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Using your credit card abroad

Using your credit card abroad

Credit cards can offer an easy and secure way of paying for goods and services when you're travelling. However, there are a number of factors you might want to consider before using your card abroad.

Before leaving the country

  • Firstly, it’s a good idea to make sure your credit card provider has up to date contact details including a mobile number so they can get in touch should any transactions appear suspicious.
  • Make a note of your credit card company’s 24 hour telephone number in case your card is lost of stolen (most major credit card issuers have international numbers they can be reached on from overseas). Carry it separately from your card.
  • Find out about any foreign credit card charges which may apply to you. Knowing the cost of any transaction fees, currency conversion fees and the interest rates charged on overseas transactions will help you keep track of your spending accurately.

If you find your current credit card does impose charges and you have a few weeks until you travel, you might consider applying for a credit card that offers more favourable fees and rates while you’re abroad. Similarly, if you have multiple credit cards, find out which one is the best for making foreign transactions.

What are the advantages of using my credit card abroad?

  • Being light and durable, credit cards can be a more convenient way of paying for goods and services than cash or travellers’ cheques.
  • They can also be a safer method of payment. With most credit cards recognised around the world, there is no need to carry large sums of local currency around with you while on holiday.
  • Some credit cards offer free purchase protection against loss, theft and accidental damage to items purchased abroad. Bear in mind, cover will vary between providers and limits and excesses apply to such cover.

Using your credit card responsibly while abroad

  • Try to avoid withdrawing cash from an ATM using your credit card. You will be charged a fee for taking a cash advance on your card and you will begin to accrue interest immediately.
  • If you find yourself in a situation which means you have to withdraw cash using your card, try to take out one large amount instead of making several smaller transactions. This could limit the amount of charges you receive. However, as stated above, using your credit card at ATMs is best avoided.
  • Pay in the local currency whenever possible. When paying by card abroad you will often be asked whether you would prefer to pay in pounds sterling or in the local currency. Due to retailers or restaurants often charging a higher conversion rate than the standard bank rate, it can be a better deal to pay in the local currency.

If your card is lost or stolen

Should you be in the unfortunate situation of your credit card being lost or stolen, contact your card issuer as soon as possible and cancel the missing cards. Replacements will be sent to your home address, usually within five working days.

If you card has been stolen, inform the local police within 24 hours of the theft, or as soon as possible after, and get a written report and reference number.

For more information, please see our guides to what to do if you lose important documents abroad and how to keep your money safe while abroad.