29 Oct What’s the Best Debit Card to Use Abroad 2018?
Some of the most tedious and frustrating tasks on our travel checklist are the financial ones. After much research, we finally found the best travel credit card on offer, but we then had to consider how we were going to access our money while we’re away. Turns out that the fees for using your debit card abroad can end up seriously eating into your savings, so we set out to find the cheapest option. So, what’s the best debit card to use abroad?
The best debit card to use abroad – 2018 update
We sadly cannot use our fantastic Norwich and Peterborough debit card (see below for details) anymore because the bank have closed their current accounts. We now use the new UK bank Starling, an app-based bank that has zero transaction and withdrawal fees anywhere in the world. Starling uses the Mastercard exchange rates and you don’t have to pay a certain amount into the account every month.
We’ve been using Starling since autumn 2017 and find it’s great for travel, the app tells us exactly what we’ve spent in real-time, including exchange rates. It also allows you to easily transfer money into the account using your mobile. Read this post for more about our top cards and banks for travel in 2018 and the best credit card to use abroad here.
Best debit card to use Abroad
We want to avoid debit card charges abroad – we’ve been saving money for this trip for years and don’t want our hard-earned cash to go straight into the bank’s back pockets in overseas fees. So, we did a bit of research to find out what’s the cheapest debit card to use abroad:
|Card||Overseas cash withdrawal fee||Overseas purchase fee||Handling fee|
|HSBC||Up to £5||0||2.75%|
|Norwich & Peterborough Building Society||0||0||0|
|Lloyds||Up to £4.50||£1|
|Natwest||Up to £5||£1.25||2.75%|
*Sources: Norwich & Peterborough, HSBC Website
As you can see, using debit cards abroad can be an expensive business – unless, of course, you opt for a Norwich and Peterborough current account.
Could we use a Prepaid Card Instead?
We could choose to avoid the hassle of applying for a new debit card by simply opting for a prepaid travel card, also known as a travel currency card, which we load with cash before we leave and top up while we’re on the road. Here are a couple of the top options:
|Card||Overseas cash withdrawal fee||Handling fee|
|CaxtonFX prepaid card||0 (if outside UK)|
|FairFX prepaid card||$2||0|
*Source: Money Saving Expert
Travel Debit Card vs. Prepaid Card
Since both the Caxton Prepaid card and the N&P debit card both have the most favourable rates, how do we choose between them? Here’s our comparison:
- Interest rates – rates for both the Caxton and N&P card fluctuate daily but are about the same; £1 is equal to 1.97 NZD when exchanged by N&P, whereas £1 is equal to 1.96 NZD when exchanged by Caxton October 2012)
- Currencies – the N&P debit card lets you take out money in more currencies than the Caxton card does
- transactions– the main benefit of a debit card is that you can use it for both cash withdrawals and transactions, whereas the prepaid card can only be used for withdrawing cash.
- Topping-up – the Caxton prepaid card can be easily topped up online and we can transfer funds to the N&P account just as easily with internet banking.
Which Card did we Choose?
So, what’s the best debit card for travel? We went for the Norwich and Peterborough debit card in the end. We preferred the option of having a card we could also use for transactions rather than just withdrawing cash (as is the case with a prepaid card).
So, we’ve applied to open an N&P Gold Light current account; the only downside is the application process takes a while and has to be done via phone and post as there aren’t many branches in London. Before we leave we’ll probably shut down our other current accounts at HSBC and just keep the N&P account to try and keep things (relatively) simple.
How do you access your cash while you’re travelling? What do you think is the best debit card to use abroad?