The best travel debit and credit cards

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

If you’re heading out of the UK then one of the best ways to spend money is to use a specialist card. Use the right one and you could be getting near-perfect exchange rates. Use the wrong one and you could be hit with extra fees on every transaction. Only a handful of accounts offer fee-free spending abroad, but it’s worth having a look online to see what your bank charges.

If you do need a new account to use abroad, here are the best ones.

Watch my video round up or keep reading

Our top travel debit cards

The cheapest cards are usually specialist debit cards – and they have the added benefit of not being credit cards! That means you can’t spend what you don’t have and credit checks will be easier or non-existent.

Another benefit 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.

Here are our top ones. If you already have one of these then you probably don’t need to open up another account.

Chase Bank

Why get it? No fees and 1% cashback

This digital-only account has no fees to use abroad. Plus you’ll get 1% cashback on all purchases (though this is capped at £15 a month), interest on savings and 5% interest on ’round-ups’ (though this latter one probably won’t add up to much). You won’t be hard credit searched. Here’s our full Chase Bank review.

Starling Bank

Why get it? No fees and the best banking app

Starling has become Editor-in-Chief Andy’s main card to use overseas. There are no limits for spending abroad or taking cash out (other than the daily cap you get with all debit cards), making it the best of the new breed of digital banks. There’s also only a soft credit check. Read our full Starling review.

Other fee-free current accounts

If you already have these accounts then you might be fine to just stick with them, and they might have extra benefits such as higher interest on savings.

  • First Direct: Frequent bank switching offers, 7% Regular saver, £250 0% overdraft. Hard credit search
  • Cumberland Building Society: Fully fee-free but requires a £750 a month deposit to the account. Hard credit search
  • Kroo: £200 cash withdrawal limit each calendar month. 4.35% interest on savings. Soft credit check only.
  • Monzo: Another with limits on cash withdrawals. Soft credit search and 4% interest.
  • TSB Spend & Save Plus: Fee free and the potential to earn £5 cashback a month, but has £3 monthly fee.
  • Virgin Money: Completely fee-free, and can be opened in branch, but still requires the app. Hard credit search.

Andy’s Top Tips

When you’re using one of these top travel cards, it’s really important you pay 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 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 smart debit cards

These cards aren’t technically debit cards, though they works just like one. Instead you get a smart card which links to your bank and credit cards in the same way you’d use PayPal or Apple Pay.

The benefit of this makes it cheaper to spend overseas through other bank accounts that would normally be very expensive.

This makes it 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.

With both these cards you’ll want to go for the free plans, though they do have a few restrictions.


Why get it? A decent backup card

Currensea does a similasr thing as Curve but you connect to your current account rather than add a card. It has a 0.5% fee on top of the exchange rates every day of the week, so it could work out more expensive.

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

The bigger 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

Currensea: Free £10 when you spend £150

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.


Why get it? A good back up and the ability to change your underlying payment card

Curve used to be our top pick because of its high fee-free spending allowances abroad. However, in a recent update to its fees, these were cut. This could still be a helpful backup for emergencies, but not for regular use.

Curve has a few helpful extra features, such as the ability to change which card you want to charge after purchase. It also allows pretty much all Visa and Mastercards, whether debit or credit.

Read our full Curve review for more details.

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.

Barclaycard Reward

Why get it? Earn cashback on all spending abroad

This Visa card from Barclaycard offers fee free spending and ATM withdrawals – and there’s no interest on cash you take out.

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.

Halifax Clarity credit card

Why get it? If you want a credit card but can’t get the Barclaycard Reward

This is the card I’ve had for years and I only stopped using it when slightly better options came along . But it’s still a decent card and comes with me as a backup.

The downside is you will get charged interest on cash withdrawals straight away. This can be avoided or minimised If you clear the balance on a daily basis to avoid these extras. If you can’t get online then you can set up a standing order before you go. 

It’s a solid card and well worth sticking with if you already have it.

Best prepaid cards

For the most part it’s best to avoid prepaid cards. They’ll set their own exchange rates and often charge you “inactivity fees” that can eat up any cash left on cards after your holiday.

However they can be useful if you want to lock in at a set exchange rate, and if you want to do this the following cards are cheapest:


It’s free to exchange up to £1,000 per month into a different currency if you do it Monday to Friday. So if you plan ahead, then you can avoid an extra 1% charge. You’ll get the (often slightly better) interbank rate with Revolut, rather than the Visa or Mastercard rate.

Spending is free (you’re already in the local currency), though there’s a £200 ATM limit a month before a 2% charge is applied to cash withdrawals.

You can add your card to Apple or Google Pay straight away, though you’ll need to pay £4.99 to get an actual debit card delivered if you want one. Here’s our full Revolut review.


HyperJar is another option when spending abroad. It’s a prepaid Mastercard that gets added to your Google or Apple Pay when you sign up. You can load money onto the card, which could stop you from overspending. Plus, it’s fee-free — you get Mastercard’s best foreign exchange rate when you spend without a fee on top.

This is slightly different to Revolut, where you convert the currency in one go, so if something drastically happens to the foreign exchange rate while you’re abroad, you wouldn’t be able to “lock in” the rate in the same way.

You can’t make cash withdrawals with HyperJar, so either ensure you have an account that lets you make withdrawals too, or make sure you’ve got as much physical cash as you need ahead of the holiday.


Though there’s a fee on top of the interbank rate with Wise, there are more currencies you can convert to.

Free cash withdrawals are capped at £200 a month

The best ways to spend when abroad

Cards aren’t the only way to spend. his article breaks down how our editor Andy spends when he goes away

18 thoughts on “The best travel debit and credit cards

  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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