Best Debit Cards For International Travel

5 Cards That Actually Make Overseas Travel Better (and Cheaper)

Paying for things overseas has never been so good (for some).

Prepaid International Travel Debit CardsSure, Visa and MasterCard made it easy – but for the majority of people using a card overseas is still hideously expensive.

In the next few minutes you are going to find out how to save a bundle.

But that is not the best bit.

New cards make exchanging currencies, getting cash, and paying for things not just cheaper but a whole lot better. 

For example:

  • Mobile apps give you incredible extra security, tracking and control
  • You can get cash easily with little fees
  • Advanced spending control and even budgeting

This is just the tip of the iceberg, some have travel insurance and other perks designed for better travel.

The best way to find a card right for you is to understand what they offer and then decide what works best.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here

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What you need in an overseas card (and why)

Paying with a debit or credit card issued by your bank may seem like a good idea until you actually travel and look deeply into what you’re being charged in “convenience fees” at points of sale or for ATM withdrawals (usually between 2-4% of each transaction).

Needless to say these charges can really add up.

Worse than that though, many banks who issue cards also decline overseas purchases (thinking they a fraudulent) especially if you forgot to told them you going overseas – like who remembers that?

But the good news is, methods of overseas payments are evolving along with our travel habits.

Meantime travellers are becoming smarter about handling their overseas expenses and are learning to avoid exorbitant charges imposed by the high-street debit or credit cards.

As a result, a new generation of debit cards – prepaid travel debit cards – are becoming increasingly popular (and for good reason). These cards look and work like most debit cards, but they can be loaded up with multiple currencies so you can pay in the local currency pretty much anywhere in the world.

Essentially, specialist travel debit cards are all about travel needs and savings.

Here’s what we mean:

  • Getting your hands on a travel debit card of your choice is super easy. You simply sign up with the provider, go through the easy identity check process, and soon your card is on its way (typically within a couple of weeks).
  • Most specialist travel debit cards are built for the modern tech-savvy traveller. This means you have complete control over your money on an app or through an online portal. You can load up multiple currencies on the card (and lock in the exchange rate or switch between different currencies at low cost) and keep a tab on your travel expenses through customized expense reports. These cards are also equipped with advanced security features which let you disable or re-enable a card in case of theft or card replacement.
  • While these cards do have some costs attached, they are much lower costs than what you would usually end up paying with high-street bank cards. Plus, the issuers of these cards are transparent about the costs and fees associated with a card and tend to keep them low for travel essentials (for example, withdrawing money from an ATM, paying for meals, buying souvenirs, etc.)
  • Some specialist travel debit cards also come with perks such as low-cost travel insurance and exclusive access to airport lounges.
  • Travel debit cards are usually powered by Visa or MasterCard, which are accepted globally.
  • Overall, specialist travel cards can be much more secure. For example, most allow you to disable and re-enable your card from an app you have on your phone. No more worry about getting fleeced and losing all the funds if you happen to loose your card or it gets stolen. Best of all, when you find it again at the bottom of your bag or in that extra secure pocket you forgot about – you simply turn it back on instead of waiting for a new card to be issued and sent to who knows where.

Cut through the noise and pick the best travel debit card for YOU

The increasing popularity of these cards also has a downside: you’re spoilt for choice. We know – it’s difficult to pick just one!

So here are some tips to help you narrow down and pick the travel debit card that’s best for YOU.

The best travel debit card should…

  • Give you lots of control over your money with respect to reloading your card, while transferring money, holding money in multiple currencies, and while withdrawing funds to your bank account.
  • Have a user-friendly app or online portal that doesn’t force you to read between the lines (and panic when you’re enjoying your overseas trip)
  • Have reasonable daily or monthly (especially useful if you’re traveling for a long time during your gap year) usage limits before higher charges kick in
  • Inexpensive exchange rates
  • Low (or no) ATM withdrawal fees
  • Reasonable service charges (for example, subscription fees, card issuance fees, replacement fees, etc.)
  • Great customer service!

Still confused – don’t worry it will all become clearer as you get into our in-depth analyses of the best travel cards (by country) below.

