Money Insider: Pack the right plastic for your Easter break


With many consumers gearing up for the Easter break, it's a good time for a reminder of the charges you can incur when using your debit and credit cards abroad.

Cards may offer a secure and convenient way to pay when you're away from the UK, but the fees and charges can vary widely, so it's worth getting to grips with these before you head off.

Most providers will add on a foreign usage fee to all credit card cash and purchase transactions – in most cases around 2.75-2.99 per cent, but there are better alternatives.

Credit cards from Halifax (Clarity), Metro Bank, Saga and the Post Office don't charge any usage fee, immediately saving you up to £3 for every £100 of purchases.

But that's only half the story, as on top of the usage fee, most credit card cash withdrawals will cost you another 3 per cent, so an ATM withdrawal of £100 currency equivalent can easily cost you £6, and thus is best avoided except in an emergency.

We tend to take our debit cards for granted, particularly as they don't cost anything to use within the UK. Unfortunately it's not the same when you're overseas and it's something that holidaymakers sometimes overlook, until its too late and the charges have been debited from their account. As with credit cards there is a usage fee for cash withdrawals (2.75-2.99 per cent) plus an ATM withdrawal charge, typically between £1.50 and £5.

However, the card charges that catch most people out are those levied for debit card purchases, which are subject to the usage fee above, plus up to an additional £1.50 per transaction, regardless of the amount. The worst offenders are Halifax (£1.50 per purchase transaction), NatWest, RBS and Santander (all £1.25).

If you're looking for a fee-free debit card to use overseas, take a look at the cards from Norwich & Peterborough Building Society or Metro Bank.

It's worth spending a couple of minutes to check with your bank what the charges are for your particular plastic before you set off, rather than getting a nasty shock when you check your account on your return.

At least if you understand the overseas charges, you can adapt your spending patterns accordingly – for example, you don't want to be making cash withdrawals or purchases of only £10 or £20 if you're going to be hit with charges of £1.50-plus each time.

Another option to consider is a prepaid currency card from the likes of Fair FX, MyTravel Cash or Travelex. The cards are chip and PIN secure, accepted wherever you see the MasterCard symbol and offer a cheaper way to pay than many debit and credit cards.

The sterling currency cards can be loaded from your debit card and as such the exchange rate is locked in at the time the cash is transferred, so you'll know exactly what you'll be paying for all your holiday transactions.

A final warning: beware of an increasingly common custom (particularly in Europe) where the foreign retailer or ATM gives you the option to pay in pounds, known as dynamic currency conversion (DCC).

Although you know exactly how much in pounds you'll be debited, the downside is that it gives the retailer the opportunity to use an uncompetitive exchange rate, which could cost you an extra 3 or 4 per cent – avoid!

Co-operative Bank's best-buy bonds hint at what could be…

It's been a dire few years for savers, who have suffered a combination of low interest rates and high inflation, so it's refreshing to be able to report a glimmer of good news in this area.

Co-operative Bank has just launched some market-leading fixed-rate savings bonds. The one-year fixed savings bond pays 2.31 per cent AER and for three years the rate is 3 per cent AER, both products currently topping their respective best buy tables.

There's a two-year option too, at 2.5 per cent – still a good rate, but bettered by Virgin Money at 2.65 per cent with its E-Bond (Issue 26).

The big question is, is this a merely false dawn, or has the savings market bottomed out and this is the first in a series of moves that will see rates gradually pick up again?

Time will tell, and while I hope it's the latter, I fear it's going to be a long haul before we see rates anywhere near the levels they were at last autumn, before the market was decimated by the Funding for Lending scheme.

Andrew Hagger is an independent personal finance analyst from

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

    £50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

    £13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

    Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

    Day In a Page

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...