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Are some credit cards better to travel abroad with?

Last Edit: 21/09/18

The answer to your question is yes, some credit cards are better to travel with, because they have been tailor-made for the purpose. The problem with standard credit cards is that they often come with these three hidden charges (when used abroad): 1) Levy a charge when cash is withdrawn outside of the UK, typically from a cash machine (ATM) -- the operator of the cash machine can also issue a fee; 2) Transaction fee which is a percentage of what is spent, usually in the region of 3%; 3) Interest is applied to cash withdraws immediately. Credit card issuers rarely highlight the hidden travel charges they can levy, therefore, it is imperative to double check the fineprint of a credit card before traveling.

If your current credit card is unsuitable to travel with, then it may be time to consider applying for a specialist travel card. At present, the following cards are available: Halifax Clarity Mastercard; Barclaycard Platinum travel card; Tandem credit card; Aqua Reward credit card; and the Santander Zero credit card. The Halifax Clarity credit card has been available for over five years and is usually one of the top picks when commentators are comparing travel credit cards. Some benefits of the Halifax Clarity credit card are as follows: interest is not immediately charged on overseas spending (will be if the balance isnt paid off by the month's end); and no fee/charge for cash withdrawals. However, both the Halifax Clarity credit card and Barclaycard Platinum travel card charge interest on cash withdraws the moment it is withdrawn (it should be noted that interest is charged on cash withdraws and not direct payments with the card). One option would be to pay off the credit cards balance after each cash withdraw via Internet banking, but travelers maybe unable or unwilling to use unsecure foreign computer networks. What should be concluded, is that, while travel credit cards are better to travel with than most standard credit cards, they are not perfect, and may still have one or two hidden charges.

Another factor to consider when traveling abroad is the currency conversion service that the card uses. Many issuers will use either Mastercard's, Visa's or Amex's conversion system; then they can apply a fee on top, if they're just a basic standard credit card. Mastercard's, Visa's or Amex's conversion rates differ, and differ on each currency; such as the Dollar and Euro. While the difference between the conversion services is minimal, Mastercard has historically outperformed Visa and Amex in offering a better conversion rate; although there are times when Visa or Amex outperform Mastercard. Therefore, it may be useful to have a Mastercard and Visa travel card, and then check which conversion service is performing the best before traveling.

In conclusion, it is indeed correct that some credit cards are better to travel with: as they don't levy a transaction fee or cash withdraw fee.