Overseas business travel can get expensive, especially when you factor in the cost of currency conversion. Most company credit cards will charge currency-conversion fees of around 3% (and some may also charge a higher interest rate on these transactions) for spending in other countries. But thankfully, there are some business credit cards which help you to minimise these costs.
If you’d like the flexibility and convenience of using a company credit card on overseas business trips, then it’s highly recommended to use one of these specialist cards.
Business credit cards with no non-sterling transaction fees
Table: sorted by representative APR, promoted deals first
Updated April 3rd, 2020
Approval for any credit card will depend on your status. The APR shown represents the interest rate offered to most successful applicants. Depending on your personal circumstances the APR you're offered may be higher, or you may not be offered credit at all. Fees and rates are subject to change without notice. It's always wise to check the terms of any deal before you borrow.
What fees can you incur when using a business credit card abroad?
Foreign transaction fee (charged by your own bank). You could be charged a foreign loading fee for every purchase you make overseas. This fee is usually charged as a percentage of the transaction (typically 2-3%). However, you can avoid these fees entirely by choosing one of the specialist overseas business credit cards listed above.
Merchant currency conversion fee (charged by the merchant’s bank). Sometimes merchants will offer you the chance to pay in pounds instead of the local currency. In this situation, it will be the merchant’s bank (rather than your own) whose fee structure will apply. Often it will use the mid-market rate with a mark-up added on top. To avoid this, choose a decent travel credit card and then always choose to pay in the local currency. Cash machines may also offer this facility, in which case the same advice applies.
Credit card surcharge (charged by the merchant). While credit card surcharges have been banned across the EU for personal Mastercards and Visa cards, business credit card transactions could still incur a surcharge at the merchant’s discretion, so it’s worth asking before you pay.
Cash advance fee (charged by your own bank). If you withdraw cash from an ATM, arrange cashback from a merchant or use your credit card to buy foreign currency, you’ll be charged a cash advance fee. This is often higher than the fees you’d pay back in the UK. You’ll begin paying interest on these transactions immediately and on a daily basis, so it’s best to avoid doing this if possible.
Cash machine fees (charged by the cash machine owner). Some ATM owners will charge you to withdraw cash, although this is becoming rarer across the globe.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that some cards may charge a different interest rate and/or have a shorter grace period for non-sterling transactions.
What other features do I need to consider?
While the removal of overseas spending fees is a welcome addition to any credit card, there are likely to be other features to consider before applying, especially if you’re planning to use the card in the UK.
Interest rates. A lack of foreign loading fees might not count for much if your credit card has an uncompetitive interest rate, so check to see how this compares to other cards. To avoid interest charges completely, pay off your balance in full every month.
Eligibility. Each card is likely to come with its own requirements – typically involving the number of years of trading, turnover or number of staff.
Perks and rewards. Some business credit cards reward you for spending, perhaps via cashback or a rewards points scheme. Many specialist overseas credit cards offer air miles as a reward for spending.
Introductory bonuses. Some credit cards will offer you 0% interest on card transactions for an initial period after your account has been opened. This deal may or may not include overseas transactions. The interest rate will shoot up after this bonus period has ended, so you should aim to clear your balance before this point.
It is a common practice for business owners to use one credit card specifically for overseas use, and another to use in the UK. If you’re planning to only use your overseas card when you’re abroad and pay the balance off in full each month, none of the features above is likely to be too important.
Dos and don’ts
Use a specialist overseas card whenever you’re abroad.
Pay off your balance in full to avoid interest charges.
Let your bank know you’re heading abroad.
Check the small print before you travel.
Pay in pounds, if offered the opportunity.
Use your credit card to withdraw cash, unless it’s an emergency.
Frequently asked questions
Most do, although some may only remove loading fees in certain regions (typically the EU). Check the terms before applying. We’ll always include this information in our reviews of business credit cards.
Rates offered by foreign currency exchange bureaus can vary wildly, especially if you use airport bureaus where the rates are especially high. You’re more likely to get a fair exchange rate when paying with a specialist overseas credit card.
Credit cards provide fraud protection via Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
If your credit card is stolen, you can cancel it, reducing the risk of losing your money.
You’ll be able to track employee spending (or your own) more easily by sticking to one method.
There’s no risk of being charged conversion fees twice for converting unused foreign currency back to pounds.
The main disadvantage is that there’s no guarantee all retailers at your destination will accept credit card payments. For this reason, you should also carry some local currency in cash.
Chris Lilly is a publisher at finder.com. He's a specialist in credit-based products including business and personal loans, mortgages and credit cards, and is passionate about helping UK consumers make informed decisions about their borrowing. In his spare time Chris likes forcing his kids to exercise more.
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