Many banks–whether brick-and-mortar or online– charge fees for spending and ATM withdrawals overseas.
Luckily, there are providers that have debit cards with truly fee-free use abroad.
To help find the best debit card to use abroad in the UK, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best UK providers.
Here’s what they offer, what you should consider when looking for a debit card to use abroad, and what the best travel alternatives are.
Starling Bank is a top choice among the best travel debit cards that also has debit cards for teens.
Its biggest perk is that it offers both fee-free debit card withdrawals and purchases abroad, though there is a withdrawal limit of no more than six withdrawals of £300 per day.
In addition to having the best UK bank debit card to use abroad, Starling Bank also charges 15% for arranged overdrafts compared to other high street banks, where the representative APR for overdrafts is almost 40%.
You also get real-time notifications from Starling Bank when you use your card abroad about your spending and can freeze your card if it is stolen or lost.
If you’re looking for a no foreign transaction fee debit card in the UK, then you might want to consider getting the Virgin Money M Plus debit card.
This contactless card doesn’t charge any fees when making card payments, and ATM withdrawals outside the UK can be used at more than 32 million places worldwide and comes ready with Google Pay and Apple Pay– the most popular mobile payment brand in the UK.
The card has a 2% interest rate on balances up to £1,000, as well as cashback on your shopping if you spend with participating retailers.
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Chase is a digital-only bank that offers one of the best debit cards for people who travel abroad.
The bank doesn’t charge any fees for using the card abroad and applies the current Mastercard exchange rate to any purchases you make in the local currency.
However, Chase does impose a limit on how much customers can withdraw cash in foreign countries. Withdrawals are limited to £500 a day from cash machines (both in the UK and abroad), and there’s a monthly limit on cash withdrawals of up to £1,500 per month.
Monzo is undeniably the best bank card to use abroad if you use Monzo as your main bank account or have one of its paid accounts.
Those who use Monzo as their main account or have Mozo Plus or Monzo Premium accounts get fee-free withdrawals in the European Economic Area. Those that don’t, pay 3% of every withdrawal that’s over £250 every 30 days.
When you use a Monzo card abroad, and outside the EEA, you’ll be charged 3% for withdrawals over £200 every 30 days, over £400 if you have a Plus account and over £600 with Monzo Premium.
Metro Bank’s debit card is the best debit card to use in Europe.
The bank doesn’t charge any fees on non-sterling transactions and non-sterling purchases inside Europe but you’ll pay £100 on the original transaction value (both inside and outside Europe).
If you’re planning on travelling outside Europe, Metro Bank charges a 2.99% fee for non-sterling transactions as well as a 2.99 % fee for ATM withdrawals.
There are no non-sterling purchase fees, regardless of whether you’re shopping inside or outside Europe, but you will pay £1.50 for non-sterling purchase fees outside Europe.
TSB, a well-known lender that provides unsecured personal loans between £1000 and £25.000, offers the best debit card to take abroad for customers that have a Spend & Save Plus account, which costs £3 a month (maintenance fees).
You might be able to cover this fee by earning £5 cashback each month, but you’ll need to make a minimum of 30 debit card payments per month.
This card doesn’t come with any fees for purchases and withdrawals abroad, and you won’t even have to pay any conversion fees. (Note that if TSB does the conversion, the money will be converted based on Visa’s daily Visa Payment Scheme Exchange Rate).
What makes the Nationwide Flex Flux account debit card the best card for spending abroad and dealing in foreign currency is that it’s the only one offered by the building society that doesn’t come with any non-sterling transaction fees.
You also won’t pay any fees regardless of whether you’re withdrawing foreign cash within or outside UK borders and you won’t be charged anything extra for making purchases in foreign currencies.
The downside is Nationwide charges £13 monthly for maintaining it, but you can mitigate the cost (at least for a few months) if you’re a new customer– the building society offers a bonus of £100 for new customers and £125 to existing members that switch to the FlexPlus account.
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Here’s what to look for when searching for the best debit card for travel:
Every bank has different withdrawal and spending limits for different customers (usually based on the type of cash card they have), and it’s best to look into the type of fees you might be expected to pay abroad before you start using your card.
Generally, when using your debit card abroad, you’ll be charged a non-sterling transaction fee every time you make a purchase, as well as a non-sterling cash fee for ATM withdrawals. Some debit cards may also add a non-sterling purchase fee which can be at a fixed value or a percentage of what you spent.
Whenever you have the option, you should pay in the local currency. In most cases, the rate used by your card provider will be much lower than that of the merchant or foreign bank.
When abroad, being strapped for money because your card is getting declined or got stolen can be more than a nuisance. That’s why you should always consider bringing a spare and leaving it in a secure place.
You might also want to try to diversify the cards you’re carrying (for example, one Mastercard and one Visa).
Even if your debit card is fee-free, certain ATMs may still charge you for using their services to withdraw money. To avoid these charges, it’s best to use your provider’s ATM or withdraw money from their international cashpoint partners.
If you’ve been affected by debit card fraud, make sure to contact your provider immediately and dispute the transaction. This way, the bank can reclaim the value of the transaction from your account through a chargeback.
There are certain circumstances when using a debit card is not the best option. Here are some alternatives you may want to consider:
A credit card is generally a better option when travelling to countries where cards are preferred and in circumstances where you might want to ‘borrow’ some extra money for your purchases. (Here’s what happens when you can’t pay back your credit card debt).
If you use a credit card for a cash withdrawal when abroad, you’ll typically be charged interest.
Another advantage of a credit card over a debit card is that they offer protection on purchases between £100 and £30.000, even when you’re spending abroad.
The main difference between prepaid cards and credit and debit cards is that prepaid cards need to be loaded with a fixed amount of money before you can use them.
Most of them are reloadable (in case you spend everything on it and are still abroad), but they don’t allow you to borrow money like credit cards and are not linked to your current account like a debit card.
Using a debit card when abroad can be costly, as many providers will charge you 3% or even more for purchases and cash withdrawals. However, there is a way to avoid these hefty fines by opting for a bank that offers fee-free current accounts that won’t charge you for using your card when outside of the UK.
There are a number of UK banks that offer fee-free current cards for purchases and ATM withdrawals abroad, including Starling Bank, Virgin Money, and Chase. Note that whether or not you’ll pay a fee also depends on the type of account you have and whether there’s a limit on how much you can spend/withdraw from it.
Most UK debit cards can be used abroad, both for purchases and withdrawing cash at an ATM.
You can avoid foreign transaction fees by opting for a debit card that doesn’t charge fees when spending or withdrawing cash when abroad.
The best debit card to use abroad is Starling Bank’s debit card. It doesn’t have any fees for purchases and ATM withdrawals when outside the UK.
My name is Marija, and I'm a financial writer at DontDisappointMe. Although finance might not be everyone's cup of tea, my 10+ years of working in one of the biggest banks in my country, and my interest in extensive research on everything finance/investment-related, have made me somewhat of an expert in the field (if I do say so myself). No longer having the passion to work in a corporate setting, I decided that I couldn't let all of this knowledge go to waste so I started writing. And, here I am! Today I try to share my knowledge with my audience in the hopes of making this topic as simple and interesting as possible. In my leisure time, I like spending time with my family and travelling to new locations.