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
- 0% foreign transaction fees (no fees on overseas) saving around 3% in fees
- 24/7 contact from abroad (call/email/social media) for lost or stolen cards especially
- reliable online banking
- APR (annual percentage rate – the rate you pay back at)
- 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.
- No overseas transaction fees
- No monthly/annual account fee
- 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)
- No overseas transaction fees
- Avois points collection
- Excellent digital banking service
- 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.
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.