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Using your credit card abroad

Using your credit card abroad

Using a credit card abroad can be a convenient way to pay for things while you’re on holiday.

Learn more in our guide.

Can I use my credit card abroad?

Yes, you can use your credit card abroad in the same way you would use it in the UK, whether that be for contactless or chip and pin payments.

Are there charges for using a credit card abroad?

Credit card charges abroad may differ from the usual charges in the UK. Using debit and credit cards abroad can incur currency conversion charges. You may also be charged high fees for ATM withdrawals.

How to prepare for using your credit card abroad

Let your credit card provider know

It’s a good idea to let your bank know of the dates you will be out of the country, to prevent payments abroad being flagged as suspicious. 

Bear in mind that most banks won’t call you directly. You may receive a text message asking for you to contact them. Only ever call the bank’s official contact number which will be written on the back of your credit card.

Find your credit card company’s contact details 

Make a note of your credit card company’s 24 hour helpline number, in case your card is lost or stolen (most major credit card issuers have international numbers they can be reached on from overseas). Carry these details separately from your card.

Check any foreign credit card charges in advance

Knowing the rough cost of any non-sterling transaction fees , currency conversion fees and  interest rates charged on overseas transactions will help you keep track of your spending accurately.

Decide on the best card to use abroad

If you find your current credit card does impose charges, you may 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. You may decide to get a Sainsbury’s Bank Travel Money Card instead to avoid foreign transaction fees altogether when making card payments.

Advantages of using a credit card abroad?


Credit cards can be an easier way of paying for goods and services than cash or travellers’ cheques.


Using credit cards abroad can be a safer method of payment on holiday. With most credit cards recognised around the world, there is no need to carry large sums of cash around with you. 

Purchase protection

Some credit cards offer free 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.

Tips for using your credit card abroad

Avoid withdrawing cash

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.

But, if you find yourself in a situation which means you have to withdraw cash using your credit card, try to take out one large amount instead of making several smaller transactions. This will help to limit the number of charges you’ll receive. 

Pay in the local currency

When paying by card abroad you will often be asked whether you would prefer to pay in Pounds Sterling or in the local currency. Bear in mind that retailers or restaurants often charge a higher conversion rate than the standard bank rate, so it can be a better deal to pay in the local currency.

What to do if your credit card is lost or stolen

If you’re on holiday and your credit card is 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.

Advantages of taking a travel money Card abroad

Avoid non-sterling transaction fees

A travel money Card is one of the best cards to take abroad. Spend your holiday money with ease, without having to pay transaction fees when you pay in the local currency with a Sainsbury’s Bank Travel Money Card.

Load with multiple currencies 

You can load up to 15 currencies at one time and use the card just as you would a usual debit or credit card abroad, with contactless, chip and pin or online purchases. You can also withdraw from ATMs around the world without a charge (although ATMs may add their own fee). 

Stay in control with the app

Manage your money from wherever you are with the Sainsbury’s Bank Travel Money App. To get started, all you need to do is load up £50 and you’re good to go.

Do you need cash for your trip?

It can be handy to have a small amount of local currency for your holiday, too. From indulging in an ice-cream or sun lounger on the beach, to paying for public transport, some cash is always useful to have.

Order and collect currency for your holiday from a Sainsbury’s Travel Money bureaux.

If you’re a Nectar member, you can get an even better exchange rate when you buy currency from us*.

It doesn’t matter whether you buy instore, by phone or online. All you have to do is tell us your Nectar account number when you buy.

Not a Nectar member? Just download the Nectar app or register at

Using a credit card abroad FAQs

Can you buy currency with a credit card?

Yes, you can use your credit card to buy foreign currency, but you should be aware that the associated fees and exchange rates may be higher.

What are the charges for using a credit card abroad?

There are three main fees to be aware of when using a bank card on holiday. You may be charged the following when using your credit card abroad:

  • Currency conversion
  • ATM withdrawal fee
  • Non-Sterling transaction fee

Is it better to pay by cash or with credit card on holiday?

Although a having a credit card abroad is convenient to save you from carrying cash, it’s useful to have both. There are some occasions where having cash is handy – like if you’re buying from a local market vendor or you need some change for an ice cream at the beach.

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.

Terms and conditions

*Nectar members receive better exchange rates on single purchase transactions of all available foreign currencies. Excludes travel money card home delivery orders and online reloads. Exchange rates may vary depending on whether you buy instore, online or by phone.©
You need to tell us your Nectar card number at the time of your transaction. No cash alternative is available. We reserve the right to change or cancel this offer without notice.

**You can order currency for a secure home delivery by 1pm on the day of your choice by Royal Mail (Mon- Sat). For next day delivery your order needs to be confirmed before 2pm (Mon- Fri). Please note that whilst Royal Mail make every effort to delivery on schedule, we cannot guarantee this as it is beyond our control. Highlands and Islands (including Channel Islands) are not guaranteed next day delivery. Delivery is free on all cash orders £400 or more (£4.99 for orders between £100 and £399.99). The minimum order for home delivery is £100. The delivery day quoted is dependent on the order day being a working day; if one of those days is a public holiday then additional day(s) will be added accordingly. All home delivery orders are sent via Royal Mail Special Delivery, unless we advise you otherwise, to your billing address, and a signature will be required upon delivery. A valid telephone number is required for home delivery.

^For Euro, US Dollar and Travel Money Card only:

If you selected same-day collection your order will be available 4 hours from the initial order confirmation email received or if your order was placed before 6 am then the earliest your order will be available to collect is from 10 am. Please allow at least 4 hours for your order to be processed. Remember to check the bureau opening hours before collecting your order.

If you selected tomorrow or a future date your order will be ready from 10 am on your chosen collection date.

For all other currencies

Your order will be available from 2.00 pm on your chosen collection date.

Your order should be collected within 72 hours or will be subject to cancellation.

Sainsbury's Bank Travel Money Card is issued by PrePay Technologies Limited pursuant to license by Mastercard International. PrePay Technologies Limited is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority under the Electronic Money Regulations 2011 (FRN: 900010) for the issuing of electronic money and payment instruments. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

Find more Terms & Conditions here