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Should you use a card or travel money outside the UK?

If you're heading on a trip outside the UK, you might be wondering whether to use your debit card or credit card, or take travel money. There's not necessarily a right or wrong answer, but there are some advantages and disadvantages in certain situations. See some of the benefits of each and information worth knowing.

Using your debit or credit card


Debit and credit cards are accepted in a wide range of shops and restaurants, so they're convenient. You can also use your debit card to withdraw cash from ATMs while you’re on your trip.

You may be charged a non-sterling transaction fee when making purchases on both debit and credit cards, as well as when withdrawing cash from ATMs. Charges vary according to the bank you're with and the type of account you hold. So, look closely at what they may be before you go.

Tip: if you’re using your card outside the UK in shops, bars or restaurants and are given the choice of paying in pounds or local currency, you could consider choosing local currency. If you choose to pay in local currency, you’ll avoid dynamic currency conversion fees and in most cases will get a better exchange rate.

Find out more about avoiding dynamic currency conversion.


If your card is lost or stolen, you should have the same level of protection when travelling overseas as when you’re in the UK. Before travelling check how you can report any issues with your bank. It may also be a good idea to save your bank's contact details in your mobile phone for easy access.

If you’re an HSBC customer with mobile or online banking, you can block or cancel your cards instantly should they be lost or stolen.

Easy tracking

If you like to keep a close eye on your spending and are registered for digital banking, you can log on to online or mobile banking to keep track of your finances while you are away. This way you can act instantly on any issues you see and also manage things like bills and Direct Debits.

Using travel money


You won't need to worry about finding an ATM when you arrive, or when you’re heading to any of the local shops.

Easier budgeting

If you're sticking to a fixed budget while you're away, taking travel money with you makes it easier by limiting the overall amount you have available to spend. Plus, once you've exchanged the amount you want, there are no further fees to pay for using your money abroad. 


Carrying large amounts of money around with you when you’re abroad can be very risky as cash can be lost or stolen and is difficult to track. If you're taking a large amount of cash with you, consider using a safe deposit box so you can minimise the amount you’re carrying around from day to day. If you have travel insurance, it may also be worth looking at how much cash you are covered for carrying.

Also, if you've only got cash and no alternative spending options, you may run out of money before your trip is over and be in a difficult situation.

What about a mix of both?

It may be a good idea to use a mix of cards and travel money while you’re outside the UK. That way you’ll have cash on hand when you arrive at the airport, but also the security of a card while you’re out and about. But always make sure you're aware of any fees and charges for using your card outside the UK.

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