly used
    Thomas Cook pre paid dollar card- we used this when saving up for our holiday. When there was a good rate we transferred money onto it. When we were saving the rate was over $1.65 to the £, now it is just over $1.40 which is a huge drop. We only use this for purchases as there is a fee for removing from an ATM (similar to a number of pre paid cards). it is also very useful for online purchases that we wanted to do in advance such as purchase American Groupon. (never use a pre paid card for a holding charge at a hotel etc)
    Halifax clarity credit card – this has been excellent. No fees for using it, no fees for withdrawals (obv sometimes local fees), easy to clear our balance and check balance. Very few security issues and easily resolved via text. Exchange rate is pretty much the interbank rate. No monthly fee
    Travelex Supercard- this is a card which is basically a “front” for other cards. You can link up to five cards to it credit and debit. You manage it on the app or online. You can withdraw cash and make payments using the supercard but your British card will see it as a UK transaction so no commission charges. Cash withdrawals on credit card are not treated as such by the CC company. Exchange rate is near interbank rate and often better than the Halifax card. Instant update on the app showing exchange rate. No fees. The only con is that sometimes the technology didn’t work in countries like Argentina due to slow Internet so we always had a back up or cash with us. This was a trial which finishes soon but the actual project is coming out in June so worth looking at esp as it’s not a financial product but a travel product so no impact on your credit record.
    AA travel card. This is a sterling pre paid card. We found that the exchange rate for this card was better than others for some of the less popular countries we are visiting like Laos. We have also found that at some atms when our other cards aren’t working (Argentina!) We were able to get money out on this. Also we have found it works when some others don’t when buying flights etc online in Vietnam and Cambodia.

    We have had our debit cards and other credit cards with us but haven’t used them

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      This is really helpful, thank you. I would have went with the Clarity card if I had noticed it before Nationwide. We’re planning on going to the Philippines next Summer so will be looking into pre paid cards, the AA look attractive. Travelex sounds interesting. Sounds like you had a ‘mare in Argentina but are on an interesting trip!

      1. AA is one of the better ones but the sterling cards or the multi-currency cards do seem to have poorer exchange rates. We picked after considering good old moneysavingexpert.
        Before this trip I had never really thought of there being differences between Visa and Mastercard but in Brazil we had no problems with mastercard but we would have been sunk if we just had visa. In Argentina, Visa was the way to go but we had real difficulties with ATMs and card payments. ATMs we were able to use Santander and Glacier but in one town we went to 6 ATMS, with 10 cards, before finding glacier worked . I only mention because I had not thought of checking brands of ATMS before arriving in the country as usually we just head to one country.

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          The stress! I’ve found that with AMEX, only really widely accepted in North America. Today I Tweeted two of my banks who both called a number I could be reached on, just in case you ever need to speak to them while travelling it might be worth a try.

  6. Be warned Lloyds are having issues currently with many customers not receiving the AVIOS or upgrade voucher. My husband has had to complain repeatedly and this has now been going on for around six months. It is nice having the 0% overseas though

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  7. We have received compensation from them already but they owe us 15,000 miles so have suggested to my husband he asks for compensation to cover the cost of us purchasing those miles. Will see how we get on.

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  8. I have a Halifax clarity card and it’s been amazing! No fees, really favourable exchange rates (I always worry that banks might rip you off a bit on that front) and no fees on withdrawals as long as you pay it off right away – something I didn’t realise at first, I just paid it at the end of the month and got charged so called up, they told me why and refunded the fee, really good service!

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  9. I would recommend supercard by traveler.
    It’s not a debit or credit card but links to your nominated card and gives you the current straight Mastercard conversion without fees provided it is only used abroad.
    The app is really easy to use and provides a reasonable idea of what you have saved compared to using a normal debit/credit card.

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