The Best Credit Cards for Travel

Updated: 19th February, 2019.

We’ve vetted some of the most popular credit cards on the market to bring you a shortlist of the best credit cards for travel. These cards are great if you are looking to use your card abroad but don’t want to get caught out by any fees for doing so.


Great for: No foreign transaction fees plus 0% interest offers
3.5 stars question mark

This card charges no fees for overseas use, so making spending abroad more affordable, plus it offers 12-month interest-free introductory periods for purchases and balance transfers, so that you can pay for your holiday in the first place. Add to that travel discounts for Virgin Holidays and the offer of cashback on travel insurance, and you have a good all-round travel package.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

Good/Excellent

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 0% interest for 12 months on purchases
  • 0% interest for 12 months on balance transfers

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 19.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 19.9% p.a. (variable)
Based on borrowing £1,200

what we like

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 0% interest for 12 months on purchases
  • 0% interest for 12 months on balance transfers
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    19.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    12 months 0% interest on balance transfers and purchases

KEY SCORES:

  • 2/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 1/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 0% interest for 12 months on purchases
  • 0% interest for 12 months on balance transfers

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 19.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 19.9% p.a. (variable)
Based on borrowing £1,200
Great for: Avoiding fees while traveling
3 stars question mark

You can use the Santander Zero Credit Card abroad and not worry about being charged fees. It offers the double benefit of no foreign transaction fee and no cash withdrawal fee both in the UK and abroad, making holiday spending with the card easy and relaxed.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

Good/Excellent

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No cash withdrawal fees
  • Up to 3 additional cardholders

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative 18.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 18.9% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200
Monthly fee £0

what we like

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No cash withdrawal fees
  • Up to 3 additional cardholders
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    18.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    N/A

KEY SCORES:

  • 1/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 1/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No cash withdrawal fees
  • Up to 3 additional cardholders

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative 18.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 18.9% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200
Monthly fee £0
Great for: Low APR and no foreign transaction fees
3.5 stars question mark

Where the NatWest Credit Card excels is being that solid, take-everywhere card. With a low standard APR and no foreign transaction fees, this card can find a place in many peoples’ wallets. However, if you’re looking for rewards, cashback or a sign-up bonus, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

Good/Excellent

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Low APR of 9.9% for qualified applicants
  • No fees on foreign transactions
  • No balance-transfer fees
  • Even lower balance-transfer rate of 6.9% for qualified applicants
  • No annual fee
  • To apply, you must be 18+, earning at least £10,000 per year and a UK resident

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Purchase rate 9.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative APR 9.9% (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200
Annual fee £0

what we like

  • Low standard APR
  • No foreign-transaction fees
  • No balance-transfer fees
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    9.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    N/A

KEY SCORES:

  • 1/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 5/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Low APR of 9.9% for qualified applicants
  • No fees on foreign transactions
  • No balance-transfer fees
  • Even lower balance-transfer rate of 6.9% for qualified applicants
  • No annual fee
  • To apply, you must be 18+, earning at least £10,000 per year and a UK resident

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Purchase rate 9.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative APR 9.9% (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200
Annual fee £0
Great for: Low APR and no foreign transaction fees
3.5 stars question mark

The Royal Bank Credit Card loses some ratings points because of what’s not there — rewards, 0% offers, etc. But thanks to the low standard APR and no foreign transaction fees, this is still a very solid card, especially for travelers.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

Good/Excellent

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Low APR of 9.9% for qualified applicants
  • No fees on foreign transactions
  • No balance transfer fees
  • Even lower balance transfer rate of 6.9% for qualified applicants
  • No annual fee
  • To apply, you must be 18+, earning at least £10,000 per year and a UK resident

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Purchase rate 9.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative APR 9.9% (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200
Annual fee £0

what we like

  • Low standard APR
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No balance transfer fees
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    9.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    N/A

KEY SCORES:

