Save Money With Your Travel Payment Method

Spending habits of UK travellers have been brought to light in a recent survey by Opinium, on behalf of, unveiling interesting insights into their preferred travel payment methods abroad. Many seem to be overlooking options to save money, opting instead for convenience, but this may inadvertently result in additional expenditure.

Key Points

  1. Most UK travellers use their standard debit or credit cards when spending overseas.
  2. Only 21% use travel-specific credit or debit cards, and 14% use pre-paid travel cards.
  3. Using traditional cards often involves ‘non-sterling transaction fees’ and other charges.
  4. Make sure you researching travel money-saving options, like pre-paid currency cards or credit cards with no overseas transaction fees.

Mainstream Card Usage Among Travellers

Contrary to what one might assume, a substantial majority of UK travellers – 58% to be exact – are inclined to use their regular credit or debit cards when making payments abroad. This practice, although convenient, has its downsides. Most credit and debit cards charge a ‘non-sterling transaction fee’ of around 3%. Adding to this, many debit cards carry a flat fee of between 50p and £1.50 for every overseas transaction, irrespective of the spending amount. Even cash withdrawals are not spared, often facing a charge of approximately 2.5%, with a minimum fee of £3.

Alternative Travel Payment Options

man putting a card wallet into his jacket pocket

Strikingly, relatively few travellers utilise specialist travel credit or debit cards designed for overseas spending, and even less use prepaid travel cards.

There’s of course always the option of using the local currency. Around 36% of travellers do purchase local currency before they travel, interestingly this percentage varies according to age group.

Here’s a comparison of these various primary travel payment options:

Payment OptionPercentage of Users
Regular Cards58%
Specialist Travel Cards21%
Prepaid Travel Cards14%
Local Currency – Average across ages36%
Local Currency – 18-24 year olds24%
Local Currency – Over 55s46%

Jason Whelan of, said: “Using your debit card to withdraw cash and buy things on holiday is a convenient option but it’s also one of the most expensive. Every transaction involves a fee and these charges can really add up over the duration of a holiday, especially if you’re using the cash machine as regularly as you might at home.

If you’re heading abroad this year, it might be a good idea to research money-saving options from pre-paid currency cards or the many credit cards with free overseas transactions.”

Exploring 3 Travel Payment Options

Travelling abroad can be an exciting experience, but it’s vital to choose the right payment methods to avoid unnecessary costs and inconvenience. Here, we explore three commonly used travel payment options: prepaid travel cards, specialist travel debit and credit cards, and local currency.

1. Prepaid Travel Cards: The Flexible Friend

Prepaid travel cards allow you to load money onto a card in your choice of currency before you travel. They provide a secure and convenient way to carry and spend money abroad.


  • They’re safer than carrying cash and can be replaced if lost or stolen.
  • They help in budgeting as you can only spend the amount you’ve loaded.
  • They can lock in exchange rates in advance, protecting against currency fluctuations.


  • They may come with various fees, such as loading fees, inactivity fees or withdrawal fees.
  • If the card runs out of money, it can be inconvenient and costly to reload.
  • Not universally accepted; some places may not accept prepaid cards.

2. Specialist Travel Debit and Credit Cards: The Savvy Traveller’s Choice

view of sky and sun through plane window

These cards are specifically designed for overseas travel payment and can provide significant savings on foreign transactions.


  • Most offer no or low foreign transaction fees, making them cheaper than regular cards.
  • Some offer competitive exchange rates.
  • They provide the same protections as regular credit cards, such as Section 75 for purchases over £100.


  • If not repaid in full each month, credit cards can accrue high interest charges.
  • They often require a good credit score to get the best deals.
  • Some may charge fees for cash withdrawals or have annual fees.

3. Local Currency: The Traditional Route

Some travellers prefer to exchange their money for local currency before they leave home and use this for some or even all of their travel payment needs.


  • Allows for immediate spending upon arrival.
  • Can help you feel more in control of your budget.
  • You can choose when to exchange your money to take advantage of favourable rates.


  • Carrying large amounts of cash can be risky.
  • Exchange rates at home may not be as good as those available abroad.
  • You may end up with unspent currency at the end of your trip.

Consider Your Travel Insurance Needs

Buying travel insurance may not be the most exciting aspect of organising your trip but it certainly something to consider carefully.

When buying travel insurance, with so many travel insurance providers offering differing cover it’s also critical to understand what cover you are buying. The cheapest travel insurance may be the best but it may not, you need to buy the cover based on your specific needs.

When travelling, as Jason Whelan of further stressed, it’s important to keep all receipts for purchases made during the trip. Should items be damaged or stolen, or plans get cancelled, having these receipts can facilitate claiming reimbursement through travel insurance coverage.

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