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TRAVEL CARD REVIEWS: Which FREE UK credit cards have 0% foreign exchange fees?

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What are the best FREE credit cards with no foreign exchange fees?

As the Lloyds Avios Rewards Mastercard is no longer available to new applicants, there are no travel rewards credit cards which offer fee-free overseas purchases.

If you use a rewards credit card when travelling, you will incur a fee of 3% on everything you buy. This can never be justified by the miles and points earned on the transaction. It may be justified if you need to hit a spending target to trigger a sign-up bonus or a voucher such as the British Airways American Express 2-4-1.

Over the next week or so we are looking at a few no and low FX fee options. We reviewed Tandem a few weeks ago (click here). Here is our review of the WeSwap Mastercard travel money card, here is our updated review of Revolut (with a special offer for HFP readers) and here is our review of Starling.

All of these products have different features – there is no ‘right’ answer. Some are more fiddly than others, some are prepaid cards and some are credit cards, some have added benefits such as 0% interest on purchases.

Mainstream free credit cards with no foreign exchange fees

In this article I want to run through some mainstream credit cards which offer 0% foreign exchange fees and have no annual fee.  I haven’t included Virgin Money or Aqua as I want to cover those separately.  We looked at Tandem here.

None of the cards in this article let you earn rewards.  Aqua and Tandem, not covered here, offer 0.5% cashback on foreign spending on top of having 0% FX fees.

If you DO want to earn miles and points from your foreign spending, the best option is Curve Card. Curve is free and has a 1% foreign exchange fee (2/3rd lower than most cards). It recharges your purchase to any other Visa or Mastercard you own in Sterling. This means you earn miles and points on the underlying card without paying the usual 2.99% foreign transaction fee. Curve Card will pay you £5 for trying it outread our article here.

Review of 0% travel money cards Halifax Clarity

Before we go, here are a couple of things to consider when looking at a 0% FX fee credit card versus a pre-loaded debit card such as Revolut:

Upside: no need to pre-load a credit card, up to 56 days credit on purchases, Section 75 protection on purchases (not offered by debit cards)

Downside: cash withdrawals on credit cards can appear on credit reports and have a negative impact (implies desperation for cash), adding a credit card just to use for travel may reduce your ability to apply for another miles and points credit card later (your total existing credit is increased), all of the cards below except Barclaycard charge interest on cash withdrawals even if you settle your bill in full at the end of the month

Option 1:  Halifax Clarity Mastercard

Core USP:  Nothing, but it does all the basics and is well established

Fee on overseas cash withdrawals?  No (but no interest free period)

Clarity is the daddy of 0% FX credit cards.  Details are on their website here.  You will see that Halifax is offering a £20 statement credit if you apply by 31st August and make a foreign currency transaction by 30th September.

There is no requirement to have a Halifax current or savings account to apply.

The card ticks all the key boxes – it is free, it has no foreign exchange fees on purchases and it has no cash withdrawal fees abroad.

The representative APR is 18.9% variable on both purchases and cash withdrawals.

Post Office Money Platinum credit card no travel foreign exchange fees

Option 2:  Post Office Money Platinum Mastercard

Core USP:  0% for 18 months on balance transfers – but let down by the charge on ATM withdrawals abroad

Fee on overseas cash withdrawals?  Yes

This is another long-standing 0% card.  (The benefit of picking a card which has a long-term record of 0% FX fees is that you can be more confident that the benefit will not be taken away overnight.)

Details are on the Post Office Money website here.  The issuer is actually Bank of Ireland UK under licence.

The card is free and has no foreign exchange fees on purchases.  It DOES have a fee on cash withdrawals of 2.5% (minimum £3).  There is no charge if the card is used to buy travel money at a Post Office.

An extra benefit is 0% interest for 18 months on balance transfers.  A transfer fee of 2.89% applies.

The representative APR is 18.9% variable.

Creation Everyday credit card

Option 3:  Creation Everyday Mastercard

Core USP:  Lower interest rate (Clydesdale is lower but has fees on cash withdrawals) which is important because you will be charged on cash withdrawals even if you settle your bill in full at the end of the month

Fee on overseas cash withdrawals?  No (but no interest free period)

This is a newer entrant to the market.  Creation also issues the IHG Rewards Club card and will also (re)launch the Marriott Rewards card in August, so you may want to be wary – I’m not sure how Creation treats multiple applications for different cards from the same person.