  • 1/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 5/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Low APR of 9.9% for qualified applicants
  • No fees on foreign transactions
  • No balance transfer fees
  • Even lower balance transfer rate of 6.9% for qualified applicants
  • No annual fee
  • To apply, you must be 18+, earning at least £10,000 per year and a UK resident

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Purchase rate 9.9% p.a. (variable)
Representative APR 9.9% (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200
Annual fee £0

About travel cards

Travel cards are credit cards that do not carry a fee for use abroad, but operate as standard credit cards in the UK. Their main difference is that they do not have a non-sterling transaction fee, which means you will not have to pay a fee for using the card for purchases overseas. Some travel credit cards also have no fees for cash withdrawals made abroad. Typically credit cards carry a charge for any ATM withdrawals made, which could be anything from 2.50% to 2.99%. Travel cards often waive the cash advance fee for withdrawals made outside the UK.

A non-sterling transaction fee (or foreign transaction fee) is the charge your provider will implement to convert a payment from a foreign currency into sterling. On a standard credit card, this fee is typically around 3%, meaning if you were to make a purchase worth £100 you would incur charges of £3. If you were to make this same purchase with a travel credit card, then you would avoid any charges. The same applies for any purchases you make online in a foreign currency: you would not incur a fee if you made these using a travel credit card with a 0% foreign transaction fee.

How we picked the winners

While several factors may influence your choice of credit card, we have focused on these features to look out for in travel-specific credit cards.

  • Overseas usage fees – cards that carry no fees for foreign transactions or cash withdrawals made abroad
  • Reward offers – any cashback or reward point offers for spending on travel
  • Travel discounts – any additional discounts for travel bookings, travel insurance or foreign exchange
  • Other offers – these cards may not be focused on balance transfers for 0% purchase periods, but it doesn’t hurt to have that thrown in, right?

How does a travel card work?

A travel credit card works in much of the same way as a standard credit card. The main difference is that when you use the card abroad, you will not be charged a fee for doing so if you make purchases in the local currency. You will still be required to pay off your balance each month unless you have a travel credit card which also has a 0% interest on purchases offer.

Whether you will be charged for ATM withdrawals abroad will depend on whether you have chosen a travel credit card with no cash advance fee on withdrawals made overseas. It is worth noting that even if the card doesn’t have a cash withdrawal fee, you will be charged interest at the card’s APR from the day you take cash out, much like with a standard credit card. Also, while a card may not have a cash advance fee for withdrawals made abroad, it may still charge a fee for ATM withdrawals in the UK.

The benefits of a travel card

Whether you travel for business or are just looking for some R&R, using a credit card abroad can be a convenient way to manage your overseas spending. But what are the real benefits of choosing a travel credit card over a standard credit card?

  • No foreign transaction fees This has to be the big winner with a travel credit card. It means that you can use your card abroad without any additional fees piling on.
  • Fee-free cash withdrawals For those cards that also offer fee-free cash withdrawals, this is another perk. If you do need to withdraw money while abroad, because in some situations using cash is best, you won’t be penalised for doing so.
  • Rewards when you spend Some travel credit cards offer additional rewards such as cashback, travel discounts or vouchers based on your spending.
  • Preferable exchange rates The exchange rates offered on travel credit cards are typically competitive.
  • Protected purchases Using your credit card -- whether travel or standard -- to make purchases means that anything that costs between £100 and £30,000 is covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This means that if you don’t receive something, or the item is faulty, or the company you’ve bought from goes under, your credit card provider is jointly responsible with the retailer.

What’s the catch?

While travel cards may seem like the most sensible option if you’re planning to go away, there are still things you should be aware of before you apply.

