Best Bank Account when Travelling?

Travel Forums Round the World Travel Best Bank Account when Travelling?

  • 1
  • 2
Last Post
1. Posted by Sylvester1 (Budding Member 22 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

Hi everyone,

I am all booked up to go travelling on the 29th December for a year and cant wait. My only worry is about using my cards when im away. My trip consists of travelling through south east Asia then down through Oz and New Zealand, then over to south America and finally North America.

I currently bank with the Halifax but have been told that they will charge me 2.75% conversion fee and £1.50 ATM charge everytime i withdraw money from my account. I have worked out that say for instance i withdraw £300 they will charge me around £10, which i can't really afford seeing as im on a tight enough budget as it is.

I've heard that Nationwide are really good and have tried to get an account with them but all they would offer me for some reason was a Cirrus bank card which isn't supported by Visa so think i might have trouble using it whist in foreign countries?

Is there any other banks out there or other ways to spend my money without incurring these huge charges.

Any advice would be hugely helpfull and i thank you in advance for any advice given.

Many thanks


2. Posted by Ofelia (Respected Member 142 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

Hi James,

I have a Barclays account I use when travelling, and, although not a big Barclays fan, they do have quite a few other banks they work with since they're such a huge organisation, so you can use certain ATM's at a "discounted" rate. I can't remember which banks they are, but they'll be able to tell you- for example, I seem to remember that they waved the 2,5% fee in Australia when I used a Westpac ATM.

I also used my credit card for buying bigger things, simply because there're no fees on purchases, but debit cards world wide tend to charge quite a bit for withdrawals- unfortunately! I recently got a visa electron card as well, just because withdrawing money on it was a bit cheaper. So I used my credit card for purchases, Electron for withdrawals, and debit card as a backup. This worked out cheapest for me- but your bank might be different!

3. Posted by BedouinLeo (Inactive 698 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

Nationwide appear to have the best ATM and purchases deals when a debit card is used overseas. Free in Europe and a much lower rate than the high street banks worldwide.
Another option is a charged credit (pre-paid) card. Simply fill it with a balance (you can top it up on-line anywhere in the world), use it when needed for ATM's and purchases and the transaction fees are reasonably low.

4. Posted by Sylvester1 (Budding Member 22 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

hey thanks for your responces, the thing is when withdrawing money and purchasing things on a credit card and them pre paid cards is they charge you have to pay conversion fee of around 2.9%, to convert the foreign currency to pound sterlin.


5. Posted by s96024 (Full Member 106 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

I would make more enquiries on getting a nationwide Flexaccount. I opened one specifically for when I am travelling and just transfer money from my other account (Barclays) when I need it. I had no trouble opening the account.

6. Posted by Carly123 (Budding Member 2 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

Check out Caxton Cards - the global traveller one. Its a pre-pay card where you load money on to it but you can withdraw cash and pay for things anywhere in the world for free.

7. Posted by xAx (Budding Member 38 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

I second Carly on the Caxton card - this is what I think I am going to use. There are no ATM, purchase transaction / top up fees outside the UK and their conversion rate is a lot better than most banks. Gapyear also has a cash plus card but it seems to have quite a few charges including an issue fee.

I think these cards are a great idea because you can top them up with an allocated amount each month with your debit card rather than running the risk of having your debit card copied/stolen and your money wiped out. They also have dedicated fraud support.

I don't know if this will be of help to you if you do end up going with your debit card but a friend of mine travells on an overdraft of £2,000. He then uses his savings account to top it up every month keeping the balance at £0 as a security measure as his card has been copied before and the bank were very slow in recovering his money whereas when it is their own they are a bit more helpful and things happen a lot quicker.

8. Posted by s96024 (Full Member 106 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

I am not sure what the charges are for that card. If you are going to a Euro or Dollar area it seems good. But if you are going to any other country using the global card it seems to be 2.50% charge. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Nationwide is a 1% charge and at pretty much the global exchange rate.

9. Posted by aharrold45 (Travel Guru 1281 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

I have heard that the Nationwide Flex account is meant to be the best account for people from the UK going overseas but only going by what others have said for a few years now on this and other travel forums.

I doubt any cards now are going to allow you fee free use if Australia is one of the countries you are visiting. Australia has a new system with ATM's where if you don't go through your normal banking institution it will say you get a certain charge for the luxury of using your card in the ATM. You can choose to accept the feee and continue with the transaction or cancel the transaction and go elsewhere so I reckon this will mean any overseas card would have a fee even if they don't charge fees back home.

Make sure you have a few cards that you can fall back on especially for the South America bit. I found it very hard to use my creditcard to withdraw from ATM's in South America. Everywhere else I have been I've not encountered any problems but even in South America you may need to go to half a dozen ATM's before one will read your card. I have an Australian creditcard which allows free overseas ATM withdrawals as long as I have my own money in the creditcard and are not withdrawing the banks. If I exceded the amount I have preloaded on to my creditcard then I get charged a lot.

For South East Asia take some USD in smaller denominations (no bigger than $20's but preferrable $10's and below). They are easy to change and often will be accepted in places that tourists frequent especially in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Just something for your information, Cirrus is supported in most places overseas. On my first RTW trip (which included all areas apart from South America you are talking about going) I had some creditcards for backup and also a Cirrus Maestro bank card which charged me $5AUD for every transaction. I didn't encounter a single place where this card was not accepted in an ATM. Cirrus is as readily accepted as Visa when it comes to ATM usage but using a Cirrus card in a shops little EFTPOS machine is a different matter as Visa is much more likely to be accepted in a shop but as a general rule you probably wouldn't be withdrawing large sums of cash out of a hand held shop EFTPOS Machine.

10. Posted by BedouinLeo (Inactive 698 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

You're so right about the N/Wide Flexaccount. It works free in just about every European country, East and West. It fails a bit in places like Armenia and Georgia though. However it still offers more than, as far as low charges are concerned, anything I've heard of in the UK when travelling outside of Europe.
I recently used mine in Mexico and compared to what others had stung me for in the past, the charges were extremely low.