Best debit cards for overseas travel (by country)

UK

The UK is spoiled for choice. We have included 5 that are not just some of the most popular but also the best in terms of customer service and what they offer. These cards are also unique for different reasons so when you read our brief below, one or two will quickly emerge as strong contenders.

Contenders: TransferWise, Revolut, Monzo, Monese (click for info below)

With N26 pulling out of the UK, and recent financial turmoil we started looking into challenger banks that are most likely to be around in 5 years time. Since the UK is a particularly competitive market we will be including Bunq (review) to this list. For now you can read their review.

USA

America has two great choices at the moment. They are also quite different in some ways. N26 is a bank and TransferWise is a money transfer company, so depending after you read the short descriptions below, it will likely become pretty clear which on is a better bet for your business.

Contenders: TransferWise, N26 (click for info below)

Canada

Oh Canada you have but one great choice. Check out the summary below.

Contenders: Revolut (click for info below)

Australia

In Australia two heavyweights of prepaid debit cards come to you with some great options. Read the two summaries below and you will be well on your way.

Contenders: TransferWise, Revolut (click for info below)

New Zealand

In New Zealand thankfully there is a great option sure to put your banks card to shame. Check out the summary below.

Contenders: TransferWise (click for info below)

Europe

Europe has two great choices at the moment. They are also quite different in some ways. N26 is a bank and Revolut is focused squarely on cards to enable travel, so depending after you read the short descriptions below, it will likely become pretty clear which on is a better bet for your business.

Contenders: Revolut, N26, Monese (click for info below) and Bunq (review).

TransferWise

TransferWise is a UK-based currency transfer service that issues multi-currency debit cards linked to their Borderless Account (full review). TransferWise converts your money at the real mid-market exchange rates and as a result, they can keep their foreign currency conversion fees really low. A TransferWise travel debit card (review) will come in handy pretty much anywhere in the world since it can be loaded with 50+ currencies.

This specialist travel debit card is available in the UK, US, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

See the latest prices/inclusions in your country (Click button below).

Features

  • You’ll enjoy free ATM withdrawals (in over 2 million ATMs around the world) up to £200 / 30 days
  • Their app lets you top-up, check your balance and transactions, and convert currency in real time
  • The travel debit card is powered by MasterCard
  • Very low currency conversion fees
  • Load your card with 50+ currencies
  • Freeze your card in case of loss or theft
  • Rated 4.6/5 on TrustPilot with over 75,000 reviews. Users love their low exchange rates and customer service.

Fees at a glance:

Card Issue FeeFree
ATM withdrawal feeFree up to £200 / 30 days; a 2% charge is applicable beyond
this monthly limit
Exchange rateMid-market
Currency conversion
fees
0.35 – 1%
Spend in currencies in
your account
Free if you spend in a currency held within your multi currency account. Otherwise a competitive conversion fee is charged.

 

Get a TransferWise Card Here

Revolut

Revolut (review) (review) takes travel debit cards to the next level by offering full service current accounts that are linked to a contactless debit card. The current accounts are easily managed on their app and transferring money from your bank account to your Revolut account is safe and convenient. Once your Revolut account is loaded, transacting overseas is hassle-free and inexpensive.

Revolut has earned the loyalty of frequent travellers by offering mid-market exchange rates on foreign transactions without any markups (although they do charge a premium on weekends).

Their travel debit card is available in UK, USA, Europe, Australia, and Singapore.

Here are the latest prices/inclusions in your country (open new tab).

Revolut is also has options for business (full review)

Features

  • Offers three plans with varying subscription costs (includes a free plan with lots of benefits too)
  • Travel anywhere in the world with a Revolut debit card and spend in over 150 currencies overseas at the mid-market rate and without any mark ups
  • For long-term travellers, the €200/month withdrawal limit for free (on the Free plan) is particularly attractive. But a flat 2% fee is applicable beyond the monthly limit.
  • They provide travel insurance for as little as £1.00 per day (medical and dental coverage)
  • Stay on budget while traveling with expense notifications in your home currency and advanced spending analytics
  • You can even exchange cryptocurrency on Revolut
  • Revolut has a Trustpilot score of 4.7/5 with over 38,000 reviews. Customers love the app UI and the ease of managing their expenses on the app.