  • You may not be accepted – Not everyone is guaranteed to be accepted for a credit card, and travel cards typically require you to have a ‘good/excellent’ credit score. Also, if you already have a credit card and are applying for an additional card to use abroad, your application could potentially be rejected due to concerns over you having too many accounts.
  • High interest rates – Travel credit cards are likely to have a high APR. Therefore, if you do not pay off your balance each month, you could incur interest charges. Such charges could potentially erase any savings you’ve made with the fee-free card. Additionally, any cash withdrawals made abroad that sit on your balance will also be charged at the card’s standard APR. Interest will start accruing immediately, but one way round this will be to pay off the withdrawal immediately.
  • Annual fees – We’ve tried to select cards that do not carry an annual fee. Some travel cards that offer higher travel rewards do, however, sometimes require you to pay an annual fee.
  • Sterling transactions – You may be charged fees by the retailer if you do not use the local currency when using your card abroad. If you were to make a sterling transaction with a foreign retailer, that retailer may charge you a transaction fee to cover the cost of converting sterling into the local currency. Therefore, be sure to always make purchases or withdrawals in the local currency.
  • Card acceptance – While Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted worldwide, there may be some places where cards in your card network will not be accepted and therefore your card won’t work. It is best to have some sort of backup when travelling, so in addition to your travel credit card carry some cash in the local currency, traveller’s cheques or a debit card.

What rewards can I get?

The rewards depend entirely on the card you select. Some travel credit cards offer nothing beyond having no foreign transaction fees, but several cards on the market offer something for your spending.

  • Cashback cards – These cards offer you cashback as a percentage of how much you spend. For example, a card might offer 0.5% cashback on your spending. Therefore, if you were to spend £100, you would earn yourself 50p in cashback. The thing to check with travel cards that offer cashback is whether there is a cap on how much cashback you can earn over a period of time.
  • Reward cards – These cards offer you reward points for your spending. In the travel market, one of the biggest reward schemes is Avios. This is a reward point scheme in which users can earn Avios points from their spending and convert them into paying for flights with a range of airlines. With schemes such as this, just be aware of any spending requirements in order to earn the points and whether the card carries an annual fee.
  • Travel discounts – Some travel cards offer travel discounts as part of their package. This could be anything from discounts on holidays with a specific travel operator to money off travel insurance policies. It is worth visiting the website of the travel card you are interested in to see the details of discounts on offer.

Should I get a travel card?

A travel credit card can be a good option for spending abroad, but is not for everyone. Here are three things you should ask yourself if you are undecided about getting a travel credit card:

  • Do you travel abroad at least once a year? In order to make use of what a travel card has to offer, you need to plan to travel abroad at least once a year. Otherwise you won’t benefit from features such as no foreign transaction fees. If you aren’t planning to go abroad, then another type of credit card would be more suited to your needs.
  • Is your credit score good or excellent? As mentioned above, there is no guarantee that you will be accepted for the card you want. Most travel cards require applicants to have a ‘good/excellent’ credit score. All our reviews have guidance on what level of credit score is required for each card. If you don’t know your credit score, you can find it out using free services such as Noddle or Experian.
  • Do you pay your credit card bill in full? Something to bear in mind with travel cards is that they typically don’t offer any introductory 0% interest period on purchases. Therefore, any purchases you make will be subject to interest charges if you don’t pay off your bill in full. (Credit cards typically allow 56 days’ interest free on new purchases if you pay your monthly minimum payment, which also applies to purchases made abroad, but you need to check the details for your selected card.) Similarly, any cash withdrawals made abroad will be subject to interest charges, so make sure that you can pay off whatever you put onto your card.

If a travel credit card doesn’t seem the right fit for you, then consider the other options available. For example, prepaid travel cards are great if you prefer to set aside a spending budget before you go away – you can load the card with this before you travel.


The Motley Fool receives compensation from some advertisers who provide products and services that may be covered by our editorial team. It’s one way we make money. But know that our editorial integrity and transparency matters most and our ratings aren’t influenced by compensation. The statements above are The Motley Fool’s alone and have not been provided or endorsed by bank advertisers. The Motley Fool has recommended shares in Lloyds, Tesco and Barclays.

Advertiser Disclosure