The best travel debit and credit cards to use abroad

Monzo, Starling, Chase, Halifax Clarity and more compared for overseas spending.

If you’re heading out of the UK, using the wrong card for spending and cash withdrawals will mean you’re hit with extra fees on every transaction.

The good news is there are decent number of debit and credit cards which offer near-perfect exchange rates. Here’s our guide to the top specialist travel cards.

Watch Andy’s video round up or keep reading

Our top travel debit cards

The cheapest cards are usually specialist debit cards that come via specific current accounts. You don’t have to switch bank to get these – you can simply open up a brand new extra account, and many won’t perform hard checks on your credit report either.

If this is an extra account you get just for holidays, it’s easy to transfer money across, whether as a lump sum or as you go along, using your online or app banking. Or of course it could be your main current account where your salary is paid in each month.

A benefit of debit cards over credit cards is you won’t get charged interest to take cash out of an ATM, though as you’ll see a couple do have monthly limits on your fee-free spending or withdrawals.

It used to be there were only a handful, but there are quite a few to choose from. Here are our top picks.

Top pick: Chase Bank

Like the others in this guide, Chase’s digital-only account has no fees to use abroad or to withdraw cash.

Where it stands out over the others is you’ll get 1% cashback on all purchases (though this is capped at £15 a month) and 5% interest on “round-ups”. So you won’t just be saving money, you’re making it too.

You can also set up a separate account just for holiday spending which you can link your card to (before spending). This can segregate this cash from other money, helping you stick to budget.

You won’t be hard credit searched either, however it is smartphone only. Here’s our full Chase Bank review.

Chase debit card summary

Spending overseasFee-free (Mastercard rate)
Cash withdrawals overseasFree, with limits of £500 a day and £1,500 a calendar month
No extra charge at Chase ATMS in USA
Other benefits1% cashback on all spending (up to £15 a month)
5% interest on round-ups
Open several accounts
Account interest1% AER
Card delivery chargeFree delivery
FSCS protection?Yes

Other top fee-free current accounts

If you already have the following accounts and don’t fancy getting Chase, then you’ll be fine to just stick with them. They might have extra benefits such as higher interest on savings, or tempt you in with a switching bonus.

However, all will require you to use a smartphone, with the exception of Virgin Money. None of these banks will charge you to receive a debit card.

BankFree spending?Free cash withdrawals?Credit checkExtra infoReviewsSmart Money People customer score
First DirectYes, Mastercard rate£500 daily limitHardour First Direct review4.69 out of 5
HyperJar (prepaid card)Yes, Mastercard rateNo cash withdrawalsSoftNot a current account, so no FSCS protectionNot yet reviewed4.89 out of 5
KrooYes, Visa rate£200 limit per monthSoftATM charges will apply from 31 October 2024our Kroo review4.9 out of 5
MonzoYes, Mastercard rate£400 (Europe) / £200 elsewhere every 30 rolling days / Unlimited if Monzo is your ‘main bank’Softour Monzo review4.93 out of 5
StarlingYes, Mastercard rate£300 daily daySoftour Starling review4.95 out of 5
Santander EdgeYes, Mastercard rateHardNo extra charges on Santander machinesour Santander Edge review3.85 out of 5*
Virgin Money M PlusYes, Mastercard rate£500 daily limit HardCan be opened and managed in-branch or via the phoneour Virgin Money M Plus review4.29 out of 5
*whole bank score

The following are also worth considering if you’re an existing customer or looking for extras like rewards and travel insurance.

  • Club Lloyds Silver / Platinum: these packaged accounts come with a monthly fee, though you’ll get travel insurance and breakdown cover included. It’ll be fee-free on overseas spending and cash withdrawals from 1 July 2024
  • Cumberland Building Society: fully fee-free but requires a £750 a month deposit to the account. Hard credit search
  • Halifax Ultimate Rewards: another packaged account that will have free spending from 1 July 2024
  • Santander (other accounts): you won’t be charged for cash withdrawals only if you use a Santander machine outside the UK
  • TSB Spend & Save Plus: fee-free and the potential to earn £5 cashback a month, but has £3 monthly fee

Andy’s Top Tips

When you’re using one of these top travel cards, you’re often best paying in the local currency. If you pay in sterling, it’ll be swapped over at an exchange rate of the local bank’s choosing – which won’t necessarily be in your favour!

