USD card in the UK: What are the options? 2023
If you plan to travel to the US, for work, study or just a well deserved holiday, you might already know that getting a USD card in the UK before you head off can make it easier to manage your budget in USD, and even let you get better GBP-USD exchange rates. In fact, having a USD card can also be a great way to pay if you shop online with US retailers, too - keeping down costs and making your money go further.
This guide walks through all you need to know, to help you pick the perfect USD card for your specific needs. We’ll cover how and why a USD card can help - and also take a look at how USD cards from providers like Wise and Revolut can help you get a better deal on your USD spending.
What is a USD card?
USD cards are also often called multi-currency cards because they’re commonly linked to digital accounts you can use to hold pounds, dollars and a selection of other currencies, too. You’ll just need to add money online or in-app - often with your card or a bank transfer - and you can then convert to USD in advance or let the card convert for you in some cases.
Using a USD card is as simple as using any other debit card for in person or online spending - the only difference is usually that you may be able to avoid foreign transaction fees and get a better exchange rate.
What is a USD card good for?
If you plan to travel to the US, having a USD card can cut your costs and is also a safe choice.
Many USD cards let you get a better exchange rate compared to the standard rates offered by money changers and banks. Depending on the card you pick you may also have the option to convert your pounds to dollars in advance, to lock in a good exchange rate when you see one. Most USD cards have some transaction fees, but these have often been planned to be attractive to travellers, which can mean you get some no-fee international ATM withdrawals, for example.
Travel cards also mean you won’t need to carry a lot of cash, as you can spend on the card and make withdrawals at a local ATM whenever you need to. And because your USD card isn’t connected in any way to your bank current account there’s an extra level of security. If you’re ever worried your USD card has been lost or stolen, you can just freeze it without impacting your main bank debit card.
Pros and cons of USD card
Cards often support USD as well as a range of other currencies, so you can use them on future trips too
Card exchange rates are often pretty good, and you may avoid foreign transaction fees
Using a USD card can be safer than carrying lots of cash or using your bank debit card
It’s usually free to spend currencies you hold in your account
There’s no need to sort your USD travel money in advance - just make cash withdrawals on arrival in your destination
You’ll often have to apply for your card in advance and wait for it to arrive by post, so you can’t leave it to the last minute to get set up
Most USD cards do have some fees which can include transaction and fair usage charges
Topping up your card might incur a fee, depending on how you make your payment
3 best USD cards in the UK
There’s no shortage of choice when it comes to USD cards you can get in the UK. Let’s look at our top 3 picks so you can decide which is right for you.
Open your Wise account online or in-app, to hold and exchange 40+ currencies including GBP and USD. There’s a small fee to get your Wise card, but then no ongoing costs, and you can use your card in 150+ countries globally.
When you switch from pounds to dollars you’ll get the mid-market rate and low fees from 0.43%. You can either change your money in advance of travel to lock in the exchange rate and set your travel budget, or just let the card’s autoconvert tool do the conversion for you at the point of payment.
Currency conversion uses the mid-market rate, fees can be as low as 0.43%
Convert in advance or let the card automatically switch to dollars as and when required
No monthly fees or minimum balance
You’ll need to pay a one time fee to get your card in the first place
Some transaction fees apply, including ATM fees once you’ve exhausted your fee free allowance
Revolut UK customers can choose from 5 different types of account, including the Standard plan which has no monthly fee, and higher tier options which have more features and a monthly fee from 2.99 GBP to 45 GBP. All accounts let you hold and exchange USD, and come with linked physical and virtual cards for easy spending.
Revolut accounts also offer some currency conversion which uses the mid-market rate. How much you get depends on the account type you prefer, and higher tier account types may have no limits to the amount you can exchange with no extra fees to pay.
Varied account plans that suit different customer needs and spending habits
Hold and exchange 29 currencies including pounds and US dollars
All accounts have some currency conversion which uses the mid-market exchange rate with no extra fee
Physical and virtual card options available
Higher account tiers have lots of extras and perks including cash back and airport lounge access
Fees apply for the most feature packed account tiers
Out of hours and fair usage fees may apply depending on how you use your account
No branch network for face to face service
The UK Post Office offers a flexible travel money card which can hold 22 currencies including USD. You’ll be able to order your card online or - if you’re pressed for time - get one at a Post Office branch by visiting with your ID documents.
Once you have your card you can add money in pounds, and manage your account in the Post Office app, to convert over to USD before you travel or spend online. Currency exchange is likely to include a markup, and it’s handy to know that there’s a fee to pay every time you make an ATM withdrawal. That can mean it’s better to make a few larger withdrawals, rather than lots of small ones, provided you have somewhere secure to keep your dollars, like a hotel safe.
