Summer holidays: best credit cards for spending abroad
If you're about to head abroad, you might be considering how to pay for any purchases you make while you're there.
The problem is that many credit cards carry hefty charges for the privilege of paying for items when you're overseas.
So how can you get around this?
Fortunately, there are a handful of credit cards that allow you to use them abroad without charging you rip-off fees.
Keep in mind that the exchange rate each one offers will be different 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'll also be better protected in the unfortunate event that your card is fraudulently used.
So let's take a closer look at the credit cards that don't charge you for using them abroad.
Post Office Platinum
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 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 28-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 18.9%.
Santander Zero and All In One cards
The Santander Zero card is free to use and offers fee-free spending around the world. You can also earn cashback at selected retailers via its Retailer Offers programme.
Meanwhile, the Santander All In One credit card is fee free to use abroad and also pays 0.5% cashback on all of your spending without any limits or caps, as well as offering the Retailer Offers programme. However, the card does have a monthly fee of £3.
The Halifax Clarity card 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 from the date the withdrawal is made – so you should still avoiding using this card at an ATM if at all possible.
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.
You'll have a representative APR of 11.9%, making it affordable enough for regular use.
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.
After that, the interest rate jumps to 19.61% and this will be charged from the date you withdraw your money.
You should also bear in mind there is a 2% fee (minimum £2) for withdrawing cash on your credit card.
Generally speaking, using a credit card to withdraw cash is a rubbish idea. But if you need to, this is probably the card to use.
The aqua Advance card 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. However, if you consistently pay in full, you could get the rate reduced to 19.9%.
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 12 months interest free on purchases as well as 12 months 0% on balance transfers with no balance transfer fee. The representative APR is 15.9%.
How they compare to debit cards
Cumberland Building Society, Metro Bank and Norwich & Peterborough Building Society (now closed to new customers) offer accounts with debit cards that offer fee-free spending abroad, although Metro Bank now limits it to Europe only.
Virgin Money's Essential current account offers fee-free debit card purchases but charges £1.50 per cash withdrawal. 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.