Also, though many of the cards we’ve mentioned are fee-free to use in ATMs, that doesn’t mean the local bank won’t add its own fee. So you’ll need to research for any that don’t do this in your destination, or plan ahead by making as few withdrawals as possible.

Our top travel credit cards

Specialist credit cards can be great for overseas spending as long as you pay off the debt before any interest is charged.

Credit cards are particularly handy for things like hiring a car or putting deposits down on hotel rooms. The money can be held on these without leaving your account. You’ll also get Section 75 consumer rights protection.

With all credit card applications do make sure you check your eligibility first if you can. And remember to clear the balance completely every month to avoid interest charges.

Top pick: Barclaycard Reward

This Visa card from Barclaycard is our top pick for credit cards. It offers fee free spending and, unusually, ATM withdrawals – and there’s no interest on cash you take out. However, it’s still better for your credit report to use a debit card for cash.

There’s also 0.25% cashback on purchases at home and abroad. That’s great for holiday spending but there are better alternatives for spending in the UK.

However, if you do get this you won’t be able to get another Barclaycard, such as the Avios earning options.

Barclaycard Rewards credit card summary

Spending overseasFee-free (Visa rate)
Cash withdrawals overseasFree, though will show on credit file
Other benefits0.25% cashback on all spending
Card delivery chargeFree delivery

Other fee-free credit cards

CardFree spending?Free cash withdrawals?Credit checkExtra infoSmart Money People customer score
Halifax ClarityYes, Mastercard rateYes, but interest is addedHard4.29 out of 5
Natwest credit cardYes, Mastercard rateNo (avoid)Hard4.79 out of 5*
Virgin Atlantic Reward credit cardIn Europe, Mastercard rateNo (avoid)HardEarn 0.75% Virgin points per £13.98 out of 5
Yonder (free)Yes, Mastercard rateYes, up to £150 a day (but it’ll still show on credit report)Hard, but uses open banking tooEarn points that can be used to redeem rewards4.99 out of 5
*whole bank score

Best smart travel spending cards

These cards aren’t normal debit cards, though they work just like one when you’re spending. You actually connect your existing current account or card to them via open banking. The conversion is made by the smart card at their exchange rate, which then takes the money from the underlying bank in pounds.

This makes it cheaper to spend overseas through other bank accounts that would normally be very expensive. They can be a great backup card, or even your primary travel spending card if you really can’t be bothered to go through the hassle of opening new accounts. There’s also no credit check.

Sadly, changes to Curve, our previous top pick, means it’s really not worth it. However you can still get these features from Currensea.

Top pick: Currensea

With Currensea there are three options, but the free “essential” tier has a 0.5% fee on top of the exchange rates every day of the week, making it a more expensive than our top debit and credit cards.

However there’s no monthly limit on spending with the card, and a decent £500 monthly free ATM withdrawal limit. Plus the card itself is free.

The big issue could be the limits on which banks it works with. Right now that list is only the bigger banks:

  • Barclays
  • Bank of Scotland
  • Couts
  • First Direct
  • Halifax
  • HSBC
  • Lloyds
  • Nationwide
  • Natwest
  • RBS
  • Santander
  • TSB
  • Ulster Bank
  • Virgin Money

When you sign up via this link you’ll be eligible for a £10 welcome bonus – however you’ll need to spend £150 in a foreign currency in the first six months to get the cashback.

Currensea smart debit card summary

Spending overseasInterbank rate plus 0.5% on 16 currencies, Mastercard rate plus 0.5% on others
Cash withdrawals overseasFree up to £500 a month
Card delivery feeNone
FSCS protection?Yes (on connected bank)

Best multi-currency cards to lock in a rate

The cards mentioned above will convert fee-free, but only on or just after the day you make the transaction. This means you’re not in total control of your budget when you’re away. If the pound were to fall against where you’re spending, you’ll ultimately spend more cash.

But there are options where you can pay fee-free on cards where you’ve already converted your pounds into another currency. Though of course, this could mean you miss out if the rate changes in your favour.

There’s usually a slight markup on the ‘interbank’ or ‘mid-market’ rates. This tends to be lower than the Mastercard or Visa rates, so even with the fee they’re often comparable.