Hold up to 22 currencies, covering many popular destinations from the UK
If you’re in a hurry you can get a card at a Post Office branch instantly
Manage your account in the Post Office app, to top up or convert
If you spend in a supported currency but don’t hold enough balance, the card can convert for you
Compatible with popular mobile wallets like Apple Pay
Exchange rates may include a markup
3% fee if you spend in an unsupported currency
2.5 USD fee for ATM withdrawals in the US
Where can I use a USD card?
The big advantage of a USD card is that it allows you to pay in dollars when you travel or when you’re shopping online with any merchant based in the US, without incurring extra costs. You can choose with many USD cards to add your money in pounds and switch over to dollars in an app, or in some cases you can just leave your money in GBP and let the card convert to the local currency in the US or wherever else you are.
Double check the terms of the card you pick, as some cards have a fee to pay if you’re spending in an unsupported currency, or if you don’t hold a high enough balance in a particular currency to cover the transaction.
USD card in the UK
You can use your USD card in the UK too. However, bear in mind that a conversion fee or exchange rate markup may apply every time you convert from one currency to another. That means that if you add money in pounds, then convert it to dollars, and back to pounds again to spend when you get home, you’ll be paying twice for the conversion. Exchange rates may have also changed, which can mean you get back less than you added in the first place.
Planning your travel money carefully so you spend all you exchange - or choosing a card that lets you keep your balance in pounds until you need it - may cut costs overall.
Costs of getting a USD card in the UK
As we’ve seen, there are several different providers you can choose to get a USD card in the UK. Each card has its own fees, so it’s important to check over the costs of the one you choose to get. Here’s a rundown of the key costs for the cards we looked at earlier.
USD card fees
|Get a card||7 GBP||No extra card fee, although delivery charges may apply||No fee|
|Add money||Free to add money with local bank details in 9 currencies||Free from a UK bank or using a UK card|
Fees vary depending on how you add money
1.5% fee applies to add month in GBP
|Account maintenance fee||None||0 GBP - 45 GBP/month||None - a monthly fee of 2 GBP will apply from 12 months after your card expires if there’s a residual balance|
|Spend in USD|
2 withdrawals, to 200 GBP in value free every month
0.5GBP + 1.75% after that
|Standard accounts: up to 5 withdrawals, totalling up to 200 GBP/month free, 2% after that||2.5 USD in the UK, 1.5 GBP in the UK|
*Information correct at time of writing - 19th September 2023
What exchange rate will be used?
The exchange rate that applies when you convert from GBP to USD will be set by the provider you pick.
Some services - like Wise - use the mid-market exchange rate and split out any fee you pay transparently. This can make it easy to see how much your travel money is costing you.
Revolut is also a good pick if you want to convert currencies with the mid-market exchange rate. All Revolut plans include some currency conversion which uses the mid-market rate with no charges - and if you pick a higher tier account you may even get unlimited currency conversion which uses mid-market rates.
How to get a USD card in the UK
All the USD cards we’ve looked at above have an online or in-app account registration process. Just register your account, pay any required card order or delivery fee, and your card will arrive in the post shortly after. If you choose the Post Office card you can also walk into a branch to pick up a card instantly.
In all cases, you’ll need to have an ID document on hand to get your card - usually a passport or driving licence. This is used for verification purposes, to comply with law and to make sure your account is secure.
Check out the USD card order process for the provider you prefer, so you can prepare everything that’s needed.
Conclusion - Is a USD card worth it?
Using a USD card when you travel or shop online and pay in USD can mean you get better exchange rates and lower overall costs compared to using your bank debit card overseas.
Options like Wise and Revolut are worth looking at, as they offer easy ways to hold and convert dozens of currencies, to make travel cheaper and easier. Use this guide to compare a few USD cards in the UK to see which suits you best.
FAQ - USD card in the UK
Benefits of using a USD card
Using a USD card can mean you pay lower overall costs when you’re travelling in the US, or when you’re shopping online with US based merchants. Many cards let you convert to USD in advance so you’ll also be able to see your travel budget clearly, and can lock in an exchange rate.
Are USD cards available in the UK?
Yes. Several providers, including Wise, Revolut, and the Post Office, have USD cards you can easily pick up in the UK.
How much does a USD card cost?
The costs of a USD card can vary depending on the specific card you select. You’ll often find there are free ways to add money, and some transactions are free too. However, in many cases there are some fees to pay for currency conversion or ATM withdrawals - double check the fee schedule for the card you prefer so there are no surprises.