The best credit cards to use on your travels

Looking forward to going abroad? Don't let credit card fees spoil your holiday

BWT2EB Close-up of payment machine buttons with human hand holding plastic card near by Credit card swipe swiping checkout check

If you're jetting off on holiday soon, you might be considering how to pay for any purchases you make while you're abroad.

The problem is that many debit and credit cards charge you for the privilege of withdrawing cash or paying for items when you're overseas. So how can you get around this?

Fortunately, there are a handful of cards that allow you to use them abroad without charging you rip-off fees. Bear in mind that the exchange rate that each one offers will be different and you might want to take that into consideration when you're comparing.

The big benefit of using a credit card is any purchases you make over £100 are covered if they turn out to be faulty or damaged by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This means you can claim compensation either from the merchant or your credit card provider.

You'll also be better protected in the unfortunate event that your card is fraudulently used. Let's take a closer look at the cards that don't charge you for using them abroad.

Compare cards that don't charge foreign usage fees

Post Office Platinum credit card
The Post Office Platinum credit card won't charge you a fee for any purchases you make overseas using your card. This is also the case if you make any online transactions from home in a foreign currency.

You can also avoid a cash advance fee when using the credit card to order currency or travellers cheques with the Post Office. You need to pay it off on time though or you'll be hit by interest charges of 27.9%.

The card also comes with a three-month interest-free period on purchases. However, be warned that after these introductory period you will be charged a representative APR (the annual cost of interest and charges) of at least 17.8%.

Halifax Clarity credit card
The Halifax Clarity card won't charge you for purchases anywhere in the world and the representative APR is only 12.9%.

If you make any cash withdrawals, you won't be charged a fee but you will be charged interest from the date the withdrawal is made – so you should still avoiding using this card at an ATM if at all possible.

Aqua Advance MasterCard
The Aqua Advance MasterCard is also designed for people with a less than perfect credit rating, but is also a very good piece of plastic for taking abroad as there are no fees for foreign purchases.

However, as it a card aimed at people looking to rebuild their credit score, it comes with a very hefty representative APR of 34.9% – so make sure you pay off your balance in full each month.

Compare cards that don't charge foreign usage fees

Saga Platinum credit card
If you're aged 50 or over, the Saga Platinum credit card will also let you sidestep foreign currency fees when you use your card for spending overseas. There's also nine months of interest-free spending and balance transfers (3% fee) with this card. Just bear in mind that after this point, you'll be charged interest of at least 11.9%.

Unlike the majority of credit cards, with the Saga Platinum credit card you'll also benefit from 55 days interest-free on cash withdrawals – meaning that if you do take out money from an ATM abroad, you won't be charged interest providing you clear your balance within 55 days.

If you don't clear your balance within this period, the interest rate jumps to 23.9% and this will be charged from the date you withdraw your money – so don't get caught out! You should also bear in mind there is a 2% fee (minimum £2) for withdrawing cash on your credit card.

Nationwide credit card
If you're a new customer, the Nationwide credit card allows you to build up an allowance for spending overseas every time you make a purchase in sterling. So for every £5 you spend in sterling, you'll be rewarded with £1 to spend overseas.

The allowance you've earned will appear on your statement each month and there's no limit to how much you can build up. What's more, if you don't use your overseas spending allowance in the first year, you can carry it over.

If you spend more than your allowance when you're on holiday, you'll be charged a 2% commission fee.

You can also enjoy up to 15 months interest-free spending or opt for 26 months 0% on balance transfers

Just make sure you pay off your balance in full before the introductory period ends as the representative APR is 17.9%.

Nationwide Select credit card
If you have a Nationwide FlexDirect current account, Flex Account (extra conditions apply) or FlexPlus account, you're eligible for the Nationwide Select credit card.

This card offers commission-free purchases abroad plus 0.5% cashback on all sterling purchases.

It also offers 15 months interest free on purchases as well as 26 months 0% on balance transfers (2.4% fee). The representative APR is 15.9%.

How they compare to debit cards
Norwich & Peterborough Building Society, Cumberland Building Society and Metro Bank offer accounts with debit cards that offer fee-free spending abroad, although Metro Bank now limits it to Europe only. Several other high street banks also don't charge fees for cash withdrawals in certain countries.

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.

There is a wide range of prepaid currency cards on the market, from the likes of the AA, the Post Office, FairFX, Caxton FX, Travelex and My Travel Cash. You can find out more and see a comparison for different destinations in The best prepaid cards for spending abroad.

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