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Revealed: Best and worst credit and debit cards for summer holiday spending

Samantha Partington
Written By:
Samantha Partington

Summer holidays are an expensive affair and choosing the wrong card for your spending could add unavoidable costs to your trip.

A survey of the best and worst cards for spending abroad this summer revealed stark differences between the cost of cash withdrawals and purchases.

Depending on the card provider, holidaymakers can withdraw up to £500 a day fee free from a cash machine abroad or pay up to 5% on the money taken out plus a charge of 2.99%, according to analysis by Moneycomms.co.uk for Totally Money.

Travellers who’ve not checked the small print could wind up paying avoidable charges of £7.99 to take out £100 in cash.

For those who enjoy a spot of overseas shopping, card features range from fee-free purchases to charges of up to 2.99% which means a small £5 purchase could end up costing a total of £6.15.

Alastair Douglas, chief executive of TotallyMoney said: “If you’re travelling abroad this summer then make sure you pack the right card with your sun cream to avoid getting burnt by bank fees.

“Some will charge you up to a fiver to withdraw cash, while others charge a percentage of what you purchase or withdraw — and you might even get charged both.

“Also consider how you’re using your card. Stopping on the way to the beach to buy a drink and a bite to eat for £5 could end up costing you an extra £1.15 in fees. It might not seem much but lots of these small transactions can quickly add up.”

Douglas adds that travellers should always remember to pay choose to pay in the local currency at the ATM or when paying for goods by card.

The best and worst cards for your holidays

Here’s a round-up of the top debit cards for spending abroad.

  • Chase: no fees for spending or ATM withdrawals up to £500 per day and max £1,500 per month overseas. There’s an added 1% cashback bonus on spending.
  • Starling: no fees for spending or on cash withdrawals up to a maximum of £300 per day.
  • Monzo: no exchange rate markup but you can only withdraw £250 free every 30 days, anything over that comes with a 3% charge.

At the bottom of the table for debit card purchases abroad is TSB’s Spend & Save.

The bank charges 2.99% of the purchase value and £1 per transaction. At the ATM, holidaymakers are charged 2.99% of the withdrawal plus an extra 1.5% (minimum £1.50). For a £3 monthly fee, TSB offers a Spend & Save Plus account that does not charge fees on debit card transactions worldwide.

HSBC was the worst debit card provider for cash machine charges. A withdrawal costs the cardholder 2.75% of the amount taken out with an additional 2% charge on top, to a maximum of £5. For purchases, customers are charged 2.75%.

When it comes to credit cards, here are the top picks for holiday makers.

  • Barclaycard Rewards: this card doesn’t charge any fees or interest charges on purchases or overseas withdrawals as long as you pay your credit card statement in full by the due date. As a small bonus, you’ll get 0.25% cashback on spending.
  • Halifax Clarity: this card has no exchange rate mark up for purchases or ATM transactions. However, you do pay interest on withdrawals, with a £100 working out at around £2.30 interest over 30 days. New customers will also receive £20 cashback.

Virgin Money ranked last for both purchase fees of 2.99% and ATM fees of 5% per withdrawal with an added 2.99% on top.