UK debit cards from banks with no foreign transaction fees when abroad
Best debit cards to use abroad
Finder’s best debit cards to use abroad for 2023
|Bank||Best for||Expert score|
|Starling||Best for fee free spending & customer service||4.7/5|
|first direct||Best for fee free spending & added extras||4.5/5|
|Chase||Best for fee free spending & cashback||4.4/5|
|Kroo||Best for fee free spending & in-credit interest||3.9/5|
Other reviews of debit cards with low or no foreign transaction fees
What is a foreign transaction fee?
A foreign transaction fee is a charge that’s applied by your bank whenever a currency conversion is required. For example, if you make a payment online using your UK debit card on a US website, your bank needs to exchange pounds sterling to US dollars to process the payment, and it might charge you a fee for this.
The foreign transaction fee is usually around 3% of the transaction value. This can end up being costly if you’re making a large purchase, or if you’re spending abroad on a regular basis. For example, if you bought something on a US website for £300 and the bank applied a 3% foreign transaction fee, you’d be hit with a £9 fee. This may not seem like much, but if you’re making payments like these every month, it can quickly add up.
What are debit cards with no foreign transaction fees?
You usually receive a debit card when you open a current account. You can use this card to access the money in your account to make everyday purchases in-store or online and withdraw cash from an ATM. Depending on the provider, some debit cards won’t charge a foreign transaction fee when you spend on them abroad or make a purchase on an overseas website. Using one of these cards could save you a considerable amount of money in the long run.
What are the benefits of using debit cards with no foreign transaction fees?
Here are some of the benefits you can expect from using a debit card with no foreign transaction fees:
- Save money on international purchases made online. Debit card foreign transaction fees typically vary from 2-3% of the transaction value. If you often buy things from overseas websites, a debit card with no foreign transaction fees could lead to significant savings.
- Save money when using your card overseas. The same applies when travelling internationally. Debit cards with no foreign transaction fees let you use your card overseas just as you would at home and so you won’t have to worry about transaction fees. Not only will this save you money, but it will save you the hassle of getting a travel debit card just for your trip.
- Global and easy. If you have a Mastercard or Visa debit card, you can use your card in over 200 countries and territories across the world. You’ll be able to use it wherever you see the Mastercard or Visa sign.
- No overspending and no interest accruing. Unlike a credit card, a debit card only lets you access the cash in your current account. This can help keep your spending in check as you’re only spending what you actually have available in your account. You also won’t rack up interest on your spending, as you would with a credit card.
- Keeping it simple. A debit card gives you a simple way to access your own money, no matter where you go. You don’t have to worry about loading foreign currency onto your card, you don’t have to exchange cheques for cash and you don’t have to worry about applying for a credit card.
What fees are normally involved when using a debit card for international purchases?
Although using your debit card when overseas gives you quick and easy access to money, it pays to find out just how much you’ll end up paying in other fees and costs. Some cards might charge the following:
- Foreign transaction fee. This fee is a combination of what your card provider charges along with what the payment processor charges. You might have to pay this fee when you use your card to pay in foreign currency, which your card provider converts into pound sterling. It is usually between 2% and 3% of the transaction value.
- Overseas ATM fees. When using your debit card to withdraw money from an overseas cash machine, your card provider might charge a fee for the privilege. Again, this is likely to be around 3% and it will be on top of the foreign transaction fee. In some cases, the ATM you’re using might charge a separate fee.
- Foreign exchange rate margin. Banks make money by adding a margin (or a markup) on top of the real exchange rate when transferring one currency into another. Each bank will charge a different margin, so will offer different exchange rates. While this cost is not as transparent, if your bank is offering a poor exchange rate, you could be losing money when using your debit card overseas.
How do these debit cards compare to prepaid travel money cards or credit cards?
There are multiple options to consider when it comes to spending money overseas. Here’s how debit cards compare to popular alternatives like prepaid travel money cards and credit cards:
Credit cards, like debit cards, attract foreign transaction fees and ATM withdrawal charges. However, unlike debit cards, they also usually charge interest if you don’t pay back the balance in full each month. What’s more, if you use your credit card for cash withdrawals, interest is usually charged from the date of the transaction – even if you clear your balance that month.
Credit cards can give you access to extra funds outside of your available debit balance, which can come in handy during emergencies. But this also means you need to watch what you spend as it can be easy to spend more than you can afford to repay.
Santander All in One Credit Card
0% interest on balance transfers
Balance transfer fee
0% interest on purchases
- No foreign transaction fees
- Over a year to spread the cost of purchases
- Earn 0.5% cashback (no cap)
- No balance transfer fee
- 15 months of no interest on balance transfers
- Account fee of £3 per month
- Minimum annual income requirement of least £10,500
- Applicants with low credit scores are unlikely to be eligible
|Residency||UK Resident for more than 36 months|
|Availability||Available to new customers|
|Foreign usage charge (EU)||0%|
|Cash advance fee||29.9%|
Prepaid travel money cards
A prepaid travel money card gives you the ability to load multiple currencies onto a single card to avoid currency conversion fees, and you can lock exchange rates in place before you travel. Depending on the card you’re using, you might be charged a fee when loading funds on the card or withdrawing money from cashpoints.
Make sure you compare your options as different travel money cards will offer different exchange rates and load fees. You can compare some prepaid travel money cards here.
What are the pros and cons of using a debit card with no foreign transaction fees?
- Access your own money. Since you’re accessing money from your own bank account, you don’t have to worry about repayments, paying interest or overspending.
- Low or no foreign transaction fees. If you’re outside the UK for a considerable length of time and end up using your debit card regularly, low or no foreign transaction fees can lead to noticeable savings.
- No transfers required. Since your debit card gives you direct access to money in your bank account, you don’t have to worry about transferring money from your account to another account or card.
- No access to extra emergency funds. You can only access funds in your bank account, so in an emergency, a credit card could work better.
- Limited choice of providers. While a number of UK financial institutions provide debit cards, not many offer debit cards with no foreign transaction fees, so your choices remain limited.
- Conditions to meet. Fee-free foreign transactions and cash withdrawals might be limited to a set amount per month.
There’s no need to pay foreign transaction fees when you’re using your debit card abroad or buying something from an overseas website. There are a number of fee-free options to choose from that will save you money. Otherwise, you could end up paying fees of up to 3% of the value of the transaction, which will add to your costs significantly, especially if you’re on holiday abroad for days or weeks.
Frequently asked questions
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