The best credit cards to take on holiday this year

Despite the recent inclement weather, the summer holiday season is not too far away now.

And many people won't have to wait that long to escape the grey skies thanks to the two Bank Holiday weekends coming up in May.

But do you have the right credit card to take away with you this year? If not, now is the time to start thinking about it.

Most card providers charge hefty fees for using your plastic abroad. But others give you access to exactly the same services completely free of charge.

Picking the right plastic for your 2013 holidays will therefore make a big difference to the credit card bill you have to pay when you get back.

And that could slash the overall cost of your break in the sun.

Here, we take a closer look at the charges you will pay if you make the wrong choice, and round up the best cards to take overseas with you this year.

The cost of using a credit card abroad

A credit card can be a very useful thing to have in your purse or wallet while you are away.

Not only are credit cards a convenient and secure way to carry cash, they are also widely accepted and offer greater protection than paying by debit card.

This is due to consumer laws that state that credit card companies are jointly and severally liable for purchases made from overseas companies as well as those in the UK (so long as the purchase is between £100 and £60,260).

But – and it’s a big but – using a credit card while on holiday can also push up the overall cost of your trip significantly due to the high charges imposed by many providers.The majority of card providers levy two overseas transaction charges as standard.

  • A loading fee (confusingly also known as a foreign purchase, conversion or exchange rate fee)
  • A cash withdrawal fee

The loading fee applies every time you use your card abroad, whether to withdraw cash or pay in a restaurant, for example, and can be as high as 2.99%.

Worse still, however, if you use your credit card to withdraw cash from an overseas ATM, you will ALSO be hit with a cash withdrawal fee that is either a flat rate or a percentage of the amount withdrawn, up to about 2%.

On top of this you are likely to be whacked with a poor exchange rate and maybe a higher rate of interest than the representative APR which can kick in from as soon as the cash withdrawal is made.

In short, if you withdraw £500 from a Spanish bank, you could end up paying more than £30 in charges. And bear in mind, you may need to do that several times when you are on a two-week overseas break.

Last year, Post Office research revealed that British holidaymakers are hit with a collective estimated £135million in unnecessary credit card fees every summer.

The best cards for overseas usage

However, the good news is that you can avoid being stung for overseas spending simply by opting for a credit card that does not impose foreign transaction fees. Here are the best of the bunch:

  • The Halifax Clarity Credit Card sits top of the tables in the overseas credit card stakes. It charges no loading fee for use anywhere in the world, and incredibly, no cash withdrawal fee either. Its representative APR of 12.9% (variable) applies to both purchases and cash withdrawals. However, bear in mind you can be charged a representative APR of up to 21.9% (variable) depending on your credit circumstances.
  • The Saga Platinum credit card is another hot contender, though you will need to be aged over 50 to qualify. This card also charges a 0% loading fee for use anywhere in the world and, in addition, comes nine months of interest-free spending and an even more competitive representative APR of 11.9% (variable) – though again you may not qualify for this. Cash withdrawal fees however, (via an ATM or bureau de change) will be charged at 2% or £2, whichever is the greater – but you won’t incur interest if fully repaid.
  • The Post Office Platinum credit card is another example of fee-free plastic to use anywhere abroad, though it will charge 2.5% or £3 on cash withdrawals, whichever is the greater. The representative APR on this card is 16.9% (variable) but this soars to 26.9%, on cash withdrawals.
  • The Nationwide Select Credit Card is also worth a look. It too charges 0% fees on goods and services bought anywhere around the world. And if you use the card for UK purchases you will be rewarded with 0.5% cashback. You will also receive 0% interest for 12 months on purchases and for 20 months on balance transfers, while the representative APR that kicks in after these periods is 12.9% (variable). However, you will need to be a Nationwide FlexAccount current account holder to qualify. The Nationwide Select card charges 2.5% or £3 on cash withdrawals, which also incur interest at the punitive rate of 27.9% (variable).

Always check the small print first, but with any of these cards, you could be saving yourself a fortune compared to the one you are currently carrying in your wallet.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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