This card is an excellent package.  It is free, it has no foreign exchange fees on purchases and it has no cash withdrawal fees abroad.

It also has the lowest interest rate of any card here.  The representative APR is 12.9% variable on purchases and cash withdrawals.

Details are on the Creation website here.

Santander Zero credit card

Option 4:  Santander Zero Mastercard

Core USP:  Free UK cash withdrawals

Fee on overseas cash withdrawals?  No (but no interest free period)

Santander tends change its benefits packages more often than most issuers, so this may not be a card for life. However, the package as it stands is impressive.

The package is excellent.  It is free, it has no foreign exchange fees on purchases and it has no cash withdrawal fees abroad.

There is a USP that no other card here matches – it also has no cash withdrawal fees in the UK either although you will pay daily interest on the amount withdrawn.

The representative APR is 18.9% variable on both purchases and cash withdrawals.  You can find out more here.

Option 5:  Barclaycard Platinum Travel Visa

Core USP:  0% interest on purchases for 12 months, 0% interest on overseas cash withdrawals if settled within 56 days

Fee on overseas cash withdrawals?  No, until 2022 (overseas cash withdrawals get 56 days interest free credit)

Barclaycard states that it will withdraw the 0% deal on this card in 2022.  Until then, however, it is worth a look because it is the only card on this list to offer an interest-free period on overseas cash withdrawals.  You WILL pay interest immediately on any UK cash withdrawals.

One other benefit of the Barclaycard option is 0% interest on purchases for 12 months.

The representative APR is 19.9% variable (27.9% on cash withdrawals).  You can find out more here.

Clydesdale B credit card

Option 6:  Clydesdale B Mastercard

Core USP:  Lowest interest rate of any free 0% FX credit card, no balance transfer fee although 9.9% APR applies

Fee on overseas cash withdrawals?  Yes

The Clydesdale B Mastercard has a very low interest rate – the representative APR is 9.9% variable.

The trade-off is that, whilst purchases abroad have no foreign exchange fee, there are fees on cash withdrawals abroad.

You can transfer a balance from another credit card to the B card for free.  You will pay interest at 9.9% variable on the transfer, but if you pay off the balance quickly this may be cheaper than taking a ‘0% interest on balance transfers’ card with an upfront fee.  The Clydesdale website is here.

Conclusion

If you trust Moneyfacts, these are all of the free UK credit cards with 0% FX fees, excluding Tandem (we reviewed Tandem here) and Virgin Money and Aqua (which we will do separately).

There is no definitive ‘best’ choice.  If you have decided to go with a 0% fee credit card instead of a debit or pre-paid card, you need to decide what is important to you – free cash withdrawals, 0% balance transfers, 0% on purchases, cashback (offered by Aqua and Tandem), whether or not you already have a card from a particular bank – and then pick the one which suits you best.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.  By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

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Comments

  1. I’ve read many articles on how to best spend GBP abroad or move GBP to other currencies abroad. I’m a bit in the opposite situation. Moved to England 5 years ago and I still have savings in EUR in a French bank.
    Any advice on the best way to bring my EUR from France to my UK account in GBP? I know of course transferwise, wester union, etc… but wondering if there is a better/cheaper way (minimum fee, good rate) with the likes of Starling bank?

    • the real harry1 says:

      Check out HIFX, I’d recommend them for a simple currency transfer as they have sharp rates and no fees (it’s all in the rate). And yes – easy to transfer from your French bank EUR a/c to UK bank GBP.

      I haven’t seen any advantages in using the likes of Starling for this kind of money transfer.

      • Thanks Harry for the advise, I will take a look. Did you mean something specific by ‘simple currency transfer’? Maybe related to the amount (as in few thousands ok but better options if higher)?

        • the real harry1 says:

          You get slightly better rates if higher amount, yes. Always worth comparing (say) 5 different providers.

