Travel Cards: What are the best options in the UK? 2024

Claire Millard
Ileana Ionescu
Last updated
24 November 2022

If you’re expecting to spend overseas - on holiday, when shopping online with international retailers, or even because you’re relocating to sunnier climes - you’ll want to find the cheapest and most convenient way to manage your money.

One option is to pick an international debit card - but are they really worth it? This guide covers all you need to know about:

  • How international debit cards can help cut bank fees and get a better exchange rate

  • What advantages there are to having an international debit card compared to a regular bank card

  • How international debit cards work

  • Which are the best travel and international debit cards available in the UK

Let’s dive right in.

Our Top 4 Travel Debit Cards in the UK:

  1. Wise Travel Card

  2. Post Office Travel Card

  3. ASDA Travel Card

  4. Sainsbury's Travel Card

Travel debit cards: the best options in the UK

Wise travel card
  • Hold and spend in 50+ currencies with the mid-market exchange rate

  • Some fee free ATM withdrawals, with low charges once plan limits are exceeded

  • No ongoing charges or minimum balance

Post Office travel card
  • Supports 23 currencies

  • Free to get a card online or in a Post office branch

  • Foreign transaction fee of 3% applies if you spend in an unsupported currency

ASDA travel card
  • Hold and spend 16 currencies

  • Free ATM withdrawals

  • High foreign transaction fee - 5.75% for currencies not supported by the card

Sainsbury's travel card
  • Supports 10 currencies

  • Card will automatically deduct from the right balance if you spend in a supported currency

  • High foreign transaction fee - 5.75% for currencies not supported by the card

How do travel cards work?

Travel debit cards allow you to spend and make withdrawals in a foreign currency easily - and often, for a lower fee compared to using a regular bank debit or credit card.

That means you can use your travel debit card when you travel internationally, to pay for your accommodation, food, shopping - and whatever else you plan to do. You can use your card to make cash withdrawals overseas to make sure you always have a ready supply of foreign currency for when cards aren’t accepted. And finally, you can use your travel card when you shop online with international retailers, to cut the costs of foreign transaction fees.

Types of travel card

You’ll find that there are 3 main types of travel cards that traditional banks offer: prepaid cards, debit cards, and credit cards. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages - make sure you research carefully to find the cheapest option for your spending. Here’s a rundown of some common travel card options for UK customers.

1. Prepaid travel card

Prepaid travel cards - also often known as travel money cards - are offered by a wide range of providers. You’ll top up your card in pounds before you travel, and then you can use your card to spend or make withdrawals when you’re away. Some cards also allow you to add funds online, so you can top up your card after you leave too.

Different prepaid travel cards have their own fee structures, with some charging for top ups, or having ongoing maintenance fees. Check out all the details, including the exchange rates available before you pick one.

2. International card with traditional banks

Most UK based banks which offer a linked debit card will allow you to spend and make withdrawals around the world. However, it’s extremely common to find that there are some extra fees to spend in a foreign currency - often including an exchange rate markup or foreign transaction fee of around 3%.

In the UK you can find the occasional bank or building society which offers a linked debit card with no foreign transaction fee - like the Virgin Money M Plus account, or the Cumberland Building Society Plus Account. However, these specialist accounts do often have other restrictive terms such as minimum balance requirements, or high transaction fees for other services.

You can also choose to spend internationally with your bank issued credit card - but this does risk higher overall fees once you take into account credit costs and any cash advance fees you run into, on top of foreign transaction charges.

3. Travel card with neobanks

You’ll often find that a travel card from a modern online provider - often called a neobank - is the cheapest and most convenient option. Accounts are usually simple to set up, and it’s easy to order your card online or in the provider app. Once you’re up and running you’ll often find you get a better exchange rate than the rate offered by your normal bank - or even the mid-market exchange rate with no markup at all.

Because neobanks are often specialists which operate online and don’t have the same overheads as traditional banks, you can often net a better deal, including no minimum balance requirements, ongoing charges or maintenance costs.

Best travel debit cards: a comparison

Shopping around is the best way to get the right travel card for your needs. There are several travel card providers in the UK which can offer a better deal compared to traditional banks, including online specialist services like Wise. Here’s a more detailed look at some of our top picks.

