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Should you use a card or travel money outside the UK?

However you choose to spend your money when you're outside the UK, there are pros and cons.

Whether you opt to use a debit or credit card or take travel money, there's not necessarily a right or wrong answer. On this page, we explain some of the benefits of each in certain situations.

Using your debit or credit card


A wide range of shops and restaurants accept debit and credit cards, so they're convenient. You can also use your debit card to take money out of cash machines while you’re on your trip.


If your card is lost or stolen, you should have the same level of protection when travelling as when you’re at home. Before travelling check how you can report any issues with your bank. It may also be a good idea to save your bank's contact details in your mobile phone for easy access.

If you’re with HSBC and have mobile or online banking, you can freeze your cards instantly if they're lost or stolen.

Easy tracking

If you like to keep a close eye on your spending and have mobile or online banking, you can log on to keep track of your finances while you're away. This way you can act instantly on any issues you see and manage things like bills and Direct Debits.

Disadvantages of using a card outside the UK

You may have to pay a fee when buying things on a debit or credit cards, as well as when withdrawing from cash machines. Charges vary according to the bank you're with and the type of account you hold. So, look closely at what they may be before you go.

If you’re using your card in shops, bars or restaurants, you have a couple of options:

  • Paying in pounds will give you more certainty on how much things cost  – but this can sometimes work out more expensive
  • If you choose to pay in local currency, you’ll get the most up-to-date exchange rates and avoid dynamic currency conversion fees

Using a travel card

Our HSBC Global Money Account might suit your needs.1 It comes with a debit card and there are no HSBC fees for using your card to make payments or withdraw cash outside the UK, However, other non-HSBC fees may apply.

Using travel money


You won't need to worry about finding a cash machine when you arrive, or when you’re heading to any of the local shops.

Easier budgeting

If you're sticking to a fixed budget while you're away, taking travel money makes it easier by limiting what you have available to spend. Once you've exchanged the amount you want, there are no further fees to pay for using your money outside the UK.


Carrying a lot of money around with you can be very risky as it’s difficult to track if it’s lost or stolen. If you're doing this, think about using a safe deposit box. That way, you can carry smaller amounts with you day to day. If you have travel insurance, it may be worth looking at how much cash you're covered for carrying.

Also, if you've only got cash and no other spending options, you risk running out of money before your trip is over.

What about a mix of both?

It may be a good idea to use a mix of cards and travel money. That way you’ll have cash on hand when you arrive, but also the security of a card while you’re out and about.

Always make sure you're aware of any fees and charges for using your card outside the UK.

Explore: Managing your money before, during and after travel

1 Global Money is only available in the latest version of the HSBC UK Mobile Banking app. You’ll need to have an eligible HSBC current account.