What is a travel credit card?
Travel credit cards are credit cards for people who want the security of using a credit card when paying for goods and services abroad. Travel credit cards are used instead of taking a lot of cash with you, which can be risky.
Using a travel credit card can also make it cheaper for you to spend money when you are travelling. Travel credit cards will charge you less to spend money abroad than a standard credit card.
Airmiles credit cards are not travel credit cards, but can help you save money on your holidays in other ways.
What are the benefits of a travel card?
Travel credit cards can charge higher interest rates than standard credit cards, so may not offer you the cheapest credit card deal for spending in the UK. But the best travel credit cards offer a number of benefits that can cut the cost of travelling.
Preferable exchange rates
Standard credit cards don’t typically offer a great exchange rate when you take out cash or pay for things outside of the UK. Travel cards are designed for you to use abroad, so the exchange rate they offer is much better.
This means you’ll get more foreign currency in your pocket to spend when you’re away. The same benefit applies when buying goods from a website outside the UK in a foreign currency.
You have extra protection if you use a credit card. You are covered if you buy something at home or abroad costing over £100 and up to £30,000 with your credit card and the goods are faulty or aren’t delivered.
Section 75 protections (part of the Consumer Credit Act.1974) entitles you to get your money back if what you bought turns out to be faulty, the company you bought from breaks their contact or does not deliver what they promised.
Taking a large wad of cash with you on holiday can be risky. Cash is more likely to be stolen and make you a victim of crime. Taking a small amount of cash is generally a good idea. But the rest of your travelling you can put on a travel credit card.
Credit cards with no foreign transaction fees
Most credit and debit cards will charge you a fee for buying things or withdrawing cash outside the UK. This fee can be 3% or more every time you use the card. That is £6 for every £200 you spend. These fees can soon add up.
The best travel credit cards won’t charge you for taking out cash and making purchases overseas.
Airline credit cards
Airline credit cards, or airmiles credit cards, are not a type of travel card. But they can help you save money on your holiday or business trip.
Airmiles credit cards are a type of reward credit card. You earn points, or 'Avios' - the replacement scheme for Airmiles - when you buy goods or services. Points can be collected in stores and with financial providers, like Tesco, Lloyds TSB, and Marks and Spencer.
Points can be used to pay for flights, hotel stays, or even tickets for gigs and theme parks. Unlike with Airmiles, the Avios scheme lets you use points for one-way flights and some flights in and out of different airports.
Some airline credit cards are dedicated to a single airline, like British Airways credit cards or Virgin Atlantic cards.
Travel money cards
A travel money card, or a prepaid travel card is not a credit card. It works by loading on currency before you travel allowing you to spend or withdraw cash once you’re away.
It can be safer than carrying cash if you want to avoid taking your existing credit card abroad.
Be aware of the fees that exist on some travel money cards. They can include:
You don't have to pass a credit check when you apply for a prepaid currency card, like you would when applying for a travel credit card.
What is the best travel credit card to use abroad?
The best credit card for travel will depend on what features you want most. Shop around using credit card comparison sites to compare the best travel credit card deals.
Credit cards designed for travel are likely to offer you the best deals and value for money outside the UK. Look for travel credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees.
Using your standard UK credit card when you're on a foreign holiday can be expensive. You will usually have to pay around 3% on cash withdrawals and every time you buy things abroad.
Top tip when using your credit card abroad
Don’t pay in pounds
When you use your credit card abroad, the waiter or shopkeeper will usually ask you if you want to pay in pounds - sterling - or local foreign currency. To get the best exchange rate, always choose to pay in local currency.
Paying in local currency means your bank will do the foreign exchange conversion for you. Paying this way with a travel credit card will give you the best possible exchange rate.
If you pay in pounds the seller will use their own bank to do the conversion. This will probably end up costing you a lot more.
Things to consider before applying for a travel credit card
Before you apply for a travel credit card think about:
How often you travel abroad
If you travel regularly you could be much better off with a travel credit card. It will save you money when you spend money abroad. But if you don’t travel that much, racking up more debt on another credit card may not be a good idea.
Only use abroad
Travel credit cards offer the best credit card rates for spending abroad. But they probably won’t give you the best deals for spending in the UK.
Pay in full
Travel credit cards won’t offer the best interest rate or the cheapest deal for long term debt. Try to pay off what you owe in full when you return from holiday. Otherwise you will have to pay high interest charges.
What does 'most popular' mean?
When we use the term ‘most popular’ on Uswitch in reference to credit cards, these cards are ranked by the number of clicks they have received on the site in the past 48 hours.
The most clicked on cards are at the top, with the least at the bottom. This reflects how popular they are with visitors to Uswitch.com. Consequently this is a good table to look at if you’re interested in seeing which cards most people think are worth getting.