Advice When Using a Credit Card Abroad

Written by Jonathan Halloway on February 28, 2019

Updated April 12, 2022

Woman at the beach using credit card for online shopping

One of the most important things you need to pay attention to before you leave the UK for the rest of the world is ensuring your money is safe. Compared to credit cards, cash is very unsafe and could tempt foreigners in their environment to steal from you. Having a credit card around in your travels and holiday plans could save you from carrying too much cash.

However, even with cards, you need to be aware of fees and charges for using them away from the UK. However, in modern times there’s a credit card for anything, including travel credit cards or specific cards made for use abroad.

Compare travel credit cards before you select the perfect one for use abroad. Pay attention to where you’re travelling to and whether credit cards will be accepted or if there’re other better and cheaper means of payment.

Taking credit cards overseas with you

Of course, you can take a credit card with you abroad and spread the cost of buying items over a number of months making it easier for you to budget. You may even collect lots of loyalty rewards and points while earning cash back in the process.

However, the normal credit card might not be the perfect one to have around with you in a foreign land. Note that normal credit cards could end up being an expensive way to pay for services and products if you don’t do your homework well before flying out of the UK. For using them overseas, you could end up paying a range of charges such as:

  • About 2.75 per cent foreign exchange fee or loading charge for using the credit card to purchase items abroad.
  • Fee for withdrawing cash of between 2 and 3 per cent of the total withdrawn amount
  • Interest charges for late repayment of credit card balance in its entirety. Note that even if purchases don’t attract any interest cash withdrawals abroad definitely will.
  • Poor exchange rates.

If you don’t have a travel card with you, do all you can to avoid withdrawing cash from your credit card in ATMs while travelling. In case you want a little cash for public transit, beverages or tickets and small snacks you could take a little foreign money with you together with the credit card.

Choose the right credit card

At times travelling with your credit card is a must. While it can be costly using a typical credit card abroad, you can choose the right one for the journey. With the right card, you can have the perfect travel companion. If you don’t have time to find dedicated travel credit cards, look for those with superb rates or even consider a prepaid travel card.

Lots of credit card providers offer competitive rates and lots of great offers. Some attract competitive exchange rates while others don’t attract fees for specific transactions, including fees for withdrawing cash from ATMs among others making them superb addition to your holiday itinerary. Compare the different credit cards and select the best for your journey.

Avoid dynamic currency conversion

In most places abroad those who pay using credit cards are charged mostly by retailers in their own currency and not the local legal tender through what’s known as dynamic currency conversion. It might sound reliable and convenient; it gives you a clearer picture of what you’re paying for but can be costly. The exchange rate is usually high in dynamic currency conversions and might not be ideal.

If the retailer stands to make more through dynamic currency conversion you can bet he/she will use it. Carefully check every bill before entering a PIN or signing for it. If you realise dynamic conversion has been used, request them to change and use local currency.

Let the credit card provider know beforehand

Do call your credit card provider to alert him about your journey abroad and your intention to use their credit card. Due to high cases of card fraud, credit card providers are continuously checking transactions to prevent and detect theft or credit card fraud.

If the provider has no idea about your journey, the card could be flagged off and blocked, affecting your holiday experience. Always let them know where you’ll be travelling and when.

Even after alerting the card provider mishaps could take place ending up in the card being blocked from use. Before you leave take the credit card provider helpline numbers and email to reach them in case of an emergency. Carry the contact information with you to be ready to get in touch with the provider if things go wrong, including card theft or loss.

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