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The passport rule change catching out Brits

Written by: Emma Lunn
Many Brits will be heading off on a long-deserved holiday this summer, with travel rules and restrictions the most relaxed they've been since before the pandemic. But don't get caught out by this passport rule change.

It pays to be savvy with your cash when heading abroad. From using the right debit and credit cards to having travel insurance, you can save money on your trip by being prepared.

And one thing you absolutely need to get right is your passport. Here’s how to avoid being caught out over the new passport rule, plus four other summer holiday 2022 tips to get your travel plans in order.

Check your passport

The rules around passports have changed since Brexit – and many Brits are being caught out. Not having a valid passport can mean being denied boarding your flight.

When the UK was part of the EU, British passports were valid up to and including their expiry date for travel to other EU countries. But since Brexit, travellers from the UK are treated as non-EU nationals when going to EU countries.

This means your passport needs to be both issued in the past 10 years and valid for at least three months after the date you intend to leave the EU country you are visiting.

As such, you need to check the date of issue as well as the expiry date when checking your passport is valid for travel.

Previously, if you renewed your passport, any remaining time left on it could be added on to the new passport, so it could be valid for 10 years and six months. But now, it has to be issued in the last 10 years.

Those people who need to renew their passports are finding it takes longer than usual due to a backlog at the Passport Office.

Adam French, Which? consumer rights expert, said: “Travellers could find their holiday plans disrupted or worse find themselves stranded at the departure gate and prevented from travelling altogether if they fail to renew their passport in time.

“It’s vitally important that travellers check the validity of their passports if they’re considering a trip this summer. Anyone who thinks they might be affected should renew their passport today or consider using the fast track renewal service.”

Carry a GHIC or EHIC

Despite Brexit, Brits can still get state-backed medical treatment when travelling in the EU if they carry a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

The GHIC replaces the EHIC which is being phased out following Brexit. Both cards are free.

An EHIC gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in the EU, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Despite the ‘global’ name, the GHIC will only be accepted within the EU. It won’t cover you in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland.

Buy travel insurance

A GHIC or EHIC isn’t an adequate replacement for a comprehensive travel insurance policy. This is because a GHIC or EHIC won’t cover you for non-health issues that arise while you’re in the EU such as missed departures, cancellation, lost luggage and repatriation.

Although the rules have been relaxed in the UK, other countries still have Covid restrictions in place. These might affect you if you test positive for the virus before or during your trip.

Make sure your travel insurance includes adequate Covid cover such as the cost of treatment or self-isolation abroad, missed flights, or if your destination imposes a lockdown.

Take the right plastic

Most debit and credit cards charge users extra overseas. Typical charges include a non-sterling transaction fee for converting the local currency, which applies every time you use your card to pay.

The worst cards – which include Halifax, Lloyds Bank, Santander and TSB – add a non-sterling purchase fee on top, either a fixed value (e.g. £1.50), or a percentage of what you spend.

Cash withdrawals at a foreign ATM might incur a non-sterling transaction fee for the conversion as well as a non-sterling cash fee (as a flat fee or a percentage).

Katie Brain, consumer banking expert at Defaqto said: “There is now a fair amount of choice of debit or credit cards which have no fees for using an ATM for withdrawals or using your card abroad. There are now 12 current accounts which have no fees for overseas use abroad, compared to only four before the pandemic in January 2020. There are 17 credit cards (out of 120) which also have no fees for use abroad.

“It is worth considering which type of card you use and any other fees which may apply, for example some of the current accounts charge a monthly fee for the account, and many of the credit cards are only available for existing customers.”

The best debit cards to use abroad include Chase, Starling Bank and Virgin Money. The cheapest credit cards include Tesco’s Clubcard Plus credit card and Nationwide’s Member credit card.

Check your mobile contract

Brexit has also impacted mobile roaming costs. EE and Vodafone have re-introduced roaming charges for customers travelling to Europe after consumer-friendly roaming rules were scrapped after Brexit.

Vodafone customers can now pay £1 a day for a single day pass for use in the EU. This will apply to new and upgrading customers who signed up or changed their plan after 11 August 2021.

Mobile users who signed up with EE after 7 July 2021 are now charged £2 a day to use their allowances in the EU. Three will bring in a £2 daily roaming charge from 23 May.

Of the big networks, only O2 and Virgin Mobile have committed to not re-introducing roaming charges.

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