Top 6 Best Travel Money Cards for the US 2023
When visiting the US, using a specialised travel money card can offer advantages such as cheaper and more convenient access to US dollars for spending and withdrawals. There are various options available, such as travel debit cards, prepaid travel cards, and travel credit cards, which cater to different types of customers. The right one for you will depend on your personal preference and how you like to manage your money.
Read on for all you need to know, including a closer look at travel money card types, some great options to consider, and the sorts of fees you need to think about when you choose.
Wise card - travel debit card for the US
Before we get into details about different travel money card options, let's begin with the Wise card as a versatile travel money debit card that can hold and spend USD, as well as a diverse range of other currencies.
Wise accounts can hold and exchange over 50 currencies, and you can get a linked Wise card for a one time delivery fee.
Top up your account in pounds and switch to USD before you travel, so you know your travel money budget in advance - or if you’d prefer, you can simply allow the card to automatically switch currencies as and when you need it. All currency conversion uses the mid-market exchange rate, with low fees from 0.41%. Plus you can get USD bank account details - as well as local account details for up to 9 other currencies - to get paid fee free to your Wise account. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of the Wise travel money debit card, to help you decide if it’s right for you.
Hold and exchange 50+ currencies alongside USD
No fee to spend any currency you hold, low conversion fees from 0.41%
Mid market exchange rate on all currency conversion
Some fee free ATM withdrawals every month
No ongoing fees and no interest to pay
7 GBP delivery fee
No option to earn points or rewards
Learn more about the Wise card.
What is a travel money card?
Similar to your standard bank card, a travel money card can be used for online and in-store purchases, as well as for cash withdrawals. However, with a travel money card, the features and fees are tailored for global usage. This may result in a better exchange rate, or fewer charges, in comparison to using your regular card abroad. Certain travel cards even offer opportunities to earn cashback and rewards for using your card internationally.
6 travel money cards for the US compared
We’ll look at each of these card options in a little more detail in just a moment, but let’s start with an overview of how 6 top travel money cards for the US line up side by side:
|Provider||Type||Delivery fee||the US ATM fee||Interest rate||POS fees||Exchange rate|
|Wise||Debit||7 GBP card order fee, optional express delivery from 12 GBP||Some free withdrawals every month, low fees after that||Not applicable||Free to spend any currency you hold, 0.41% currency conversion||Mid-market rate|
|Revolut||Debit||Variable fee based on location and account tier||Some free withdrawals every month based on account tier, low fees after that||Not applicable||Free to spend any currency you hold, currency conversion free to plan limit, 0.5% fee after that||Mid-market rate to plan limit, 0.5% fee after that|
|Post Office||Debit||Variable fee based on location||2.5 USD||Not applicable||Free to spend any currency you hold, 3% fee if you spend an unsupported currency||Mastercard rate|
|Monese||Debit||Variable fee based account tier||Some free withdrawals every month based on account tier, low fees after that||Not applicable||2% for Simple account holders, fee may be waived for higher account tiers||Mastercard rate + 2% (fee may be waived for higher account tiers)|
|Barclays||Credit||No fee||Cash withdrawal interest rate will be charged||25.9% variable||No fee||Visa rate|
|Halifax||Credit||No fee||Cash withdrawal interest rate will be charged||Variable rates, confirmed after eligibility check||No fee||Mastercard rate|
The characteristics of different travel money cards can vary considerably, as you can see. Generally, travel debit cards can be convenient and relatively inexpensive to use, while travel credit cards may offer extra benefits such as cashback or rewards. However, they also come with the risk of incurring interest and late payment fees, if you don’t pay off your bill in full every time.
With travel debit cards, it's often possible to add and manage your money easily through an online platform or mobile app. This allows you to set your budget in advance of travel. Conversely, travel credit cards allow you to spend up to your card limit and then pay back the amount over several months, if that is your preference. Which is best for you will come down to how you like to manage your money - we’ll dive into a few more details about each card type, next.
What are different types of travel cards?
In general, UK customers have the option to choose a travel money card from either a traditional bank or a specialised provider. These providers typically offer a choice of travel debit cards, travel prepaid cards, or travel credit cards. We'll provide an overview of each type of travel money card, and look in more detail at some strong card options from each category for comparison and selection.