Fees at a glance:

Card Issue FeeFree plan; €6.99/m for Premium; or €12.99/m Metal.
ATM withdrawal feeFree up to €200 per month with free card, €400 per month
with Premium and up to €600 per month with Metal. Flat fee
of 2% for amounts above.
Exchange rateMid-market
Currency conversion
fees
Free up to €5000 on Standard card (0.5% above that). No
monthly limit on Premium and Metal Cards.
Spend in currencies in
your account
Free

N26

N26 (review) is the first “mobile bank” in Europe and issues a travel debit card powered by MasterCard. N26 not only offers mid-market exchange rates on foreign transactions without a mark up throughout the week. Plus, you can start using your N26 account for foreign transactions right away, even before your card arrives in the mail!

The N26 travel debit card is currently available in the Eurozone and USA.

Here are the latest prices/inclusions in your country (open new tab).

Features

  • Three-tiered travel debit card with varying subscription costs to cater to the unique needs of all travellers (includes a Free plan)
  • N26 has partnered up with TransferWise for currency transfers and foreign currency payments to keep their costs low
  • You’ll enjoy free ATM withdrawals in Euro and abroad if you’re on the N26 Metal plan
  • No markup fee on exchange rates even on weekends
  • Enjoy comprehensive travel insurance with the Black Metal card (which covers mobile phone loss, compensation in case of theft, product purchase protection, etc.)
  • N26 is rated 3.9/5 on Trustpilot with over 7000 reviews. Folks love the user experience offered by their app, but some users reckon their customer service can be improved

Fees at a glance:

Card Issue FeeFree plan; €9.90/m for N26 You plan; or €16.90/m for the
Metal plan.
ATM withdrawal feeForeign currency ATM withdrawals include fees. With the
N26 account, there’s a fee of 1.7% of the withdrawal amount.
There is no fee for N26 You or N26 Metal members. A €2 fee
applies to additional withdrawals beyond their Fair Use
Policy.
Exchange rateMid-market rate
Currency conversion
fees
N26 doesn’t charge exchange mark-ups or conversion fees.
Spend in currencies in
your account
Free

Monzo

Like N26, Monzo (review) is also a digital bank that issues a MasterCard travel debit card. You can pay for your travel expenses with your Monzo card anywhere in the world without worrying about extra fees being levied on the MasterCard exchange rate (which is pretty close to the mid-market rate). Plus, Monzo is a fully authorized digital bank in the UK and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA).

Monzo is currently only available to UK residents who are 16+.

Here are the latest prices/inclusions in your country (open new tab).

Features

  • The card lets you make free ATM withdrawals up to £200/30 days
  • You can pay with a Monzo travel debit card in the UK, online, or anywhere in the world in a foreign currency without any hidden fees levied on the MasterCard exchange rate
  • Travelling with a partner? Open a Monzo joint account for better control over your travel funds
  • Stay on budget while travelling with easy categorization of transactions and detailed travel expense reports.
  • Monzo is rated 4.4/5 on Trustpilot with over 4000 reviews. Here’s what people love about the Monzo travel debit card: competitive exchange rates and the efficient money management options.

Fees at a glance:

Card Issue FeeFree
ATM withdrawal feeFirst £200 in 30 day period is free and a 3% fee is applicable
thereafter.
Exchange rateMastercard exchange rate
Currency conversion
fees
Monzo doesn’t charge exchange mark-ups or conversion
fees.
Spend in currencies in
your account
Free

Monese

The Monese (review) travel debit card (linked to a current account) is currently only available to UK and Eurozone residents. Monese is known for providing real-time, wholesale exchange rates on foreign currency transactions globally with low exchange fees.

Here are the latest prices/inclusions in your country (open new tab).

Features

  • You’ll enjoy free ATM withdrawals worldwide up to €200/£200 per month
  • You can even  open a dual currency account (EUR or GBP)
  • Manage your travel budget better with real-time visual representation of spending habits in the Monese app
  • Easily set up and stop direct debits for monthly expenses
  • No top-up fee using another bank card (within the monthly limit, which differs across its 3 plans)
  • Monese is rated  4.4/5 on Trustpilot with over 13000 reviews. However, some users have expressed dissatisfaction with the customer support.

