Compare travel credit cards

The right credit card can turn your holiday from really great to absolutely perfect. Choose between credit cards that scrap all foreign transaction fees, come with enticing benefits and perks or earn you rewards on your holiday shopping.

Updated

Fact checked
Young couple packing suitcases

What makes a credit card a good travel companion? There are many ways credit cards can improve your trip abroad, from saving a few pounds in fees to making you feel like a VIP with room upgrades and airport lounge access.

The best option for you is going to depend on what you need the card to do. Let’s break it down.

How to choose your travel credit card

Even if you go on holiday only once a year, it’s a good idea to have a separate credit card for when you travel. That’s because your needs will be different when you’re on the road or enjoying the sun on a tropical beach from when the longest distance you travel is that between your house and the office. But how do you go about picking a good travel credit card?

The main decision you have to make is which features you want to prioritise. Here’s a basic list of things you may want to consider when comparing travel credit cards:

Avoid non-sterling transaction conversion fees

When travelling abroad, avoiding foreign exchange fees can be a tough task, but it’s not impossible. When using your credit card overseas, there are three main kinds of fees you should expect and learn how to dodge:

  • Foreign transaction fees charged by your credit card provider. They’re charged every time you pay in a foreign currency and can amount up to 3% of the transaction. The only way of avoiding them when paying on plastic is getting a credit card that allows fee-free spending abroad.
  • Fees charged by local merchants. When paying with your card, you may be offered the option of paying in pounds instead of the local currency. If you’ve taken out a credit card designed for use abroad (one that offers fee-free non-sterling transactions) you should opt to pay in the local currency, since you know that your own bank is giving you a favourable currency conversion deal. Outside the EU merchants sometimes also apply a surcharge if you want to pay by card and not in cash. If you’re concerned that this may be the case, it’s worth asking about it before picking a payment method.
  • Cash advance fees. Almost all credit cards charge you extra for withdrawing cash, both in the UK and abroad. Out of the country, it’s even more expensive because the cash advance fee will add up to the foreign currency transaction fee, so you should only get cash with your credit card in case of emergency.

Compare 0% foreign fees credit cards

Finder's pick

Tandem Bank Journey Credit Card Mastercard

24.9%

Representative APR

0%

Foreign transaction charge

£0

Account fee

Up to 56 days

Interest-free each billing period

For those with limited or damaged credit histories “credit builder” cards are generally an easier option to get approved for. They typically come with low opening credit limits and relatively high interest rates, but no annual or monthly account fees and more lenient eligibility and approval criteria.
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases and cash withdrawals abroad.
  • Used responsibly, can help build your credit.
  • No annual fee.
  • Not possible to transfer an existing balance from another card.
  • Cash withdrawals at home or abroad will be charged interest from the day funds leave your account.
Minimum income 15000
Availability Available to new customers
Foreign usage charge (EU) 0%
Cash advance fee 24.9%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 24.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 24.9% APR (variable).

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.

Spread the cost of your getaway

Planning a really great holiday but not sure you can afford to pay for it in one go? With a 0% purchase credit card, you’ll be able to spread the cost over a few months without having to pay any interest on it.

0% purchase credit cards can be great for breaking down the cost of a trip into more affordable instalments, but you really need to have paid the sum back by the time the introductory deal expires. Otherwise, your balance will start accruing interest at the card’s standard rate (which is usually not very competitive). It’s essential to work out a repayment plan (divide your expenditure by the number of months in the 0% deal to work out what you should repay each month) and stick to it to make sure you pay the whole sum back on time.

Compare 0% purchase credit cards

Finder's pick

M&S Bank Shopping Plus Mastercard

20 months

0% interest on balance transfers

20 months

0% interest on purchases

19.9%

Representative APR

£0

Account fee

This versatile all-rounder from M&S gives you a lengthy break from interest on both purchases and balance transfers, and even earns rewards on your spending.
  • As well as enjoying a break from interest, you’ll earn 1 point per £1 spent with M&S, and 1 point per £5 spent elsewhere.
  • You’ll need to be an M&S devotee to get the most out of this card.
Availability Available to new customers
Foreign usage charge (EU) 2.99%
Cash advance fee 23.9%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).

Don’t let bad credit hold you back

Most of the best travel credit cards require a good credit rating, especially those that offer great rewards or are packed with perks. But there are a few credit builder credit cards that let you swerve foreign currency transaction fees.

Get one of those, and you’ll be able to improve your credit rating while still saving money on your fees when you travel.

Compare credit builder credit cards

Finder's pick

Tandem Bank Journey Credit Card Mastercard

24.9%

Representative APR

0%

Foreign transaction charge

£0

Account fee

Up to 56 days

Interest-free each billing period

For those with limited or damaged credit histories “credit builder” cards are generally an easier option to get approved for. They typically come with low opening credit limits and relatively high interest rates, but no annual or monthly account fees and more lenient eligibility and approval criteria.
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases and cash withdrawals abroad.
  • Used responsibly, can help build your credit.
  • No annual fee.
  • Not possible to transfer an existing balance from another card.
  • Cash withdrawals at home or abroad will be charged interest from the day funds leave your account.
Minimum income 15000
Availability Available to new customers
Foreign usage charge (EU) 0%
Cash advance fee 24.9%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 24.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 24.9% APR (variable).

