What is the best way to spend abroad?

Spending money overseas can end up costing you a fortune in fees and charges, so find out what options you have and which is the cheapest for your trip.

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How can you spend abroad?

          Take cash abroad

          This is the easiest way to start spending when you get to your destination.

          Pros

            Cons

              Find out how to get the best deal on travel money here

              Use a credit card or debit card

              Most providers will charge you for every transaction you make overseas, but you can find credit or debit cards which will cut the cost of your spending abroad.

              Debit card

              Pros

                Cons

                  Compare debit cards here

                  Credit card

                  Pros

                    Cons

                      * Card transactions only

                      Find travel credit cards here

                      How much do they cost to use abroad?

                      It differs significantly depending on the card you have.

                      This table shows some of the typical fees you could face when using a debit card or credit card overseas:

                      Updated 2 April 2020
                      CostsDebit CardCredit Card
                      Card transaction fee0% - 2.99%0% - 2.99%
                      Cash withdrawal fee0% - 2.75%0% - 5%
                      Cash withdrawal interestn/a6.5% - 69.9%

                      Debit card costs

                      This example shows an exchange rate of 0.73, a card transaction fee of 2.99% and a cash withdrawal fee of 2.75%.

                      Updated 2 April 2020
                      Debit cardConversion (€250)ChargeOverall cost
                      Card transaction fee (2.99%)£182.50£5.46£187.96
                      Cash withdrawal fee (2.75%)£182.50£5.02£187.52
                      Total£365.00£10.48£375.48

                      These 2 transactions abroad can cost you as much as £10.48 extra unless you shop around and find a debit card which offers lower or non-existent charges for usage abroad.

                      Credit card costs

                      This example shows an exchange rate of 0.73, a card transaction fee of 2.99% and a cash withdrawal fee of 5%.

                      Updated 2 April 2020
                      Credit cardConversion (€250)ChargeOverall cost
                      Card transaction fee (2.99%)£182.50£5.46£187.96
                      Cash withdrawal fee(5%)£182.50£9.13£191.63
                      Total£365.00£14.59£379.59

                      These 2 transactions can cost you £14.59, but you can find a credit card which does not charge for card transactions abroad, saving you the £5.46 seen above.

                      Daily interest on a credit card

                      On top of the cash withdrawal fee, you will also need to pay interest on the cash you withdraw using your credit card.

                      This table shows how much you will be charged over 10, 20 and 30 days if you withdraw €250 (£182.50) abroad:

                      Updated 2 April 2020
                      Cost (€250)10 days20 days30 days
                      Interest charge£2.78£5.57£8.35

                      Avoid using a credit card abroad if you plan on making cash withdrawals due to the excessive charges that come with them.

                      Use a prepaid card

                      You can use a prepaid card in a similar way to a credit card, except you need to top up the account with funds before you can use them, rather than spending money and paying it off later.

                      There are two types of prepaid card:

                        Pros

                          Cons

                            Compare prepaid cards to use abroad here

                            How much do prepaid cards cost to use abroad?

                            Some prepaid cards can come with several potential fees:

                            Updated 2 April 2020
                            CostsStandard prepaid cardTravel prepaid card
                            Card fee£0 - £15£0 - £50
                            Load fees0% - 5%0% - 2.85%
                            Card transaction fee0% - 5.75%0% - 5.75%
                            Cash withdrawal fee0% - 5.75%0% - 5.75%

                            When you use a cash machine with a prepaid card, it may charge you further fees and limit the amount you are able to withdraw.

                            For example, a €250 cash withdrawal and a €250 card transaction on a prepaid card that charges 5.75% for both transactions, will charge you £10.49 for each*.

                            * Based on an exchange rate of 0.73

                            How much does it cost to load a prepaid card?

                            Use traveller's cheques

                            A traveller's cheque works by converting sterling into foreign currency as a cheque, which can be cashed when abroad.

                            When you buy traveller's cheques, be careful to avoid any unnecessary charges. For example, if you buy your traveller's cheques using a credit card, you will be charged both by your credit card provider for a cash withdrawal and by the traveller's cheque provider too.

                            There is usually no charge for using your debit card to pay for a traveller's cheque, but double check with the provider before you complete your order.

                            Pros

                              Cons

                                You must sign your traveller's cheques when you get them or risk someone fraudulently signing and using them.

                                Traveller's cheques are provided by many travel money companies in association with American Express. This means that you will need to find an American Express kiosk abroad to cash in your traveller's cheques, though many hotels will also cash them in for you.

                                Use the American Express Travellers Cheques website to search for a location.

                                Spending abroad can be costly, so make sure you compare the market for the best exchange rates available on your travel money before jetting off.