A simples guide

Can I use my credit card abroad?

There’s no denying that credit cards can be very handy – used in the right way they can add a much needed buffer to the cost of everyday living. So taking your flexible friend abroad seems like a sensible thing to do – but there a few things you need to know before you max out your cards on sun, sea and… sombreros.

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Can I use my credit card abroad?

Yes you can but you should watch out for those sneaky little fees and charges that could get slapped on your bill.

Many credit card companies charge what’s known as a ‘foreign usage fee’ this is what you’re billed when your purchase is converted from the local currency to pounds. You might also be charged a flat fee every time you use your card – ouch! Plus, on top of that you could face charges for withdrawing money from a cash machine – suddenly that need for an extra ice cream and jug of sangria doesn’t seem so urgent, right? You just need to check what your credit card provider applies to foreign purchases so you don’t get caught out.

So, what are the benefits of using a credit card abroad?

That all said, using a credit card abroad does have some perks. Firstly, you’re not wandering around like King Midas with all your riches in your pocket – credit cards are convenient and because you’re not carrying cash, it can make you less of a target for opportunist pick-pockets.

If you lose your credit card or it’s stolen, then you can cancel it and you should be reimbursed for any fraudulent transactions – you’ll need to speak to your credit card provider to be sure though. Using your credit card also means you’re protected for any purchases that cost between £100 and £30,000 so if anything goes wrong with what you’ve bought then your credit card provider (along with the retailer) is responsible for sorting it out (see our article on Section 75 for more information).

If your credit cards offer you rewards with purchases, then you may also still be able to get those perks when you buy things abroad. Credit cards are also widely accepted so you’re unlikely to be caught short if you don’t have enough cash on you.

What are the best credit cards to use abroad then?

The best way to find out which card will work best for you is to compare the market. Credit cards come in all shapes and sizes (well, not literally) so there’s bound to be one that will fit the bill. Some areas that you might want to consider include looking for cards that charge zero fees for cash withdrawals or purchases made whilst abroad. Some credit cards also offer you extended interest free days on anything you’ve bought on your holiday (but that’s not an excuse to go wild) so it’s worth shopping around.

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Stay credit card savvy

It’s easy to get carried away with your credit card – but try not to. If you do and miss a payment then you’ll face interest charges and late fees. Aim to pay off the whole balance on time each month if possible and if you can’t manage that then always make sure you pay off the minimum at least.

If you’ve got an outstanding balance on an existing card but want to keep on top of payments, then consider a card that offers 0% interest on balance transfers. That way you can keep your debt manageable and pay it back without being overshadowed by interest.

Of course 0% might not float your boat and you’d rather get something in return, in which case a credit card that offers you rewards would be ideal. They work by offering you points or cashback based on how much you spend; you’ll then be able to redeem those points against certain offers.

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I have a low credit score, can I still get a credit card?

If you’re credit score isn’t so much gold but copper plated, then don’t worry – you may still be eligible for a credit card. Look for credit building credit cards which should help you get back on track. The interest rates will typically be higher than on other credit cards and the limits will be lower, but, it’s a good place to start in order to build up your score.

Always stay local

When you get asked whether you want to pay in the local currency or pounds, always choose to pay in the local currency. Whilst getting the bill converted in pounds (known as dynamic currency conversion) might be easier for you to budget for, it could mean you don’t get the best exchange rate and actually end up losing out.

Start comparing

Take a look and start comparing – it’s the only way you’ll find out what’s on offer and what’s right for you. With our handy guides and at a glance features, we make searching for a credit card easy – because life’s complicated enough.

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