Provider/card name Annual feeExchange rateWithdrawal fee
Wise cardNo annual feeReal mid-market exchange rate with no markup 

2 withdrawals per month, to the value of 200 GBP fee free

0.5 GBP + 1.75% after that

Post Office travel card2 GBP/month maintenance fee applies after your card has been expired for 12 months

Exchange rate may include a markup

3% fee when you spend in an unsupported currency

ATM withdrawal fee varies by currency
ASDA travel card2 GBP/month inactivity fee applies once account has been dormant for 12 months

Exchange rate may include a markup

5.75% fee when you spend in an unsupported currency

No ATM withdrawal fee from ASDA

ATM operator may add its own costs

Sainsbury Bank travel card2 GBP/month inactivity fee applies once account has been dormant for 18 months

Exchange rate may include a markup

5.75% fee when you spend in an unsupported currency

No ATM withdrawal fee from Sainsbury Bank

ATM operator may add its own costs

Wise card

The Wise card allows you to make payments in more than 200 countries and in more than 150 currencies. Your card is linked to a handy Wise multi-currency account, which lets you hold, convert, send and spend in dozens of currencies, and manage your money on the go from your smartphone.

Pros of the Wise card

  • No minimum balance or ongoing charges

  • Hold and exchange 50+ currencies in your Wise account

  • Auto convert feature will make sure you always get the best possible deal on currency conversion

  • Manage your card in the Wise app, to freeze and unfreeze the card and get instant transaction notifications

  • Physical and virtual cards available

Cons of the Wise card

  • 5 GBP fee for your first card

  • ATM fees apply if you make frequent withdrawals

  • Spending limits apply

  • No option to top up account in cash

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Post office travel card

Apply for a Post Office travel card online, or by visiting your local Post Office branch with a government issued ID document. You’ll be able to hold 23 currencies in your account, and it’s free to spend any supported currency. Contactless and mobile payments are supported - but there are some fees you’ll need to watch out for, including ATM withdrawal charges.

Pros of the Post Office travel money card

  • Apply online or in person

  • Hold and exchange 23 currencies

  • No fee to spend currencies you hold in the account

Cons of the Post Office travel money card

  • 3% foreign transaction fee if you spend in an unsupported currency

  • Cash withdrawal fees apply which vary by currency

  • Monthly maintenance fees apply from 12 months after your card applies

Read our full Post Office travel card review.

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ASDA Money Travel Card

You can order an ASDA Money Travel Card online or by visiting a store which has an ASDA Money bureau. Your travel card can hold 16 currencies, and it’s free to spend in any of these currencies, including making ATM withdrawals. It’s worth noting that topping up your account in pounds comes with a fee, and there’s a steep charge for spending in a currency not supported by the card, so you’ll want to double check the currencies you require are all covered.

Pros of the ASDA travel card

  • 24/7 global assistance

  • Hold up to 16 currencies

  • Contactless payments supported

  • No fee for ATM withdrawals

Cons of the ASDA travel card

  • 2% fee to top up in pounds

  • High fees of 5.75% if you spend in a currency not supported by the card

  • Inactivity fees of 2 GBP/month apply after 12 months

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Sainsbury Bank travel money card

It’s free to get the Sainsbury’s travel card, and it’s free and easy to make contactless payments in any of the 10 supported foreign currencies. You can also make ATM withdrawals in supported currencies without being charged a fee by Sainsbury’s. There are a few costs to watch out for though, including a GBP reload fee, and a high foreign transaction fee if you’re spending in any currency other than the 10 supported currencies.

Pros of the Sainsbury Bank travel money card

  • Hold up to 10 foreign currencies

  • Free to spend any currency you hold

  • Card will deduct funds from the correct balance when you spend in a supported currency, to avoid unnecessary fees

Cons of the Sainsbury Bank travel money card

  • 2% fee to top up in pounds

  • High fees of 5.75% if you spend in a currency not supported by the card

  • Inactivity fees of 2 GBP/month apply after 18 months

Go to site

Advantages of the travel debit cards

Getting an international debit card can be a good alternative to using traditional bank cards to spend money abroad. Advantages include:

  • Top up your account or card in advance to set a travel budget

  • Know the exchange rates in advance so there are no surprises

  • No need to tell your bank you’re travelling

  • Manage your money online or in an app for convenience

  • Overall costs are often far lower compared to using a bank

Are there any limitations on travel debit cards?

