Best Bank Accounts for Travelling

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

Updated: December 1, 2023

For most people, banking is a straightforward process. In our day-to-day lives, we rarely have to consider what we’ll actually pay when we use our card or if we’ll be charged to do so. But that all changes once we’re out of the country.

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. The days of paying foreign transaction fees and high exchange rates could soon be behind us.

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

1. Starling Bank★★★★★Click Here
2. Wise★★★★★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. Atom Bank★★★★★Click Here

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. This can be an expensive way of doing things. High street banks will often charge a premium for such services, whether in fees or exchange rates. It’s therefore cost-effective and safe to choose a bank account that supports your travel plans.

Take NatWest as an example. They charge a Foreign Cash Fee of 2% of the value of the transaction (minimum £2, maximum £5) when you withdraw from an ATM using your debit card. They also charge a Non-Sterling Transaction Fee of 2.75% of the value of the transaction.

Additionally, they charge a Foreign Purchase Fee of 2.75% (minimum £1) on the value of purchases made outside the UK or in a foreign currency. Those costs can soon spiral if you’re abroad for a long time and relying on your debit 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 your travels.

We’ve highlighted these below:

  • Perhaps the biggest factor is whether or not there is a charge for purchases, withdrawals, and transactions, and whether it’s free to use your account in the EU and worldwide.
  • Whether the bank provides an overdraft facility or not. These can be lifesavers when the unexpected happens.
  • 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 account provides a debit/credit card.
  • Whether the bank is FSCS protected.

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 isn’t 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 can have associated fees depending on your bank. Similarly, credit cards can be useful for purchases, but can be expensive for fees and can be more easily defrauded.

Pre-paid travel cards and travellers cheques can also have their merits. Ultimately, you may want to use a combination of methods. Having cash and your card can cover all of your bases.

Top Tips for Spending When You Travel

It’s useful to be prepared for banking 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, say, paying in pounds and euros, 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

Don’t let your holiday debts spiral out of control if you pay with your credit card. Make sure you pay it off each month, otherwise it could end up costing you.

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, make sure to check the fees and exchange rate before you go. This may allow you to work out whether taking cash or relying on your card is cheaper.

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:

1. Starling Bank


✔️ Easy and free to open an account.

✔️ No ATM fees in UK or abroad.

✔️ Uses MasterCard exchange rate.

✔️ Virtual Cards for better money management.


❌ Interest rates aren’t great.

Why we like it

Starling Bank is another establishment that has FSCS protection and offers a full current account. You’ll even get a small amount of interest on your balance; 0.05% AER up to £85,000.

It has many features similar to Monzo, such as the ability to separate money and set savings goals, as well as split bills. Starling allows clients to open a personal account in GBP or EUR.

When you’re travelling, you can make transactions and withdrawals for free using the MasterCard exchange rate.

2. Wise


✔️ Allows you to spend anywhere with real exchange rates.

✔️ Convert money into required currency and spend for free.

✔️ Free ATM withdrawals of £200 per month.

✔️ Free to set up and maintain.


❌ You must add £20 to order your card.

❌ Tech support isn’t always available.

Why we like it

The Borderless Account from Wise gives you the opportunity to make purchases and withdrawals internationally without fuss. The MasterCard that comes with the account includes a £200 limit for free cash withdrawals in the local currency.

Additionally, you can convert your funds into different currencies with low rates and then spend it without fees. Unlike some other providers, you do have to add £20 to your account before you can get a card.

3. Revolut


✔️ 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.


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

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

Why we love it

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.

From the moment you start the sign-up process, the whole experience is effortless, transparent, and functional.

The fact you can load multiple currencies is one of the most stand-out features of Revolut. It gives you the chance to secure the best rate ahead of your travels. However, even if you’re paying in GBP, the real exchange rate you get on purchases is about as good as it gets.

Aside from the 0.5%-1% additional fee that you’re charged over weekends and the 2% fee after you reached your ATM limit, Revolut is about as competitive as we’ve seen.

4. Monese


✔️ Quick and easy to set up.

✔️ Add a Eurozone account and easily switch between them.

✔️ Low international transfer fees.

✔️ FSCS protected.


❌ You must add £20 to order your card.

❌ Tech support isn’t always available.

Why we like it

Monese offers three different types of account. The basic one is free to set up, although a £4.95 fee is charged for a contactless card. It also charges for foreign withdrawals and has a higher exchange rate. However, the Plus and Premium accounts have much greater appeal.

The currency exchange fee is just 0.5%, and you get six free cash withdrawals per month.

