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 debt 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 Platinum
This card has 0% foreign transaction fees, which is great, right? I used it for one month travelling around the 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 an app but it receives 1.8 stars out of five.
There is also a 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 month. 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.
- Poor ratings for app.
Best Credit Cards to Use Abroad
Halifax Clarity Credit Card
We are now using the Halifax Clarity Credit Card (since Lloyds has lost Amex, see below).
Like the Post Office Platinum, there are no charges for using abroad. There is also the added bonus of no charge for withdrawing money from ATM aborad too, although some ATMs may charge.
Another high APR at 19.9% means this is not the card to leave a balance on each month.
There is no annual fee.
- No overseas transaction fees or ATM withdrawal.
- No monthly/annual account fee.
- Highest APR.
Lloyds Bank Avios Rewards Points Credit Card
This is no longer an option, unfortunately.
First, Lloyds switched from Avois to British Airways. This removed the function to use points for hotels and the points for BA are reserved for certain flights, mostly from London. Not great of us Scots.
Then Lloyds recently announced that they are losing American Express altogether and you will be charged to use the Mastercard abroad.
No use as a travel card.
- Can no longer use abroad without being charged.
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 monthly fee of £13.
With this, there are 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.
Monzo – the New Kid on the Block
When I lived in Glasgow a new music club opened and to give the impression that it was thee place to be the stewards would hold back the queue making the desire to enter evident to anyone walking past.
Monzo is thriving a similar vibe! The pink card from the anti-tradition bank is only available to those with an invite.
Jokes aside, friends who have a Monzo UK account are buzzing about it. They like the speediness of the app which shows purchases as soon as they happen, money-saving settings, and ease of using abroad.
- Free transactions abroad.
- Instant notifications when spending.
- Nifty app.
- It’s like a club for cool kids.
- Withdraw limited to up to £200 every 30 days for free.
- 3% charge after that.
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.