/ Money

How do you spend money overseas?


As you look forward to your summer holidays, it’s unlikely that how you’re going to pay for things while on your travels is what’s getting you excited. But choosing wisely could save you some serious £££s.

Whether that’s by getting a better exchange rate, or by avoiding the hefty fees and charges that often come with using the wrong credit or debit card overseas.

Money, money, money

As part of a Which? investigation I found that someone exchanging £500 could get an extra €80 or $81 if they choose the right place to change their money.

But actually – although it’s always sensible to take some foreign currency with you, in case of emergencies – I’ve found it’s far better to get a good card to cover most of your holiday spending.

This is because the underlying exchange rates used when you spend money on a card are often much better than those you will get when exchanging cash.

First though, a bit of a health warning with this, it’s vital to choose the right card otherwise you could end up racking-up lots of fees and charges.

For instance, a typical fee for using a debit card overseas is 2-2.99% of your foreign transaction, and an extra £1.50 – £5 on top of that fee if the transaction was for an ATM withdrawal.

But, there are a number of good card options. A credit card with 0% fees for overseas spending is one option – there are quite a lot to choose from.

If you’d rather not apply for a credit card, prepaid cards, Monzo and Revolut will also let you spend overseas with no fees, and come with great exchange rates (something not true of all prepaid cards).

Both of these cards are managed via a smartphone app, so you need to be happy with that. But for me, I really like this as they come with handy features such as the ability to track your foreign transactions in real-time (including how much they cost you in £s) and to instantly block your card if it’s lost or stolen.

Holiday money

Last summer, we polled you here on Which? Convo and asked ‘Do you mainly use cash or cards for your holiday spending?’ – of the 334 that voted in this poll, 42% of you said you paid in cash, 31% on credit card, 15% on debit card and 11% on prepaid cards.

So, will you be reconsidering how you spend money on your summer holiday? Do you have dedicated cards already? If not, would you consider getting one?


As with all things what is called the “switching cost” needs to be considered. Essentially it is the time taken to change to a new account, card or whatever.

People intrinsically realise that a new card means learning new tricks and will come with reading matter etc. and at the end maybe you save £50 but was it worth the hassle.

For a single holiday abroad many might feel it is simply too big a hassle. If you frequently travel abroad then it is a different ball game ,

Additionally in a world of scams and card problems many people wish not have multiple cards to keep track of.
Personally I like the pre-paid card idea and used to have a Travelex card in Euro’s. With a small amount on it and not going to Europe for a couple of years the account was closed off by Travelex.

Cloning of cards can be a problem and pre-paid is therefore attractive. I am not sure of these new pre-paid cards as we are now all aware that if you are using your smartphone that security on these is weak link. However I am not an expert and perhaps Which? could examine these for what weaknesses exist if any. It may be possible to pre-charge and not use the smartphone with them at all.

Cash is always good apart from losing it or carrying too much. Depending on how you enjoy your holiday you may think it is very risky. I remain sober and have a distrust of finding the necessary ATM’s. in order when cash is required.

Someday we’ll all use latinum as a currency… or have no currency at all.

I have a current account in France, so I use it for all my purchases in the euro zone.

Gold-pressed Latinum? A warped concept… 🙂

Personally I would favour the Foundation’s credit.

Two Seldon’s worth?

I visited Sri Lanka recently and the Sri Lankan Rupee is a non-reserved currency, meaning you can’t actually buy any currency outside of Sri Lanka. We looked for a debit card that we could use while we were out there to withdraw money. However, in the more rural areas where there weren’t any cash machines or banks we mainly paid in Sterling, Euros and Dollars – we took a mixture of notes to pay while we were out there. Had to use quick maths to haggle in multiple currencies 🙂

I’ve used FairFX for a number of years with their pre-paid € card. One advantage is that you can load it whenever you feel the exchange rate is high (oh for the days of €1.40 to the £ but luckily I loaded a good bit on then) but conversely you might lose out with unlucky timing.
I’ve more recently discovered WeSwap which enables you to change from one foreign currency to another (Aus $ to € in my case) without going through the bid/offer spread of converting to £s first, so particularly attractive to “world travellers” (not me I hasten to add!) Good rates too.
Perhaps “Which” could review them?

Went to Thailand last year where the charges for using ATMs were dreadful. At the time, internet advice was: avoid rip-off ATM fees by taking GBP and changing in the banks/currency booths for a good exchange rate. This was easy (apart from the first day, which was Songkran, when everything was closed) and meant we only changed what we needed. I’d be interested in knowing whether this is the best way of getting travel money everywhere? Also, I have a Post Office credit card and use that (avoiding charges) for transactions >£10, where possible, but wonder whether contactless is accepted widely abroad, for smaller transactions?

We frequently visit North Cyprus where we use a debit card to withdraw sterling free of charge at certain cash machines.
We then pop into the nearest exchange bureau and get our Turkish Lira at a brilliant rate.