Gone are the days of traveller’s cheques and wads of foreign cash when you travel abroad- there are now lots of new, safer, and efficient ways of exchanging your pounds for a foreign currency.
You no longer have to walk around in panic with £500 worth of money in your backpack, or play the guessing game about how much money you’ll need to load onto a foreign currency card at a travel agent.
The best cards to use abroad are those with greater flexibility- like withdrawing cash, exchanging any unused money back to sterling after your holiday, and increased security.
Innovation in banking means that there are now some extremely helpful services available that allow you to travel with ease. For example, did you know that the Revolut card allows you to exchange any unused currency back to sterling? There’s no need to go back and forth to the currency exchange- all you need to do is download an app on your smartphone and order a card.
Millennial banking at its finest. So without further ado…
The best cards to use abroad
Using Curve Abroad
As well as being great for every day spending, the Curve card is also one of the best cards to use abroad.
Curve claims to be the only card you’ll ever need, as it allows you to link all of your cards together in one app, and switch between them when you spend. This means that when you go abroad, the only card you should need to take with you is your Curve card- in theory. I would always prefer to have a backup just in case!
There are 3 different types of Curve card, but you are most likely to want the ‘Blue’ option, which is the free option. This offers you £500 a month fee free spending abroad, with a £200 ATM withdrawal limit whilst you are away. There are no hidden fees when spending abroad.
During the first 3 months of using the card, you can get 1% cashback at 3 select retailers of your choice- examples include booking.com and easyJet. This is great news if you are planning on making some expensive transactions for accommodation or flights ahead of a holiday.
The most unique feature to Curve, is that you can ‘go back in time’ on your purchased (up to £1000), and change the method of payment within 14 days. For example, if you made a purchase with your debit card, but actually wanted to switch and pay using your credit card, you could do so. As long as the original payment was made using the curve card.
How to get started with Curve?
When you sign up, use my referral link THRIFTY1, to receive a £5 sign up bonus when you start using the card- a brilliant way to start your holiday!
All you have to do to get started is download the app, enter your details including your current bank cards, and then a Curve card will be sent to you in the post. Curve is a Mastercard, so any country that accepts Mastercard will accept a Curve card.
Just like other alternatives to high street banks like Revolut and Monzo, you can see a breakdown of all of your spending on each card within the app as soon as you start to make purchases. This is a fantastic way to keep tabs on your holiday spending.
Curve is regulated by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority), and so your data is protected by these regulations- Curve also won’t share your bank card details with retailers during transactions. Curve has an extremely helpful ‘lock’ feature on the app which means that should your card get lost or stolen, you can block it from use immediately from your smartphone.
Using Revolut Abroad
Revout has now amassed over 4.5million users, and was recently valued at £1.3billion (as of March 2019), which really shows how great this service is as an alternative to using traditional currency exchanges.
Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I like to be able to have some cash on me when I’m visiting another country- whether it’s to pay to use a public loo or to pay in cash for a train fare when the machine isn’t working properly. Revolut is fab for this as it allows you to withdraw up to £200 from a cash point in your destination country- completely free of charge. There are no additional fees to pay, or inflated exchange rates like you might incur if you used your usual debit card.
If you would like to withdraw more than £200, you can do so, but at a fee of 2%. Up to £5000 can be spent within a month which for most will be perfectly adequate, but if you do surpass this limit you can expect to pay a fee of 0.5%.
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Unlike other banks, you can set up your account with Revolut in minutes- all you have to do is download the app, request a card, and then transfer some money over from an existing bank account. This acts as a security check. Just like the Curve card, you can freeze your card via the app if it has been lost or stolen- this will disable it so that transactions can no longer be made through the card.
You can either select a virtual or physical card, depending on your preference. The card then essentially works as a pre-paid Visa card. You can’t withdraw cash from an ATM using the virtual card, so for this reason, I would personally go for the physical card when travelling abroad which is an upfront cost of £4.99 (but you can get the card for free by using my referral link when signing up!)
When you load money onto the card, you can choose which currency to load on. For example, you might choose Euros- your pounds will be exchanged into Euros at the exchange rate in that moment. Alternatively, you could load money (in sterling) onto the card and then start spending as normal, and Revolut will calculate the exchange rate at the exact moment of purchase.
Just like other challenger banks, Revolut will also send you notifications to your smartphone whenever you make a purchase. It will also break down your spending into categories which, as discussed earlier, is super helpful when you’re abroad and wondering where all of your money has gone.
Revolut also offers the ‘Watchlist’ feature within its dashboard which shows the interbank exchange rates- you can even set up alerts for when currencies go above or below a certain number if you like to keep an eye on the rates.
The exchange rate that Revolut uses is excellent as they use the interbank exchange rate with is much better than the rate you would get at a currency exchange. This really is Revolut’s USP and combined with how convenient it is to use, Revolut is often the first choice when it comes to choosing a card to use abroad. Revolut estimates that its customers save on average £46 per trip as they are not having to pay any commission on foreign currency exchange.
To start your holiday spending off right, you can sign up using my referral link to get a free card!
Using Monzo Abroad
Monzo is a challenger bank and offers a whole host of fun banking and saving features like ‘savings pots,’ budgeting tools and a feature that lets you pay back your friends quickly using just their phone number if they are also a Monzo customer. However, there is also the option to use Monzo when you’re abroad.
Monzo allows you to spend in any currency around the world, with no fees, using the Mastercard exchange rate, which is a better rate than you would get in your usual bureau de change. You can also withdraw up to £200 fee-free from an ATM, but after this there is a 3% charge.
A quirky little feature of Monzo is that when you land in a new country, the app will alert you to the current exchange rate in that country, when you land back at home again, Monzo will also let you know how much you spent during your trip- no more guessing required!
As always, Monzo will categorise your spending and alert you each time you make a transaction- I always lose track of how much money I’ve spent on holiday and even once remarked, “have we been robbed!?” So this is a really great feature for keeping an eye on everything with very minimal effort.
If you’re not already using Monzo, you can use my referral link to receive £5 when you start using the card!
The card you choose really depends on where you are travelling to, how much you are likely to spend there, and how many people will be depending on you financially when you travel.
For me and my own personal circumstances, Revolut ticks a lot of boxes. The £200 fee-free ATM withdrawal is a really handy feature for me when travelling, especially if I chose to go to a market or take a taxi as these things are often cash only.
I also love that Revolut gives you such a high spending threshold- up to £5000 fee-free! I would never spend that amount whilst abroad, but if you were going travelling for a longer period of time this could be a great option for you.
What are your thoughts? Are you a happy customer of any of these cards? I’d love to know which card you think is the best card to use abroad.
All information correct as of September 2019.
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