Get those foreign cards in order

You can almost hear Alice Cooper warming up – school is very nearly, as he puts it ‘out for the summer’. That’s good news for some, but very bad news for others, specifically those looking for a cheap holiday deal.

According to Abbey, trips abroad are over 50% pricier in the prime school holiday period of mid-July to mid-August. And with the Pound still slumping against the Euro a trip to the continent in 2008 look like being a costly business.

With that in mind, Brits heading for warmer climes would be well advised to avoid the further costs of using cards when abroad. Sun Money can give some top tips on playing your foreign cards right.

What to look out for

We may be moving ever closer to our continental cousins but we might as well be worlds apart when it comes to using our debit and credit cards in Europe. And things only get trickier when we go beyond the EU, with fewer charge free options available.

There are really three types of charges that card users need to look out for on foreign soil.

  • Firstly, you’ll need to watch for exchange rate fees. Although card providers generally offer a decent exchange rate, they’ll almost always charge a ‘load-on’ fee of around 2.75% meaning that £100 worth of spending in fact costs £102.75.
  • With debit cards you could face a purchase fee – with providers taking a flat fee normally between £1 and £1.50 for every purchase. The more purchases you make the more you’ll pay.
  • Finally, and worst of all, are the cash withdrawal fees. It’s always been costly to get hold of cash with a credit card but head overseas and doing so with a debit card can be equally costly. Fees charged are usually around 2%.

Where to turn

Quite simply there are three decent options open for card users abroad.

Nationwide is right at the top of the table when it comes to cards abroad. Not only does it’s Gold credit card charge no commission on purchases (the so-called ‘load-on’ fee), but the debit card available with the Flex Account boasts 0% on cash withdrawals and transactions and unlike many credit cards won’t charge a foreign exchange fee.

When it comes to credit cards the best options are available from the Post Office and Abbey. The Post Office will charge 2.5% for cash withdrawals but it’s card doesn’t apply load-on fees or transaction fees.

Abbey’s Zero Card is really the pick of the bunch, living up to its name with 0% on cash withdrawals and transactions. You’ll need to clear the bill pretty sharply on your return, however, as the APR on cash withdrawals can be very high.

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