If you're going abroad, or spending on foreign websites, getting the right plastic could save you a small fortune. Pick up a specialist travel credit or pre-pay card and enjoy piece of mind knowing that you've got the best exchange rate possible for any currency in the world. Here's our guide to the best credit cards for travel
We've spoken about travel credit cards before, but the industry moves fast, and many of the current crop of cards only launched in the past year or two. While the Halifax Clarity, still remains the best traditional credit card for foreign spending, the Creation Everyday Credit Card is equally as good.
Of course not everyone can get a specialist credit card. So we've also rounded up of the top ‘open to all' cards for travel and foreign spending. Jump to pre-paid and other cards
The best credit cards for travel
Still one of the best around
A top pick for years, the Halifax Clarity is probably the most well known specialist travel credit card. There's no commission nor fees for spending or cash withdrawals. What's more, you get the Mastercard Wholesale exchange rate, which tends to be ever-so-slightly better than VISA's rates.
The Card does charge interest on cash withdrawn abroad at 18.9% (21.9%-25.9% for poorer credit scorers), but this amounts to just £1.50 per £100 spent. This is only charged until you've repaid the balance, so you can minimise this paying it off as you go along.
Interest isn't charged on point of sale purchases abroad provided you clear the balance by the end of the statement date.
18.9% APR Representative (variable). Based on an assumed credit limit of £1,200 and a purchase rate of 18.9% p.a. (variable)
Creation Everyday Credit Card
The absolute cheapest credit card for overseas spending
The Creation Everyday card is another Mastercard with zero fees on foreign spending or withdrawals. Its low 12.9% interest rate on cash withdrawals actually makes it cheaper (by 50p per £100 spent) than the Halifax Clarity, which is good going. On your statement you'll initially see a foreign exchange fee, but it gets refund automatically. Since this might confuse some, we've listed this card just below the Clarity, for its…erm… lack of clarity.
Like the Clarity, you can minimise the interest charged on cash withdrawals by paying the money back as soon as you can. Similarly, there is no interest charged on foreign purchases provided you clear the balance by the statement date.
Again, those with a slightly poorer credit score will likely be offered a higher APR of between 17.9%-21.9%
12.9% APR Representative (variable). Based on an assumed credit limit of £1,200 and a purchase rate of 12.9% p.a. (variable)
The top foreign currency cards and accounts open to all. No credit checks, no fuss.
Monzo – The digital bank solution
Monzo is not just a specialist travel card, it's a specialist bank based around a smart-phone app. Here's what they say:
We are building a bank for people who live their lives on their smartphones. For people who want to get things done in a click and who don’t see the need for branches and cheque books. We’re focussed on building the best current account in the world and ultimately working with a range of other providers so that Mondo can be an intelligent hub for your entire financial life.
The bank has an ethical focus and offers perfect exchange rates, and no ATM fees. Tim Blomfield the Mozo CEO says:
If you made this payment with Monzo, we’d pass the MasterCard exchange rate straight through to you…I’ve not yet managed to find better exchange rates anywhere else. So enjoy using your card abroad!
So far the bank portion of Monzo isn't quite ready, but you can get the travel card right now. Excellent exchange rates, no fees, touchID login, and the ability to freeze the card when not using it, all add up to make Monzo our go to pre-pay travel card.
Supercard – The best choice for online shopping?
Launched with great fanfare in 2015, Travelex Supercard was unlike anything that came before it. Managed by a mobile phone app, the Supercard allows users to link their credit and debit cards for instant spending as oppose to topping up and holding money on the card itself.
The card entered beta testing in Spring 2015 and caused mayhem as thrifty travellers scrambled to sign up, ultimately crashing the app. With near perfect exchange rates and no fees on electronic or ATM withdrawals, the Supercard was a top pick for foreign spending.
I say was because the beta trial ended in 2016, and the old cards were deactivated. This was to allow Travellex to change card supplier due to some niggling issues in the beta test.
New but not necessarily improved
The new card was released in June 2016 as a Mastercard rather than the VISA debit it was before. This means that account holders will now benefit from the Mastercard exchange rate which is often ever-so-slightly better than the VISA rate. Unfortunately, it also means that the card may now incur costs when booking flights on low cost airlines.
Like the old card, spending online and in stores and restaurants is free, but unlike the old card using it in an ATM will now cost 3%, making it one of the worst cards we can think of for withdrawals abroad. To put that in perspective, that's a £30 fee for every £1,000 withdrawn.
Supercard say that this is to cover their costs and that feedback from beta users showed that they preferred to use the card electronically. Many have taken to Twitter to call ‘BS' on that.
Free travel insurance
From 21st September 2016 all Supercard holders will receive free travel insurance. The insurance is designed to complement your standalone policy rather than act as a replacement, but it is a welcome benefit. It covers the usual risks such as delayed departure, lost baggage, emergency medical assistance etc… but is not as comprehensive as a standalone policy. To be eligible for the insurance, all you have to do is activate you card.
Overall the Supercard is still a decent travel card provided you only visit modern developed countries where you can pay for items using your card electronically, and/or spend a lot on foreign based websites.
Revolut – The next generation pre-pay travel card
The Revolut card comes hot on the heals of Supercard. It too is a mobile app based account, but is slicker and user friendly than the competition. You can use the Revolut account to pay for online purchases without the actual card, but if you want to withdraw cash from an ATM or pay at POS terminals, you'll need to order a physical card via the app. The card is free, and should show up within 5-10 days.
Like traditional pre-pay cards the Revolut account first needs loading with currency. You can load up in pounds, dollars, and euros and convert between the three instantly from within the app. Spending is not limited to these currencies though. All in all there are 90 currencies you can spend in, and receive the Mastercard exchange rate.
Speaking of rates, when using the card on a recent trip to Ireland, I noticed that the exchange rate listed in the Revolut app, was actually better than those shown on XE.com. Additionally, Revolut is one of the few accounts that continued to allow its customers to trade during the volatility and currency fluctuations caused by the Brexit vote.
ATM fees kick in
It almost sounds too good to be true right?
Revolut changed its terms and conditions recently, and now only allows £200 per month free from ATM, and charges a 2% fee for any withdrawals over that. that's £20 per every £1000 withdrawn over and above the first £200. It's still a great card, but due to the change we now recommend the Monzo card linked to above.
Tide – the best small business account for foreign spending
If you run a small business and regularly need to travel abroad, or pay for goods and services in a foreign currency, then Tide might be worth considering.
Tide is a new mobile-first account aimed at small business, freelancers, contractors and other self-employed professionals. Although not specifically a currency card (it is a fully fledged account in its own right), Tide, does not charge commission, fees, or loading on foreign purchases, and users benefit from the MasterCard exchange rate.