Get yourself some hotel perks

A small number of credit cards offer special hotel benefits like room upgrades, priority check-in, later check-out times or the opportunity to earn points that can be redeemed for free stays.

These cards are often offered by the hotel companies themselves and are more suitable to people that travel quite often and stay at the same kind of hotel. If that sounds like you, you’ll be able to make the most of the perks while also earning points quite quickly.

Finder's pick

The Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card

38.8%

Representative APR

£75

Yearly account fee

20,000 points

Max. intro bonus

Earn 2 points

per £1 spent

If you like to travel in style, then you can still earn tailored rewards while you spend with this specialised offer.
  • Generous introductory bonus and nice ongoing rewards.
  • An expensive option if you carry a balance from month to month.
Residency UK resident.
Availability Available to new customers
Foreign usage charge (EU) 2.99%
Cash advance fee 27.1%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.2% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £75 per annum, your representative rate is 38.8% APR (variable).

Travel in comfort with airport lounge access

Airports – not much fun are they? But if you can relax in an airport lounge, you’ll cut out much of the stress and feel pretty smug at the same time. You’ll need to be comfortable with the idea of paying an annual or monthly account fee in return for complimentary lounge access (if that’s a deal-breaker, consider a one-off membership to a scheme like Priority Pass). But on the plus side, lounge access won’t be the only benefit these cards offer.

Compare cards with airport lounge access

Finder's pick

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Credit Card

56.6%

Representative APR

10,000 points

Max. intro bonus

Earn 1 point

per £1 spent

Earn 2 points

per £1 spent with select partners

If you use your credit card heavily but don’t carry a balance from month to month, Amex’s Preferred Rewards Gold Card really can offer meaningful benefits – including airport lounge access and plenty of reward points.
  • Airport lounge access: 2 complimentary visits every year, plus membership of Lounge Club, allowing further access at £20 per visit.
  • Fee: Year 1 - £0, Year 2 onwards - £140 per annum.
Availability Available to new customers
Foreign usage charge (EU) 2.99%
Cash advance fee 27.1%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.2% (variable) p.a. with an annual fee of £140 (£0 in first year), your representative APR is 56.6% APR (variable).

Collect air miles with a frequent flyer card

Just like credit cards that offer hotel perks, frequent flyer credit cards are meant for people who fly, well, frequently. If you get on a plane once a year, you won’t be able to make the most of them; if it’s more like once a month, they can really be worth it.

They work just like rewards credit cards, but let you earn air miles on all your spending instead of points or cashback. Usually, you’ll earn even more miles when you use the card to purchase tickets with the card’s partner airlines. You can get both basic options without annual fees and premium options that do charge an annual fee in return for a higher earn-rate.

Compare frequent flyer credit cards

Finder's pick

British Airways American Express Card

22.2%

Representative APR

£0

Account fee

5,000 points

Max. intro bonus

Up to 56 days

Interest-free each billing period

Earn points virtually every time you use your card, to redeem with British Airways or a number of other airlines, for flights, flight upgrades, hotel stays and more.
  • Earn Avios on all your spending, without paying an annual fee.
  • Big spenders who clear their balance in full each month may get more from the Premium Plus card.
Residency UK residents.
Availability Available to new customers
Foreign usage charge (EU) 2.99%
Cash advance fee 27.1%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 22.2% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 22.2% APR (variable).

Enjoy peace of mind with complimentary travel insurance

There are a few premium cards out there that come with travel insurance included and save you the hassle of having to purchase it separately. Expect fairly pricey annual fees in return for a whole lot of benefits, such as airport lounge access.

It’s not easy to calculate when it’s better to get a card that offers it and when it’s more convenient to purchase it separately, but as we said, the travel insurance will usually be combined with other perks, so it’s a good idea to check whether those are appealing to you or not.

Finder's pick

The Platinum Card

£575

Yearly account fee

30,000 points

Max. intro bonus

Earn 1 point

per £1 spent

If you travel often and want to access a wide range of benefits through your spending, such as airport lounge access and a concierge service, it could be worth considering this charge card from American Express.
  • Airport lounge access and a very appealing welcome bonus.
  • High annual fee of £575 per annum.
Residency UK resident and has a UK bank or building society account.
Availability Available to new customers
Foreign usage charge (EU) 2.99%

Track real-time spending in an app

We know how it goes: you’re on holiday, buy a souvenir here and an extra ice-cream there, and when you come back and check your card statement you realise you’ve spectacularly exceeded your budget for the trip.

A practical way of keeping an eye on the money you spend while travelling is downloading your credit card’s app on your smartphone. The best mobile banking apps will notify you whenever you use the card and allow you to check all your recent transactions in real time. For example, the American Express app does just that, while also allowing you to set up a spend tracking alert that will notify you when you overspend.

Compare banking apps


How to use a credit card in…

We show offers we can track - that's not every product on the market...yet. Unless we've said otherwise, products are in no particular order. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations of these) aren't ratings, though we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it. This is subject to our terms of use. When you make major financial decisions, consider getting independent financial advice. Always consider your own circumstances when you compare products so you get what's right for you.

Read more on this topic

Go to site