What is a travel credit card?
Travel credit cards are a smart way to spend money abroad and avoid the usual fees you would be charged for using a regular credit card. Going on holiday with a credit card offers benefits to travelers, and making sure you have the right travel credit card in your wallet could save you some money.
Why should you get a travel credit card?
Using travel credit cards can limit the amount of cash you need to carry around with you while on holiday and provide other rewards and perks as well.
Specialist travel cards allow you to spend money abroad without incurring the fee your regular credit card provider might charge for overseas usage. Most card providers charge a 3% fee on whatever you spend on your card while abroad. If you are away for more than a few days these fees will rack up. Let’s say you spend £1,000 on your card while you are away – using a non-specialist credit card with a 3% foreign usage fee will cost you an extra £30.
Pre-paid currency cards
While these are not credit cards, pre-paid currency cards can spare you a lot of hassle while travelling. These allow you to load up a card with foreign currency – like a pay-as-you-go phone – which you can then spend on your holiday. The obvious advantage of these cards is that they save you from having to carry around large quantities of cash, plus if one gets lost or stolen you can easily cancel it.
Most banks will use the Visa exchange rate of the day you use your pre-paid card, so the exchange rate can fluctuate. Also, make sure you check the reviews on these cards before you commit to taking one out, as many will have unexpected charges on them. These can include charges for replacing a lost or stolen card (usually around £5-£10), monthly charges if the card is not used for a certain amount of time (usually around £1 per month after 12 months of inactivity) and percentage fees on the money you load onto the card – so if the card provider charges a 2.9% fee and you load £500 onto it, you will be charged £14.50.
To find the best credit card for travelling simply check your eligibility for free. Using our comparison tool won’t impact your credit rating and you can browse and compare the cards available to you.
Things to consider
You should think about where you are going on holiday before you decide on a travel card. While credit cards will be accepted on most European holidays, your plastic might not be so helpful if you’re trekking through the Himalayas.
Generally speaking, Visa and Mastercard are more widely accepted around the world than American Express. Of course, if you are travelling to the USA then your Amex will be accepted almost everywhere. Check with your card provider to get details on the likelihood of your card being accepted in the country you are travelling to.
Most credit cards will charge you a fee for withdrawing money from a cashpoint, and travel credit cards are no different. In fact, the majority of card providers will charge interest on the money you withdraw from a cashpoint from the day of the transaction, meaning you will have to pay interest on the money you take out, even if you pay off the card balance in full that month. You can check with your provider to see what this rate of interest will be, but we suggest you avoid using your travel credit card at ATMs unless absolutely necessary.
We always advise that you pay your credit card balance off in full each month to avoid paying any interest. The same applies with travel cards. Make sure you pay off as much as possible – at least the minimum repayment and preferably the full balance – each month on your travel card.
Lastly, does your current credit card offer Avios points? Double check with your lender – you might have earned enough to pay for your holiday flights outright.
Losing your credit card or having it stolen is never fun, but it’s even worse when it happens on holiday. Be sure to make a note of the number to call should your card go missing so you can cancel it immediately. This can usually be found on the card itself, and there will also be an international number to call should you lose your card while traveling. Tourists are always obvious targets for pickpockets and scammers, so remember to be extra vigilant when using credit cards abroad.
Using a credit card is a good idea even before you’ve left on your annual holiday thanks to Section 75. Section 75 is a consumer-friendly piece of legislation that offers free purchase protection on all credit card purchases between £100 and £35,000. If you have paid for your holiday on a credit card and something goes wrong, such as your travel company going bust, you can reclaim the money you spent under Section 75. Of course, you can only claim if the purchase was made on a credit card, so protect yourself by making sure you use one to pay for your trip. You don’t even have to make the entire payment on a credit card – as long as you pay for part of it with your card you will be covered.
Section 75 also applies to purchases made overseas, so if you are paying for something expensive on your holiday, such as a tour or a piece of jewellery you want shipped home, make sure to use a credit card so you are protected should something go wrong.