          A lot depends on your needs & attitude. Eg if you firmly believed that the pound is weak and will strengthen vs EUR over the next few years – and that’s when you plan to use the money – you might be happy about fixing a great rate now EUR-GBP and transferring the lot across.

          Or if you didn’t think that (or if you didn’t need all the funds in GBP right now), you might be happy to leave it and slowly trickle the EUR into GBP as and when you needed it.

          I’m in the same boat in some ways and have concluded you can’t win all the time! I have 2 centres, UK and place in the sun. I want to spend a lot more time abroad, much at our place in the sun & also travelling, as I hit the next 20 years (I’m 55). Hopefully making place in the sun my retirement home but also worried about health concerns and maybe staying UK resident to get NHS benefits. The currency you keep your assets in is rather important to your future ease in that scenario.

          But having watched our currency pair like a hawk these last 20-odd years, I do pretty much get it right in terms of working out which is weak and which is strong. So transferring funds from one currency to another becomes a way to cushion the effects of inflation etc or I just take advantage of relative strength/ weakness to transfer over more one year than others (for maintenance/ spending needs etc).

    • the_real_a says:

      Revolut is good in my opinion. You can make SEPA transfers in and out of revolut in any currency for free. Making a currency exchange within the app across wallets is done at inter-bank rates. You can also hold a balance inside the app.

  2. Mikeact says:

    Sorry MarkH, my fault…thinking of a recent visit to India.
    You are of course correct, in Europe, change to EUR and no 1%. I use Curve for Lloyds ATM and Lloyds Amex and/or M’card for regular transactions……suits us for Avios.

  3. Michael Jennings says:

    I have a Post Office Credit card that I have had since 2007. I use this for all my non-Sterling spending. I also have a Halifax Clarity card that I use for foreign ATM withdrawals. I then pay this off immediately and pretty much eliminate interest. Thus I pay essentially no charges for changing currency when abroad, which is great. (Those local ATM charges that you get in some places are annoying, however).

    I like to carry two no-fee cards to keep cash and card spending separate. I find this easier. Your mileage may vary.

    • Yep I’ve had PO MC for over a decade now too! Don’t use it nearly as much now given other options but always good to have a backup when abroad – also sometimes use it as a guarantee/deposit card, eg for ski hire, then pay the bill with Amex at the end of the rental.

  4. The Barclaycard Platinum Travel credit card is the best deal for the next 4 and a quarter years.

    By August 2022 The whole scenario will have changed.

    The Halifax Clarity credit card in practice is as good as long as you pay off cash withdrawals balance as soon as possible.

  5. Graham Walsh says:

    Am I the only one struggling to get excited by all of this. I’ve take cash out twice in the last 3 years of travelling for work and leisure. That was Belgium and Tel Aviv. I’ve got my Monzo and also a Curve card linked to IHG mainly. Also have Lloyds Avios but that is recent. Everything goes on the card when away. For the sake of 1% means I’m racking up miles too.

    • the real harry1 says:

      As I mentioned before, assuming you keep your Gold Amex card for 12 months to get the 10,000 point bonus for £15K spend, you effectively earn 2.67 MR points per £1 spent abroad, so using it to buy £1000 of stuff abroad has cost you net £3.30 (valuing MR points @1p).

      Hardly going to make me lose sleep.

      Especially as I get a lot better than 1p value out of those points when I redeem.

    • I don’t have one – Curve is good enough for me for the little bits of cash I take out abroad. Horses for courses though.

      • Genghis says:

        Trouble with ATM withdrawals on Curve is the £2 flat fee + 1%, making small amounts quite “expensive”.

  6. Caleb says:

    What’s the difference when using Lloyds Avios MasterCard and Amex abroad? Does Amex give a lower rate? Thanks. Since I just got the card and was using Amex in my holiday, just wanna make sure I used the right one.

    • Definitely used the Amex. The exchange rate might be marginally worse but both are fee-free and the Avios earnings rate is much higher on the Amex!

      • Caleb says:

        Thanks! Yea, couldn’t find the exact rate they use but did most with Amex, unless the machine doesn’t like it.

    • The extra Avios earned on the Amex will almost certainly outweigh any small FX rate difference.

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