Travel Debit Cards
Travel debit cards are usually offered by specialist providers, with linked digital accounts you can use to hold and exchange a currency balance. Although these cards may have varying features, they generally provide an easy-to-use online platform and mobile app for topping up your balance. Additionally, you can view your balance and receive transaction notifications on your phone, making it easier to manage your finances no matter where you are in the world.
Travel debit card option 1: Wise card
Wise is our best value travel money debit card for the US. There’s no fee to open a Wise account, and just a small delivery fee for your Wise card, with no minimum balance and no monthly charge. You just pay low Wise fees from 0.41% when you exchange currencies, and transparent transaction fees when you exhaust the monthly free transactions available with your account.
No fee to open a Wise account, no minimum balance requirement
7 GBP one time fee to get your Wise card
2 withdrawals, to 200 GBP value per month for free, then 0.5 GBP + 1.75%
Hold USD and over 50 other currencies, exchange between them with the mid-market rate
Get local account details to receive USD and 9 other currencies for free
Get a Wise card
Travel debit card option 2: Revolut card
All Revolut accounts have linked cards, although exactly what type of card you get depends on your account tier. You can hold around 25 currencies including US dollars, and convert between them.
No fee to open a Standard Revolut account, or upgrade for up to 12.99 GBP/month
Card delivery fees may apply depending on your account tier
All accounts have some fee free currency conversion with 0.5% fair usage fees after that
Standard plan holders can withdraw 200 GBP (up to 5 withdrawals in total) per month for free
Hold CAD and around 25 other currencies
Pros and cons of using travel debit cards in the US
No risk of incurring interest charges or late payment fees
Hold and exchange currencies in advance or at the time of spending
Digital account management makes it easy to top up your account, view your balance and transactions, and manage your account
Not linked to your primary UK bank account, making them a secure payment option
Typically issued on widely-recognized global payment networks.
Transaction and currency conversion fees may apply
Cash back and rewards may not be available
How to choose the best travel debit card for the US?
Choosing the best travel debit card for the US depends on your personal preferences and financial management style. If you plan on travelling extensively, it's smart to consider an account that offers mid-market currency exchange rates and a wide selection of supported currencies, including USD, like Wise. Other providers like Revolut can also be a good pick, particularly if you’ll use your account very frequently and would prefer to pay a monthly fee to unlock lots of fee free transactions and extra perks.
Is there a spending limit with a travel debit card in the US?
Card usage limits are set by different providers and may vary. These limits can be imposed on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis and can apply to various transaction types. For instance, there may be a limit to the number of ATM withdrawals or the value of contactless payments you can make per day. These limits exist for security reasons and can sometimes be adjusted or modified within the provider's app.
Prepaid Travel Cards
With a prepaid travel card you’ll need to order a card and add funds in the supported currency of your choice. Once you have a balance, you may be able to switch to the required currency to make payments to merchants and withdraw cash. While prepaid travel cards are usually issued on large global networks - and can therefore be used pretty widely - not all cards support all currencies. As a result, if you select a card that does not support all of the currencies you require, you may be charged a foreign transaction fee.
Prepaid travel card option 1: Post Office card
You can pick up a Post Office prepaid travel money card in a Post Office branch or order one online. You’ll then be able to top up in pounds or one of the 22 supported currencies, which includes USD.
Hold and exchange 22 currencies including USD
No fee to spend a balance in a supported currency
3% foreign transaction fee when spending a currency you don’t hold on the card
Variable ATM withdrawal fees - 2.5 USD for use in the US
No interest to pay
Prepaid travel card option 2: Monese
Monese accounts can be opened by UK residents to hold GBP, EUR and RON. It’s free to spend a balance you hold - but as USD isn’t a supported currency, you may find you pay a foreign transaction fee of 2% when you’re spending in the US. Foreign transaction fees may be waived for higher tier account holders.
Hold a balance in GBP, EUR or RON
Choose a free Simple account, or upgrade to an account with monthly fees
Foreign transaction fees of 2% may apply depending on your account tier
ATM withdrawal fees may apply, depending on the value of withdrawals and the account tier you hold
Track and spend Avios reward points within your account
Pros and cons of using prepaid travel cards in the US
Manage your account online or with an app, to add more money or convert funds
Accounts with no monthly fees are available
Selection of supported currencies, with no fee to spend a currency you hold
ATM withdrawals supported globally
Some accounts have extras like options to earn reward points
Typically not a huge range of currencies supported
Transaction fees apply to most accounts
How to choose the best travel prepaid card for the US?
