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 it could be hit with extra fees and charges on every transaction.

But the selection of good cards isn’t huge. Out of my 15 or so debit cards and five or six credit cards, only a handful are fee-free. And some of them have limits on top.

Which means it’s more likely than not that your existing debit or credit card is going to be an expensive way to spend abroad. It’s worth having a look online to see what your bank charges.

If you find you already have a fee-free card then great. There’s probably no reason to switch to one of those listed below. But for most of you, it’s well worth opening up an account to get your hands on one of my top picks below.

best travel cards

Watch my video round up or keep reading

My 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. Plus the 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.

Here are my top four. 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 for a year

This digital-only account has no fees to use abroad. Plus for the first 12 months you’ll get 1% cashback on all purchases (though this will be capped ), 4% 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 my full Chase Bank review.

Starling Bank

Why get it? No fees and the best banking app

Since Starling has become my main current account it’s also been my 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 internet banks. There’s only a soft credit check. Read my 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: Regular bank switching offer, 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.
  • Monese: Fee-free spending but a £1.50 ATM fee
  • 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 I’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.

My 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? Decent back up and the ability to change your underlying payment card

Curve is my top pick here thanks to its handy 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.

You’ll get no charges on weekdays on up to £1,000 spend on a rolling 30 day period. At weekends there’s 0.5% added for USD and EUR, and 1.5% extra for other currencies. Spending over £1,000 will have 2% added.

You’lll get £200 of cash machine withdrawals every 30 days, then it’s the higher of 2% or £2 on top.

The free tier has a £4.99 card delivery fee. Read my full Curve review for more details.


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.

My 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 plan ahead to avoid an extra 1% charge. You’ll get a 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.


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 I spend when I go away

17 thoughts on “The best travel debit and credit cards

  1. 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.

  2. 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).

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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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