Fees at a glance:

Card Issue FeeFree for the Simple Plan; £4.95/month for Monese Classic; and £14.95/month for Monese Premium
ATM withdrawal fee£200/30 days on the Simple plan; £800/30 days on the Monese Classic plan, a flat 2% fee is applicable thereafter beyond these limits; no ATM withdrawal fees on the Premium plan.
Exchange rateWholesale exchange rate
Currency conversion
fees
2% on the Simple Plan (€2/£2 minimum); 0.5% on the Classic plan; and no fee for the Monese Premium plan
Spend in currencies in
your account
Free

Side by Side Comparison

All the cards listed above have their own set of unique features. But if you want to choose the best card for your travel plans, choose a card whose features align with your destination(s), duration of travel, and travel budget primarily. We also recommend keeping an eye out for the card that offers the best value in terms of foreign exchange fees and ATM withdrawal fees.

Here’s a quick snapshot of all the cards.

CardRevolutTransferWiseN26MonzoMonese
AvailabilityUK, Europe, Australia, Singapore and SwitzerlandUK, Europe, USA, Australia, NZ, SingaporeUK, Eurozone, USAUKUK and Eurozone
OffersRevolut offers in your country OR For business TransferWise offers in your country N26 offers in your country Monzo latest prices and services in your country Monese latest prices and services in your country for mobile and desktop
Account opening feeFree, Premium €7.99/m or Metal €13.99/m. Also business options and prices in GBP, USD, AUD, NZ (click for Business or your country)FreeFree, You €9.90/mo, Metal €16.90. (click for UK and USA prices)Free, Plus Supporter £4.95/m (min 6 months), Monzo Plus £9/m (min 6 months)Free for the Simple Plan; £4.95/month for Monese Classic; and £14.95/month for Monese Premium
ATM withdrawal feeFree up to £/€200 per month with Free card, £/€400 per month with Premium and up to £/€600 per month with Metal. Flat fee of 2% for amounts above.Free up to £200 / 30 days
2% over £200 / 30 days
Free card attracts 1.7% fee. "You" and "Metal" options have free ATM withdrawls up to five/month then €2 fee applies.Free card up to £200 / 30 days period is free and 3% fee thereafter. Plus Traveller has an upper limit of £400.£200/30 days on the Simple plan; £800/30 days on the Monese Classic plan, a flat 2% fee is applicable thereafter beyond these limits; no ATM withdrawal fees on the Premium plan.
Exchange rateInterbank Rate (+0.5% to all major currencies)Interbank Rate (same as mid-market rate)Interbank RateMastercard exchange rate
Interbank Rate
Currency conversion feesFree up to £5,000/€6,000 per month with standard card. No monthly limit on Premium and Metal cards. 0.5% fair usage fee0.35%-2.2%N26 doesn’t charge exchange mark-ups or conversion fees.Monzo doesn’t charge exchange mark-ups or conversion fees.2% on the Simple Plan (€2/£2 minimum); 0.5% on the Classic plan; and no fee for the Monese Premium plan
Spend in currencies in
your account
FreeFreeFreeFreeFree
Deal maker?Option to avail travel insurance at a low costWide availability and true multi-currency card with over 50+ options. Top Choice.Full service current accounts that can be managed via their mobile appFully authorized and regulated digital bankEasy to set up direct debits for monthly expenses

Bottom line

Travel debit cards really do make managing your money on the go super easy and secure.

If you ask us, always choose a travel debit card that offers the best value in terms of exchange rate, low ATM withdrawal fees, and low card reloading fees. Effective in-app money management is also a great add-on.

We also recommend allocating funds on your multi-currency travel debit card keeping in mind your itinerary. This way you can avoid any inadvertent currency conversion fees on your stopovers. Another way to make sure you save big with your travel debit card is to reload the card when the exchange fees are at the lowest. Tracking your daily expenses on the app is also a great idea, to rule out any instances of overspending or fraud.

Finally, don’t forget to swipe your card in your home country after activating it to avoid any surprises once you’re overseas.

Happy travelling!

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