There’s no single best travel prepaid card for the US - it’ll come down to your personal preference. If you hold a Monese Classic or Premium account already it’s good to know that the 2% foreign transaction fee is waived, which means you get the card network rate when you spend in the US. This may be cheaper than using your regular bank card. The Post Office card can also be a strong pick as you can hold a USD balance, which you can spend for free, plus you can get a card instantly by walking into a Post Office branch.
Is there a spending limit with a prepaid card in the US?
Different prepaid travel cards set their own limits for spending and withdrawals, which can vary between currencies. You’ll need to check your card’s terms and conditions carefully to make sure you pick a provider which suits your needs.
Travel Credit Cards
Travel credit cards generally come with additional international benefits such as low or zero foreign transaction fees, and bonus reward programs for spending overseas. While travel credit cards are a safe and easy payment option, they can be more costly compared to travel debit cards. Before choosing a travel credit card, it's essential to review the applicable costs, rates, eligibility requirements, and interest rates to ensure it's the best option for your needs.
Travel credit card option 1: Barclaycard Rewards Visa
The Barclaycard Rewards Visa card has no foreign transaction fees and no international ATM costs. Instead, your overseas spending is simply converted to pounds using the Visa exchange rate, before being added to your monthly bill. You’ll need to repay your bill in full every month to avoid fees and interest, but can earn cashback on your day to day spending.
No foreign transaction or foreign ATM fee
Earn cashback at 0.25% on spending
Protection on purchases over 100 GBP
International spending uses the Visa exchange rate
Variable interest rates which apply if you don’t pay off your bill in full
Travel credit card option 2: Halifax Clarity Mastercard
The Halifax Clarity Mastercard has a variable interest rate which you can see when you check your eligibility for the card. There’s no foreign transaction or foreign ATM fee to pay, and all currency conversion uses the Mastercard exchange rate.
Variable interest rates
Check your eligibility and order a card online easily
No foreign transaction fee
No ATM fee - but interest will accrue instantly when you make a withdrawal
Mastercard exchange rates apply
Pros and cons of using credit cards in the US
Spending from 100 GBP has extra consumer protection
Spread the cost of your travel over several months
Check eligibility for a card online with no impact on your credit score
You may pay no foreign transaction fee and no ATM fee
Network exchange rates usually apply, which are usually pretty fair
Interest charged if you don’t repay in full every month
Eligibility rules apply
How to choose the best travel credit card for the US?
The best travel credit card for the US will depend on your personal preferences. If you’re interested in earning rewards and cash back on your overseas spending, the Barclaycard Rewards Visa might be a good pick, as it has no foreign transaction fee and offers cashback on all spending. Whichever card you’re considering you’ll want to weigh up the potential fees you’ll need to pay against the rewards you can earn to make sure it’s worthwhile.
If you’ve planned to travel to the US you might want to pick a travel money card for USD. Travel money cards have different features, and can be picked up via regular banks, online specialists and even the Post Office.
You could opt for a low cost travel debit card which comes with a linked account to hold a selection of currencies - like the Wise account. Or you might prefer a prepaid travel money card like the Monese card which can be linked to either a fee free account or an account which has monthly fees in exchange for lower transaction charges. Finally, another option is to get a travel credit card either to earn cashback and rewards, or to avoid foreign transaction fees.
Fortunately, the UK market offers a wide range of travel money cards to suit different preferences - use this guide to start your research and pick the right option for your specific needs.
FAQ - Best travel cards for the US
You can usually make cash withdrawals with a credit card in the US at any ATM that supports your card network. You’ll often find that a fee applies, and you may start to accumulate interest on the withdrawn amount immediately. Travel money debit cards from providers like Wise and Revolut can be a lower cost option for cash withdrawals in USD.
You can use your debit card anywhere you see the card network’s logo displayed. Visa and Mastercard networks are very well supported globally, including in the US, making these good options to look out for when you pick your travel debit card for the US.
Prepaid cards from reputable providers are safe to use at home and abroad. They aren’t linked to your main bank account which can offer extra peace of mind, and may also make it easier to manage your travel budget. However, you’ll need to check the card features and costs carefully to make sure you're getting the best match for your needs.