The fee for the card is also waived. It’s really easy to get set up with a Monese account, which can all be done through the app. You can also add an account specifically for Eurozone countries and switch between GBP and Euro at the touch of a button.

5. Monzo


✔️ Incredibly simple to set up.

✔️ No fees to get started and £200 monthly free withdrawal limit.

✔️ Fee-free transactions in any country that accepts MasterCard.

✔️ Plenty of features for splitting bills, setting budgets.

✔️ FSCS protected.


❌ 3% withdrawal fee after the initial monthly £200.

❌ No interest on in-credit balance.

Why we like it

Monzo consistently scores high 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. The cash withdrawal allowance is £200 per month, which is quite generous. However, the 3% charge after that makes it quite expensive.

6. Curve


✔️ Creating an account online is a simple process.

✔️ Instantly on registration, you get a virtual card; the real card will be sent to you.

✔️ You can consolidate all of your financial accounts onto a single Curve card.

✔️ Get comprehensive accounting of all of your transactions.

✔️ Save money and stick to a budget by classifying your spending.

✔️ Retailer rebates in cash.

✔️ Strong safety.

✔️ All major mobile payment systems, as well as wearables, are supported.


❌️ Free withdrawals and spending restricted.

❌️ Since they are a digital organisation, there is no direct face-to-face support.

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

❌️ When using a Curve card to make a transaction, you waive your rights under Section 75.

Why we like it

You can link many debit and credit cards to your Curve account and use any of them with your single Curve payment card. While the basic Curve card is without cost, there are two upgraded versions (Curve Black and Curve Metal) that need a subscription fee. 

There are also no fees associated with using your card or withdrawing cash when travelling overseas, although some restrictions may apply. You may withdraw up to £200 per month with the free card, and up to £400 or £600, respectively, with the Curve Black or Curve Metal card. 

With the free Curve card, make up to £500 in foreign purchases each month without incurring any fees. Weekends incur a 0.5% surcharge for Euros and USD, and a 1.5% premium for all other currencies. Customers of both tiers, Black and Metal, have access to international medical and travel insurance.

7. Virgin Money


✔️ Benefits including international medical, electronic device, and UK breakdown coverage.

✔️ Foreign transaction costs are also waived.

✔️ Credit balance interest rates.

✔️ Separate but interconnected savings account.


❌️ There is a charge per month.

❌️ Overdraft fees and interest.

Why we like it

Transaction fees for using your debit card in the UK or abroad are not charged with this Virgin Money account. It also provides a wide variety of advantages. Credit balances up to £1,000 earn interest, funds may be transferred to a linked savings account, and an overdraft line of credit can be obtained. 

The Virgin Money app also has a number of helpful functions, such as the ability to create a budget, categorise purchases, and establish savings accounts and objectives. You may use your face or fingerprint to log onto the app, and you can photograph checks to deposit them. A strong credit history and being at least 18 years old are prerequisites for applying.



✔️ 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.


❌️ Live exchange rates are made available on the HSBC travel bank account, however they may not be the best available. 

❌️ You may wind up paying more than you expected because of the markup placed on top of these prices.

Why we like it

When you open an HSBC Global Money Account, you'll have access to a multi-currency debit card and the ability to transfer money in more than 60 currencies to more than 200 countries. At any time you need to, you may convert your account's balance between currencies at current market values.

Using your HSBC card to make purchases or withdraw cash5 is free of charge, while certain ATM owners may assess their own cost. However, there is a little catch: you need to already have a checking account with HSBC in order to create a Global Money Account.

But a Wise account is worth looking into if you want to make purchases overseas without paying a premium on the currency rate. There is no additional markup or margin added to the mid-market exchange rate that you get. This might significantly stretch your holiday budget.

9. Atom Bank


✔️ A fantastic strategy to grow a holiday fund.

✔️ App-based.

✔️ Good AER.


❌️ International use of Atom Bank accounts is uncommon.

❌️ Benefits require you to withdraw cash before your flight.

Why we like it

Atom Bank is an interesting mobile banking app for saving money and paying bills on the go. Current accounts are not offered; only “Fixed Savers” and mortgages are accessible to customers.

This lesser-known provider could be an excellent option for those who want to save money for a long journey, such as many months spent in a foreign country. Atom's Annual Equivalent Rates are among the best in the industry, and you can choose your own savings time frame to correspond with your departure date.

Three- and six-month fixed savings provide an interest rate of 0.75%, while one-, two-, three-, and five-year fixed savers offer an interest rate of 1.49%/0.5%, respectively.

If you plan on using your Atom Bank account while you're away, remember to transfer the money to another account before you leave.

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