Using a credit card abroad

A credit card can be a great travel buddy, but there are a few key things to know.

Why pack a credit card?

You can use your credit card in most countries around the world, much as you would at home in the UK, making it easy to pay for the things you need now and spread the costs over time.

It’s just important to understand any extra costs which could apply to your transactions, increasing the cost of any borrowing.

The costs for using a credit card abroad

If you make a non-Sterling transaction or buy non-Sterling currency, the Mastercard, Visa or American Express foreign exchange rate will apply. You might also be charged credit card fees and interest:

  • Non-Sterling transaction fees – if you’re given the option to pay in Sterling rather than local currency, the retailer might also charge a fee, so make sure you check before you pay.
  • Cash transaction fees – if you withdraw cash from an ATM, or buy foreign currency/a cash equivalent, whether you’re at home or abroad, a cash advance fee might apply.
  • Credit card interest – to see the interest rates which apply to your credit card, check your account terms and conditions booklet or your latest monthly statement.

Credit card fees in action

For the examples below we’ve used a fictional exchange rate, and assume that the currency is converted from Euros to Sterling. Actual fees and exchange rates may vary, which could affect the cost to you.


A credit card purchase

Transaction amount

€100

Payment scheme exchange rate

1.113654

Conversion to Sterling

£89.79

Foreign exchange fee

£2.65 (2.95%)

Cash withdrawal fee

N/A

Final statement amount

£92.44


A credit card cash withdrawal

Transaction amount

€100

Payment scheme exchange rate

1.113654

Conversion to sterling

£89.79

Foreign exchange fee

£2.65 (2.95%)

Cash withdrawal fee

£4.49 (5%)

Final statement amount

£96.93

Choosing which currency to pay in

When using your credit card outside the UK, you might be given the option to transact in Sterling or local currency, so it’s important that you understand the costs in advance.


If you choose to pay in local currency 

  • The Visa, Mastercard or American Express exchange rate on that day will apply. This is usually better than the rate you’d get at a bureau de change or ATM.
     
  • You might pay a currency conversion fee and, if you withdraw money at an ATM, a cash advance fee.


If you choose to pay in Sterling 

  • The retailer or ATM operator will convert the currency for you. The exchange rate might not be as competitive as you could expect from a credit card payment scheme provider.
     
  • In addition to credit card fees, the retailer or ATM provider might charge a service fee.

Things to do before you travel

1. Check if you can use a credit card

Using your credit card is restricted in some countries.

2. Let your card provider know

At Halifax, you don’t need to tell us you’re going abroad, but some providers might ask for notice.

3. Pack a few payment options

Such as a debit card, credit card and local currency. It’s important to keep these secure and, just in case things get lost, only carry what you really need each day.

4. Check your card expiry date

Make sure it doesn’t run out during your trip. At Halifax, you can order a replacement using Online Banking. Bear in mind, it’ll take up to seven days for a new card to arrive.

5. Consider setting up a Direct Debit

This could cover credit card payments automatically while you’re away. At Halifax, we offer a range of one-off and regular payment methods to suit most needs.

6. Check your contact details are correct

Your credit card provider might get in touch if they’re concerned about any activity on your account. If they can’t reach you, your cards could be blocked, which would be a bit of a party killer. At Halifax, update your details in Online Banking or using the Mobile Banking app.

7. Note down useful phone numbers

You might need these in an emergency. Perhaps save them to your mobile.

8. Have you tried the Mobile Banking app?

If you’re registered for Online Banking, you can use the same username and password to access services on the go with the Mobile Banking app.

Help from Halifax while you’re abroad
 

If your Halifax card is lost or stolen

If you're registered for Online Banking, you can report your credit card as lost or stolen online. Alternatively, call us on 0800 015 1515.

If you're outside the UK, call +44 (0) 113 242 8196. Speak to an adviser 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Help with Halifax cards or insurance

If you're having difficulty using your Halifax credit card while you’re abroad, you can call +44 (0) 1733 573 189. Speak to an adviser Mon-Sun, 7am-11pm.

To make a Halifax travel insurance claim, call 0345 307 3801. Speak to an adviser Mon-Sat, 8am-8pm, or Sun, 9am-5pm.

If you’ve misplaced your Halifax card

If you think you’ve misplaced your card and would like to buy some time to retrace your steps, you might like to try the Card Freezes tool, available in the Halifax Mobile Banking app.

You can also use this feature to freeze different transaction types, giving you more control over how you and other cardholders use your account.

Credit card purchase protection worldwide

Most credit card purchases of over £100 and up to £30,000 are covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 – including purchases made abroad.

This could protect you if something goes wrong, for example, if your company you book a holiday with goes into administration.

Frequently asked questions on using cards abroad
 

A summary on using credit cards abroad

When you use your credit card for overseas transactions, interest and fees might apply.
 

  • So you understand any costs, check your account terms and conditions or latest statement.
  • At Halifax, you don’t need to tell us you’re going abroad, but some providers might ask for notice.
  • It’s worth having a few payment options with you on holiday, just in case of emergencies.
  • Even outside the UK, credit card purchases are covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.

Halifax is a division of Bank of Scotland plc. Registered in Scotland No. SC327000. Registered Office: The Mound, Edinburgh EH1 1YZ. Bank of Scotland plc is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority under registration number 169628.