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Holiday Money: Flexible friend or foe?

The range of offers presents a tough choice. Christine Stopp helps out
There are now so many cards, offering to do so many different things for you, that working out which does what is beginning to be a problem.

Transaction costs on your plastic tend to be higher than with traveller's cheques, but with plastic there is no additional fee levied at the overseas outlet.

A transaction charge of 1.5 per cent is typical for most cards. Any card which operates through the Visa network will in addition carry a foreign exchange charge of around 2.5 per cent.

Cash cards simply allow you to take money from your current account. However, your cash card is without the insurance frills that are usually attached to credit cards.

Credit cards also come bristling with helplines offering cash or card replacement and legal, medical and roadside assistance.

It should be easy to get cash from machines abroad. Among the plastic card issuers, Visa claims the biggest network of cash machines world-wide, with 213,000 machines in 87 countries.

Most Access card holders are by now aware that their cards come under the Mastercard logo outside Britain. But Europay's Cirrus logo on Switch cards means you can use it to get cash from machines abroad.

However, machines are still not spread evenly and it may be worth checking how big the network is in the country you are going to.

For example, there are 22,000 Visa and 21,500 MasterCard cash dispensers in Spain, whereas Turkey has 2,600 Visa and 3,600 Mastercard machines.