Travel debit cards aren’t right for everyone - here are a few drawbacks to consider:

  • Spending currencies not supported by the card can incur fees

  • You can’t always use your travel card for car rental as it’s not likely to have a credit facility

  • Some transactions - like paying at the pump for petrol - may result in a hold on funds within your account

  • Adding funds to your account may not be instant

How does a travel card work?

A travel debit card works similarly to a normal bank debit card in some ways:

  • Pay with your card directly with merchants - often with contactless functionality

  • Withdraw cash when you need it from ATMs

  • Check your balance online, in an app, or via an ATM easily to keep an eye on your money

  • Funds are deducted from your balance so there’s no worry about running up credit charges

However, travel debit cards have a few distinct advantages compared to regular bank cards:

  • Cards can often be ordered easily online or by phone

  • Top up your account whenever you like, to create a separate travel budget

  • Convert your pounds to foreign currencies in advance so you know the exchange rate before you spend

  • You’ll often get a better exchange rate compared to a bank, with lower transaction fees

  • There’s no need to tell the card issuer that you plan to travel

How can I use a travel debit card abroad?

Once you have your travel debit card, you’ll be able to start spending. You’ll need to double check that the merchant or ATM accepts the card network your card uses - Visa and Mastercard are most common, and are widely accepted internationally. You’ll also need to read through the card terms and conditions to make sure you’re aware of any fees that the card issuer applies when you spend or make withdrawals

One other important point when using an international travel card is to watch out for dynamic currency conversion (DCC). That’s when you’re asked by a merchant, or at an ATM terminal, if you’d rather pay in pounds or the local currency wherever you are. If you choose to pay in pounds you’ll usually be hit by high fees and a poor exchange rate - well worth avoiding if you want to make the most of your travel money. Always choose to pay in the local currency to get the best possible deal when spending or withdrawing with your travel card.

How to request a travel debit card

If you’re looking for a specialist travel debit card which lets you spend conveniently while cutting your costs, you may find the best available deal from an online provider such as Wise or Revolut. Signing up for an account is pretty painless, and can be done entirely online or through an app - and you’ll usually find the fees are lower compared to a traditional bank, too.

To show how easy it is, let’s take a look at how to sign up for a Wise card - we’ll cover Wise and a few other top UK travel debit card options in more detail, later:

  • Download the Wise app or head to the Wise desktop site

  • Sign up for a Wise account with just an email address, Google, Facebook or Apple ID

  • Get verified by uploading a photo of your ID documents

  • Order your card online or in the Wise app for a one time 5 GBP fee

  • Your physical card will arrive within a few days - or you can access your card details in the Wise app right away for mobile payments


What are the transaction fees which apply to a travel card?

Travel debit cards can offer a better deal when you spend in foreign currencies - but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re entirely free. Here are a couple of the key costs to consider.

Exchange fee

Some travel debit cards will convert your money from pounds to the currency you need with an exchange rate that includes a fee. This may be described as a foreign transaction fee, or a currency conversion charge, for example. For traditional banks this can often be in the region of 3% of the transaction value, although modern online providers do often offer a better deal, and may even skip this fee entirely.

Withdrawal fee

If you plan on making cash withdrawals you’ll also need to check the costs applied by your own bank, and keep an eye on the ATM to make sure the ATM operator won’t also levy a fee. ATM withdrawal fees do vary pretty widely. Some banks offer low, or fee free withdrawals at selected ATMs, but out of network charges can be steep. Again, online travel debit cards may have a more flexible approach to withdrawal fees which can save you money.

Conclusion: is the travel debit card worth it?

Picking the right travel debit card can mean cutting the costs of spending in a foreign currency, with lower transaction fees and a better exchange rate. However, different travel debit cards have their own advantages and disadvantages, with varying fee structures and a range of supported currencies. Compare a few cards, including travel debit cards from online specialist providers like Wise, to find the right one for you.


What is an international debit card?

An international debit card lets you spend and make cash withdrawals in a range of foreign currencies - often with lower fees than using your normal bank card.

How to get a debit card?

Many online and specialist providers allow you to apply for a card easily through a desktop site, app or call centre.

How to use my debit card abroad?

Use your travel debit card just like you would your regular card, to spend and make cash withdrawals around the world.

What are the fees for a travel debit card?

Travel debit card fees do vary based on the provider, and can include a foreign transaction fee when spending in an unsupported currency, top up charges and inactivity fees. Compare a few providers to get the best available deal for your needs.