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Best credit cards for travelling abroad

How to choose the best credit card to use abroad

Victoria Russell
Written by  Victoria Russell
5 min read
Updated: 28 Feb 2024

Travel credit cards can be a great way to spend on holiday, but if you choose the wrong one, you could be hit with high fees and charges. Our guide explains how to avoid the pitfalls

What is a travel credit card?

A travel credit card is a type of credit card that usually won’t charge you for spending overseas. Unlike standard credit cards that can come with high interest rates and extra fees when used abroad, a travel credit card won’t charge you exchange fees. Travel credit cards aren’t to be confused with currency cards, or airline credit cards that offer rewards like airmiles for your spending.

Financial protection on the go

Similar to other types of credit card, travel credit cards can give you financial protection if your spending doesn’t go according to plan. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, if you spend more than £100 but less than £30,000 on your credit card and something goes wrong or isn’t as described, you can apply to your lender for a full refund.

Woman using credit card on holiday

How do travel credit cards work?

Travel credit cards are not just about saving on fees; they're about convenience and peace of mind. Here's what sets them apart:

  • No foreign transaction fees: They're specifically designed to be used abroad, so you won't incur extra charges for your purchases.

  • Rewards: Some travel credit cards offer rewards, such as cashback, travel rewards, and vouchers when you spend.

  • Cash withdrawals: You can withdraw cash without a fee on some cards, but watch out for interest charges and local ATM fees.

  • Acceptance criteria: A good credit score or a minimum income might be required to get your hands on one of these cards.

  • Fees: Weigh the benefits against any monthly or annual fees that may apply.

  • Payment network acceptance: Make sure the card is accepted in the countries you plan to visit.

Choosing the best travel credit card

When it comes to selecting the right travel credit card, consider your personal spending habits and travel plans. Look for:

  • No transaction fees: Ideal for frequent travellers who don't want to worry about extra charges.

  • Competitive exchange rates: A card that offers a favourable exchange rate will stretch your money further.

  • No interest on cash withdrawals: If you pay off your balance in full, this feature can be a real money-saver.

  • No cash withdrawal fees: Accessing cash abroad shouldn't come with a penalty.

Best practice for using your travel credit card

To maximise the benefits of your travel credit card, keep these tips in mind:

  • Inform your provider: Let your bank know about your travel plans to prevent any surprise suspensions.

  • Avoid cash withdrawals: Unless it's fee-free and you can pay it off immediately, it's usually best to use your card for purchases.

  • Pay in local currency: This often results in better exchange rates than paying in your home currency.

  • Pay off balance in full: Maintain a healthy credit score and avoid interest charges by clearing your balance.

Credit or debit: which is better abroad?

While debit cards are a common choice for travellers, they may incur higher fees and offer worse exchange rates than travel credit cards. Choosing a travel credit card can be a more cost-effective and secure option for your international spending needs.

Exploring alternatives to travel credit cards

If a travel credit card doesn't seem like the right fit, consider these alternatives:

  • Prepaid cards: Prepaid cards are a secure way to make cashless payments abroad, but be mindful of potential top-up, spending, and withdrawal fees.

  • Debit cards: They're convenient but may come with higher fees when used outside your home country.

  • Paying in cash: Carrying travel money can be a good option, especially if you secure competitive exchange rates through comparison services.

Compare and Find Your Ideal Travel Credit Card

With many types of travel credit cards available, choosing the right card for you can feel overwhelming. But that’s where MoneySuperMarket come in.

Whether you’re after a standard travel credit card, or a card that comes with rewards, we compare deals from the UK’s leading card providers and banks, so you can choose the right option for your needs.

MoneySuperMarket is a credit broker – this means we’ll show you products offered by lenders. We never take a fee from customers for this broking service. Instead, we are usually paid a fee by the lenders – though the size of that payment doesn’t affect how we show products to customers.

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