Best Bank Accounts for Travelling

The best bank accounts for travelling and what factors are important.

Updated: May 18, 2024
Matt Crabtree

Written By

Matt Crabtree

|
Rachel Wait

Edited By

Rachel Wait

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Best Bank Accounts for Travelling

If you regularly travel abroad, making sure you don't get hit with hefty foreign transaction fees every time you spend on your bank card is crucial.

With travel being easier than it’s ever been, and continental Europe right on our doorstep, it’s important that you have a bank account that keeps up with your travel plans.

The rise of challenger banks has made international payments simpler and more affordable.

With this in mind, we look at the best bank accounts to use when you’re travelling.

ProviderScoreDetails
1. Starling Bank★★★★★Click Here
2. Chase★★★★★Click Here
3. Revolut★★★★★Click Here
4. Monese★★★★Click Here
5. Monzo★★★★Click Here
6. Curve★★★★Click Here
7. Virgin Money★★★★Click Here
8. HSBC★★★★★Click Here
9. First Direct★★★★★Click Here

The Best Bank Accounts for Travelling

Now that you’re familiar with what to look out for when choosing your travel bank account, it’s time to look at some of the best options available.

We examine the pros and cons of some of the most competitive bank accounts for travelling:

Provider NameAccount FeeOverseas Cash WithdrawalsOverseas Card TransactionsInterest (AER
1. Starling Bank£0FreeFree3.25% AER / 3.19% Gross (variable) interest on balances up to £5,000 for personal and joint accounts
2. Chase£0FreeFreeAccess to a savings account that pays 4.1% AER
3. RevolutFrom £0Free (within your monthly limit)Free (within your monthly limit)Access to a savings account that pays up to 4.75% AER (interest rate is variable, and your returns may vary depending on your plan)
4. MoneseFrom £0Depends on the planDepends on the planN/A
5. MonzoFrom £0Free (within your monthly limit)Free (within your monthly limit)With Monzo Plus & Premium you'll earn an exclusive 4.60% AER (variable) interest on up to £100,000 in your Monzo Instant Access Savings Pot or your Instant Access Cash ISA
6. CurveFrom £0Free (within your monthly limit)Free (within your monthly limit)N/A
7. Virgin Money£0FreeFreeAccess to M Plus Saver 2.50% AER (2.48% Gross P.A.) variable on balances up to £25,000, and 2.00% AER (1.99% Gross per annum variable) on balances above £25,000
8. HSBC£0FreeFreeAccess to a savings account
9. First Direct£0FreeFreeAccess to regular saver account 7.00% AER/gross fixed for 12 months

1. Starling Bank

Starling Bank offers a popular current account that's quick and easy to set up. There are no monthly fees and no fees for spending or withdrawing cash on your card in the UK or overseas. Starling uses the Mastercard exchange rate.

What's more, as Starling has a UK banking licence, your money will be protected up to £85,000 under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

On top of this, the account pays interest at 3.25% AER on balances up to £5,000 and you will be able to separate money and set savings goals, as well as split bills.

Pros

✔️ Easy and free to open an account.

✔️ No ATM fees in UK or abroad.

✔️ Uses Mastercard exchange rate.

✔️ Virtual cards for better money management.

Cons

❌ Can only manage the account online or via the app.

2. Chase

The Chase current account offers fee-free spending and cash withdrawals on your debit card in the UK and overseas. Like Starling, it uses the Mastercard exchange rate. On top of this, you'll earn 1% cashback on your spending both at home and abroad for the first 12 months.

The account has no monthly fee and pays 1% AER on your balance. In addition, you'll have access to a savings account that pays 4.1% AER.

There's also a round ups feature that rounds up all your spending to the nearest £1 and transfers the change to a round up account paying 5% AER. All of this could help you save funds towards your next holiday.

Pros

✔️ Fee-free cash withdrawals and spending overseas.

✔️ Earn 1% cashback on spending for first year.

✔️ Linked savings accounts.

✔️ Free to set up and maintain.

Cons

❌ There's a £500 daily withdrawal limit.

❌ If travelling abroad, there's a £1,500 limit on cash withdrawals from your account in any calendar month.

3. Revolut

Revolut is one of our favourite digital-only institutions at the moment. For travellers, there’s so much that’s appealing here. It gives you the flexibility and freedom to keep on top of your finances when you’re abroad.

