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Using your credit card overseas

A credit card can save you carrying cash around with you when you’re travelling abroad. However, there may be charges for using it – particularly if you withdraw cash.

Follow these tips to spend safely and avoid additional costs.

1. Double-check the expiry date

Your trip abroad might not go to plan if your credit card doesn't work, so make sure it’s not going to expire while you’re away. Even if your card is not due to expire, it’s worth taking another type of payment card with you too, such as a debit card, just in case something happens to your normal card. The same goes if you plan on primarily using a debit card, it may be a good idea to take your credit card as a backup.

2. Check whether you need to tell your bank

See whether you need to tell your bank so they won’t think it’s suspicious activity on your credit card and block it from being used. And make sure your contact details are correct in case your bank needs to get in touch with you about possible fraudulent activity on your account.

3. Set up monthly repayments if you're on a long trip

Going on a gap year, or holiday of a lifetime? Arrange for money to come out of your account automatically so that you don’t miss any credit card or bill payments while you’re away. You can do this by setting up a Direct Debit or standing order.

4. Take contact details for your bank

Make a note of your bank’s overseas number to call in an emergency, for example if your credit card is stolen. Make sure you’re set up for online and/or mobile banking so you can log on to your account and keep track of your spending or block or cancel a card immediately if you need to.

5. Pay in the local currency

When shopping or paying for a meal in a restaurant, consider paying in the local currency. If you pay in the local currency, a non-sterling transaction fee may be added to the cost of your purchase. The fee will be a percentage of the value of the transaction. Some retailers may offer to process your transaction in pound sterling (known as dynamic currency conversion), but you’ll usually be charged a higher exchange rate for this.

6. Avoid using your credit card for ATM withdrawals

You can use your credit card abroad to withdraw local currency at cash machines, but you may be charged a non-sterling cash fee as well as a cash advance fee on every amount you withdraw. If you need cash, either get travel money before you go or use your debit card to withdraw. Keep in mind, you may still be charged an international transaction fee on your debit card.

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