Big spender or savvy sightseer…find the card which suits you | The Sun

GETTING ready to jet off abroad? Do not forget to take a travel-friendly spending card, which can save you enough for an extra meal, round of drinks or day out.

A typical debit card charges around £6 to withdraw 250 euros at a cash machine and about £2.50 when spending 100 euros in a shop or restaurant – fees that can quickly add up during your stay.

But the best cards offer near-perfect exchange rates and fee-free cash-machine withdrawals.

Here Harriet Cooke goes through the different options available, depending on the type of holidaymaker you are.


THE best travel debit cards have no spending or ATM fees overseas, so you can use them as if you are popping to the shops at home.

It will mean opening a new bank account but you can do this alongside your main account and transfer money across if you do not want to switch.

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Top picks are from Starling Bank, Chase and Virgin Money’s M Plus accounts.

Some travel debit cards link to your main bank account, meaning you do not have to open a new account and transfer any money before your travels.

The Currensea card is the main one available which doesn’t charge ATM fees, although its free Essential plan has a 0.5 per cent exchange fee on all card purchases.

Remember, some foreign cash machines might charge fees. So if you want cash, take it with you.

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Primary school teacher Jamie Melzack, 45, from Totteridge, North London, carries a Currensea card he has used on trips to Cyprus, Abu Dubai and the US.

The dad, who has daughters Amelie, 13, and Mia, 11, with wife Emma, 44, a business owner, is planning a driving holiday to France over the summer to avoid any problems with flights.

He said: “I love that I can just walk out the door and go to any country and the card, which has a great exchange rate, is all ready to go. I get an email and app alert every time I use it telling me exactly what I saved each time compared to the fees my bank would have charged.

“So on a trip to a wedding in Cyprus a few weeks ago I saved £20, which is great when everything is getting more expensive.”


PICKING a decent travel money card involves looking at the exchange rate and the fees charged on top.

Finance expert Andrew Hagger, of the Moneycomms site, said: “There’s very little to choose between Mastercard, Visa and Interbank rates. You just need to keep an eye on what your card provider will add on top.

“With many debit and credit cards, it’s typically between 2.75 and three per cent, known as a non-sterling transaction charge. The biggest thing to watch out for is if the retailer abroad or the ATM asks if you wish to pay in sterling.

“This seems appealing to Brits, as they know exactly how much they will be debited. However, if you opt to pay in GBP, the retailer will use a local exchange rate (not Visa or Mastercard) which is very poor value and could end up costing you five to ten per cent extra.

“The golden rule is to always pay in the local currency.”


PRE-PAID cards are useful if you like to stick to a set amount of money while on holiday but don’t want to carry around wads of cash.

They also allow you to buy currency in advance and lock in an exchange rate although some only allow you to load pounds onto them which can then be exchanged each time you make a purchase.

The drawback is that many charge fees, and often people forget they have money on them when they get home.

Some cards, like EasyFX , charge £2 a month after 12 months if you don’t use the card.

Top picks are pre-paid travel cards which use the Interbank exchange rate – such as the EasyFX card, which has a fee of 1.8 per cent when exchanging up to £1,000; and Hyperjar, which allows spending at the Mastercard rate.

Finance officer Yaa Taylor, 49, took a Hyperjar pre-paid card with her for a holiday to Turkey in May. Before heading off on her break, she loaded up her card with £250 of spending money, which was converted to Turkish liras for free whenever she spent on it.

Mum-of-four Yaa said: “I like how pre-paid cards have a spending limit – so you don’t have to worry about going overdrawn or spending over budget which can happen on holidays.

“It was a lovely trip with a boat ride and a Turkish spa visit, and I had money left over at the end. I’m now saving up for my next holiday.”


THOSE who love to splurge on holiday may prefer a travel-friendly credit card that protects them if something goes wrong with purchases over £100.

Credit card providers must take the same responsibility as the retailer if the customer is not happy.

Halifax’s Clarity card has no fees on overseas spending or ATM withdrawals, although you should pay off any cash machine withdrawals on the same day to avoid any daily interest.

Barclaycard Rewards Visa is another top pick, according to Money Saving Expert, with no extra cost to use abroad. You will need to pass a credit check to get a credit card and cash withdrawals can be noted on your credit score. Pay off the debt before interest is charged.

Former business owner Peter Hall, 61, and wife Joanna, 54, who used to work in sales, are enjoying lots of holidays now they have retired.

The couple, from Bournemouth, subsidise travel by collecting Virgin points on the Virgin Atlantic credit card, which they convert to rewards such as flights, holidays and experiences from the Virgin Red club. They also collect Avios points for BA flights with their Amex card.

Peter’s Virgin Atlantic card charges 2.99 per cent for spending abroad, so he also carries a Virgin Money credit card, which is free to use in the eurozone.

Only the Atlantic card lets you earn points to be spent on Red rewards.

He said: “For smaller purchases abroad, like meals, I’ll use the Atlantic card, as the fees are worth it for the rewards. For bigger bills, like a hotel, I’ll use the Virgin Money card to avoid the fees. If it saves me £20-£40, I’ll use the fee-free card.”


IF you prefer cash to cards, get the best rate possible by exchanging at home before you go abroad.

To find the best deals use a site such as Money Saving Expert’s TravelMoneyMax.

It is generally cheaper to collect than to have cash delivered. Never buy at the airport unless you have pre-arranged it.

Do not buy currency using your credit card as it counts as a cash withdrawal, meaning you might be charged fees and a higher rate of interest.

Harley Young, 24, a marketer from Manchester, likes to take foreign currency with her on holiday to help keep control of her spending while she is away.

She and her partner David Fowling, 31, who works in sales, used their local Eurochange bureau to buy Hungarian forint for their city break to Budapest last month.

She said: “I mostly spend in cash while on holiday.

"Most of it goes on meals, museums and days out.

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“It’s easier to keep control and see how much you’ve got left, whereas with a card, the money’s invisible so it’s easier to spend.”

The couple took just over £200 worth of currency for three days, but said they should probably have taken an extra £100.

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