One of the biggest benefits is that you can convert multiple currencies in the app. This gives you the chance to secure the best rate ahead of your travels. However, if you pay in GBP, Revolut uses its own variable exchange rate to carry out this conversion.

You can also spend on your card and withdraw cash abroad fee-free, so long as you stay within your monthly limit and carry out transactions on a weekday. If you don't, a fee will apply. The free standard plan offers a free currency exchange limit of £1,000 a month Monday to Friday, and a fee-free withdrawal limit of £200 a month (or five withdrawals).

Pros

✔️ Simple to set up and get started with.

✔️ Allows you to top-up and hold multiple currencies at once.

✔️ Fee-free spending abroad.

✔️ Withdraw up to £200 per month from ATMs abroad.

Cons

❌ Mark up of 0.5% applied on major currencies and 1% on other currencies during weekends.

❌ Fee of 2% (minimum £1) after initial £200 withdrawal limit is reached.

4. Monese

Monese offers three different types of account. The Simple plan is free to set up, although a £4.95 fee is charged for a contactless card.

The Simple plan also has a lower fee-free ATM limit of £100 a month (a fee applies after this) and you can spend up to £2,000 a month fee-free in foreign currencies.

By contrast, the Classic and Premium plans offer higher fee-free ATM withdrawal limits and unlimited fee-free spending abroad. But you do have to pay a monthly fee for these plans. You can hold accounts in GBP, EUR or RON.

Pros

✔️ Quick and easy to set up.

✔️ Hold accounts in GBP, EUR and RON.

✔️ Low international transfer fees.

✔️ FSCS protected.

Cons

❌ Fee-free limits are low for free plan.

❌ Must manage your account online or via the app.

5. Monzo

Monzo consistently scores highly on customer satisfaction ratings, and with good reason. It’s incredibly easy to get started and get your new card sent out to you. Once it arrives, you can start using the app to manage your money at home and abroad.

You get instant notifications when you make a transaction, giving you a breakdown of costs in the local currency as well as in GBP.

You’ll get the same Mastercard exchange rate we’ve seen before, with no costs on top when making transactions. For the free plan, the fee-free cash withdrawal allowance abroad is £200 per month, after which a 3% fee applies. If you're happy to pay a monthly fee for your account, the Plus account offers a withdrawal limit of £400 a month and the Premium plan £600 a month.

Pros

✔️ No fees for ATM withdrawals abroad if you stick to your monthly limit.

✔️ Fee-free spending abroad.

✔️ Plenty of features for splitting bills, setting budgets.

✔️ FSCS protected.

Cons

❌ 3% withdrawal fee if you exceed your monthly limit.

❌ No interest on in-credit balance.

6. Curve

You can link your existing debit and credit cards to your Curve account and use any of them with your single Curve payment card. While the basic Curve card has no monthly fee, there are three upgraded versions (Curve X, Curve Black and Curve Metal) that require a monthly subscription fee. 

There are no fees associated with using your card or withdrawing cash when travelling overseas, although you'll need to stick to your monthly limit (there is no limit with Curve Metal).

There are no fee-free foreign ATM withdrawals with the free plan, but you can withdraw up to £300 per month fee-free with Curve X, £500 per month with Curve Black and £1,000 a month with Curve Metal.

Pros

✔️ Link your debit and credit cards to one account.

✔️ No fees for spending or withdrawing cash abroad if you stick to your monthly limit.

✔️ Get comprehensive accounting of all of your transactions.

Cons

❌️ Fees apply if you exceed your monthly spending and withdrawal limits abroad.

❌️ Must be managed via the app — no branches.

❌️ It’s a service that facilitates financial transactions, but not a bank account.

7. Virgin Money M Plus Account

There are no fees for using your debit card for spending or cash withdrawals in the UK or abroad with this Virgin Money account. What's more, the account has no monthly fee, you'll get access to a linked savings account. Plus you can earn cashback on your spending.

The Virgin Money app also has a number of helpful functions, such as the ability to create a budget and categorise spending.

Pros

✔️ No foreign transaction fees for spending or cash withdrawals.

✔️ Interest paid on credit balance.

✔️ Linked savings account.

Cons

❌️ High interest rate on overdraft.

8. HSBC Global Money Account

When you open an HSBC Global Money Account, you'll have access to a multi-currency debit card and the ability to convert, hold and send money in more than 50 currencies to 200 countries.

Using your HSBC card to make purchases or withdraw cash is free of charge around the world. HSBC uses live rates to give you competitive currency exchange rates.