When you spend with them, you’ll spend in the local currency. If you don’t have the local currency, most will let you pay fee-free and convert at the current rate.

However, there are usually quite strict limits on cash withdrawals, so you’ll likely want another card on your trip. Plus most of these will charge you for a physical debit card, so you’ll be relying on virtual cards added to your phone’s wallet if you want to avoid this fee.

The following are ones worth considering:

ProvderRateFree cash withdrawals?Card chargeExtra infoSmart Money People customer score
Revolut StandardInterbank (+ 1% on weekends)£200 limit per rolling month / max 5 withdrawals per rolling month£4.99Capped at £1,000 exchange per month4.89 out of 5
Trading 212Interbank + 0.15%£200 limit per month£4.954.75 out of 5
WiseInterbank + min of 0.39% (varies by currency)£200 limit a month / max 2 withdrawals a month£74.71 out of 5
ZingVisa rate + 0.2%£300 limit a month / max 2 withdrawals per monthFreeno score yet

18 thoughts on “The best travel debit and credit cards to use abroad

  1. Pingback: Best credit card offers and promotions (September 2023) – getofficialalpilean
  2. Hi, What about the all in one credit card? I understand that it’s fee free when used abroad? Not sure about ATM use, and obviously best paid off in full. Thanks.

  3. First Direct Bank just announced around end June 2023 that their debit card has no fees now for using abroad for spending or using at ATM’s for cash withdrawal and I also have Metro Bank account and their debit card has no fees in Europe (although not Worldwide).

  4. Hi, You dont seem to have covered the HSBC Global money card, which to me seems slightly better than revolut. It exchanges at mid market rate, into a currency account and you spend from that account using the card (physical or digital card), so you know in advance what exchange rate you are getting.

  5. Hi, when I travel in Spain it is very difficult to find an ATM that doesn’t levy an ATM fee. Most Spanish banks charge to take cash out of an ATM. I use my Santander 123 debit card free in Banco Santander ATM’s in Spain. If I select Euros I get the near perfect Mastercard exchange rate and no ATM fee.

    Even if I were to use my Starling card for ATM withdrawals in Spain I would be charged anywhere between 2 and 6 euros per transaction dependent on what bank ATM I use.

  6. Hi,I ve got Flexplus Nationwide bank account and they dont charge me when I use my visa debit card abroad.They charge me 13 pounds monthly for travel insurance worldwide for my family,3 mobiles insurance,breakdown cover in UK&Europe,its great deal.

  7. What about Revolut or did I miss it on your article. I’ve used them the last 8 years especially going abroad with zero fees helped save a fortune.

    1. It’s fine, but if you’re starting from scratch the others are better in my opinion

      1. I am not sure Relovut is to be dismissed. The advantage of it you can buy any currency you need during the opening hours of the exchange at a very competitive rate potentially making use of the daily / weekly fluctuations. Starling might be fine, but it wil not tell me – before I spend money – at which rate it exchanges my GBP into CZK if I am paying in Tesco in Prague.

  8. Thanks for the link for the Currensea card. Going to give this card a try on my travels!

    1. When do we get our £10 bonus after spending £150?

    2. I used Currensea last year in Spain and it worked perfectly!

  9. Hi Andy Webb,

    Is Amex not a good card to use overseas ?

    1. Hi Justin. You’ll get charged fees which far exceed the cashback you earn. So it’s best to not use them unless there’s some kind of additional offer (perhaps on a hotel) which will earn you a hefty amount of cashback.

  10. Hi Andy,

    Any thoughts about the Wise card (TransferWise) ? Even though there is a fee, exchange rates are good and money can be transferred in advance when the exchanges rates are low.

    1. Hi Hari, I think Wise can be useful if you are paid in a different currency, such as Dollars. For Euros then Monese does this transfer for free. But for everyday spending, then you’re better off with one of the cards in this guide that are completely fee free.

  11. I’ve got a specialist Barclaycard for traveling abroad which beats any of those cards you recommend
    Why have you not mentioned it

    1. Hi Richard, Sadly, the Platinum Barclaycard which had fee-free spending and also no interest on cash withdrawals is no longer available to new customers. As an existing customer, you’ll still be able to use it abroad at no cost for a good few years. I think it’s August 2023.


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