Can you use a credit card abroad?

You can use credit cards abroad, but it's not as simple or as cheap as using them in the UK. Here is what you need to know before using your credit card overseas
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Using a credit card abroad

When you use a credit card overseas, the amount you pay for the transaction will be affected by the exchange rate. There are also several fees you may have to pay, including:

  • Non sterling transaction fees: This is usually a fixed percentage fee of the amount you spend on your card abroad, for example 2.99%

  • Cash withdrawal fees: This is usually a fixed fee percentage charge based on the amount you withdraw, for example 5%

  • Interest on any cash you withdraw: This is charged daily from when you make your withdrawal and is usually a high APR, for example 69.9%

Providers also charge interest and all the same fees that other cards charge. Here is how much credit cards can cost you.

However, if you get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, you can save money every time you use your card.

Before you travel

Tell your credit card provider when you are going and what countries you will visit by:

  • Phoning your provider

  • Logging into your online banking

  • Visiting a nearby branch

If you don't tell them, your bank may block your card when you're abroad, as foreign transactions can be flagged as suspected fraud.

Take a backup with you in case you lose your card, such as cash, travellers' cheques, a debit card, or another credit card.

When you're abroad

  • Make sure you shield your PIN when using a keypad or cash machine, just as you would at home

  • Never give your PIN to anyone else - even if they claim to be from the police or your bank

  • Don't travel with all your cards in the same place. For example if you're going out sightseeing, leave your backup card at the hotel room. This way if you lose your main cards, you'll still have the back up to get you through your trip

  • When paying by card, pay in the local currency. Don't let the retailer charge you in pounds as that lets them set the exchange rate - which is unlikely to be in your favour

Choosing the best card

There are credit cards designed for using overseas, offering one or more of the following:

  • No transaction fees

  • No cash withdrawal fees

  • A lower rate of interest for cash withdrawals

Getting a new credit card that doesn't charge you when you’re abroad can save you hundreds of pounds.

Use our travel credit card comparison to check the amount each card charges for usage abroad.

If you are getting a new credit card to use abroad, apply at least two weeks before you travel so there is enough time for your card to arrive in the post.

Here are some alternative ways you could spend while you’re abroad.

Find the best credit card for you, whether you're looking for 0% card for balance transfers or purchases or day to day spending and rewards