To apply for the account, you must already have an HSBC current account and you must use the HSBC banking app to set up and manage your new account.

Pros

✔️ The HSBC mobile banking app allows you to manage your finances on the go.

✔️ Spending and ATM withdrawals are both free of charge.

✔️ Flexible options for currencies.

Cons

❌️ Only available on the app.

❌️ You must have an existing HSBC current account.

9. First Direct 1st Account

First Direct's 1st Account won't charge you if you use your debit card for spending overseas or for making cash withdrawals abroad. What's more, the account comes with a £250 interest-free overdraft which could come in handy if you spend a little more than planned on holiday.

You'll also be able to pay into a regular saver account paying 7.00% AER — you can pay in between £25 and £30 per month for 12 months. This could help you to save up for your next holiday!

First Direct is renowned for its excellent customer service and often offers a welcome bonus. Right now, you'll get £175 for switching to the account, as long as you pay in £1,000 within three months of opening the account.

Pros

✔️ Fee-free spending and cash withdrawals abroad.

✔️ Access to regular saver account.

✔️ Interest-free overdraft of £250.

Cons

❌️ Interest applies on overdrafts of over £250.

Why a Travel Account Matters

It can be hard to budget for a holiday if you don’t know exactly how much you’ll be paying for goods and services while you’re abroad. Sure, you can just take plenty of cash with you, but that’s neither safe nor practical.

Instead, most people rely on their usual current account and debit card to make payments. But this can be a costly way of doing things. High street banks will often charge a premium for such services, whether in fees or exchange rates.

As an example, many banks will charge you a fee of around 2.75% each time you spend on your debit card abroad. You'll typically be charged another fee of around the same amount when you withdraw cash overseas — and that's on top of the foreign transaction charge. This can make spending abroad extremely expensive if you don't choose the right bank account and card.

What to Look for in a Bank Account for Travelling

There are a few considerations you should make when choosing a bank account for travelling.

We’ve highlighted these below:

  • The biggest factor is whether the account charges a fee for using your debit card for spending purposes or cash withdrawals abroad — and whether there are any limits.
  • Whether the bank provides an overdraft facility or not. This could be a lifesaver if you have to make an unexpected purchase.
  • Whether the bank has or relies on a smartphone app and having data to use it. Also look for whether it has Apple & Google Pay integration.
  • How easy it is to open. You may already be travelling or need an account as quickly as possible.
  • Whether you can make international transfers and how much they cost.
  • Whether the bank is FSCS protected.
  • Whether the account charges a monthly fee.

By thinking about these different factors, you can choose a bank account that meets your needs. Some may be more or less relevant to you, so it’s important you identify what it is you require from your bank when you’re on the road.

Should I Use Cash or Card When Travelling?

There’s no right or wrong answer here, as each has their merits.

Cash can be incredibly useful as you can exchange it before you travel, allowing you to budget ahead. It’s also convenient if you’ll be in places where card payments are not commonly accepted. However, it’s awkward to carry around, can be confusing, and can be a security risk.

With a card, it really depends on the type of card. A debit card is secure and usually allows you to withdraw local currency from ATMs. It’s easy to carry around with you too. However, it may not work in all destinations and, depending on your bank, you might have to pay a fee for foreign transactions.

Similarly, credit cards can be useful for purchases, but foreign transaction fees can apply, and if you use the card for cash withdrawals, you will usually be charged interest from the moment you get your cash.

Pre-paid travel cards are another option — you simply load the card with cash and then spend what's on the card. However, different cards charge different fees so compare them carefully.

Top Tips for Spending When You Travel

We’ve outlined our top tips for spending money overseas:

Pay in the local currency

If you’re given the option between paying in pounds or the local currency, always choose the latter. Retailers often use their own unfavourable exchange rates, meaning that paying in pounds can work out more expensive.

If you use a credit card, pay it off

Unless your card offers an interest-free period on spending for a number of months, it's important to pay off your balance in full each month to avoid interest charges. Even if you do have an interest-free offer, it's always best to pay off your debts as quickly as possible.

Use a lock-in rate if using prepaid cards

Some methods of payment allow you to lock-in your exchange rate for certain currencies ahead of time. This can save you from market fluctuations when you’re travelling, making it easier to budget.

Check before you go

If you’re going to be using your current bank’s credit or debit card, check the fees and exchange rate before you go, so you know what to expect.

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