The best ways to take money abroad in 2024

12 min Read Published: 10 May 2024

the best way to take money on holiday
Before you go on holiday, you may begin pondering how much money you are likely to need and how best to take it with you. In this article, we outline the best and cheapest ways to withdraw cash abroad, as well as the best and cheapest ways to pay by card without being charged. We explore online options like Starling Bank*, Revolut, and Wise* as well as high street banks like HSBC. For a quick summary of the best way to take money abroad check out the below comparison table. Alternatively, you can find out more about the other methods of taking money away on holiday by clicking on the following links:

1 minute summary - The best ways to take money abroad

  • Some of the best and cheapest ways to spend money on holiday is with a Starling Bank*, Wise*, or Revolut card.
  • Starling Bank* is a UK-licensed app-only bank with full FSCS protection. It allows you to spend abroad on its Mastercard debit card fee-free with no limits on foreign transactions or ATM withdrawals.
  • Wise* is a prepaid Visa debit card that allows you to hold and exchange more than 40 currencies. You get fee-free spending in 160 countries, with some ATM restrictions and limits.
  • Revolut is a prepaid Visa card, which can be used to spend abroad and in the UK fee-free. It does have restrictions on fee-free spending abroad and ATM withdrawals but these limits are reduced with its alternate subscription plans.
  • Revolut and Wise currently have no UK banking licence therefore money is not FSCS protected.
  • Wise, Starling Bank and Revolut's currency exchange rates are among the best available but Revolut does add up to a 1% mark-up on weekends.
  • Opening a Starling, Revolut, or Wise  account does not affect your credit rating.

The best way to take money abroad

The easiest and potentially cheapest way to take money abroad is via an app-only bank or prepaid card. This is because you can easily have access to your money without having to carry lots of cash around with you. A prepaid card or app-only bank also allows you to spend money and withdraw cash without being charged interest or fees. In addition, a majority of app-only banks and prepaid cards allow you to freeze your card should it get lost or stolen while you are away.

In the below comparison table, we compare the key features of prepaid cards and app-only banks to see which is the best for taking your money abroad. If you would prefer to take a credit card abroad with you, you can compare the best travel credit cards further down in this article.

One thing to consider before travelling abroad is how much money you are taking with you. With a prepaid card, you can load the exact amount you wish to spend whilst you are away, whereas with an app-only bank you may have access to more, especially if you use the app-only bank as your main bank. This could pose a security risk when travelling, particularly if you happen to be targeted by fraud.

What's the best way to take money on holiday? – a comparison

Account type  Free foreign ATM withdrawals  Free overseas spending  Instant spending notifications  Freeze/Unfreeze card 
Wise* Pre-paid card Up to £200 per month or 2x withdrawals per month (1.75% +£0.50 fee thereafter) tick tick tick
Revolut Pre-paid card Up to £200 free per month or 5x withdrawals a month (2% fee thereafter min of £1) £1,000 per month, up to 1% fee above £1,000 (plan dependant) tick tick
Starling Bank* App-only bank tick tick tick tick
Monzo App-only bank Unlimited fee-free withdrawals within EEA or up to £200 free every 30 days outside EEA (3% fee thereafter)^ tick tick tick
Chase App-only bank tick tick tick tick
First Direct  High-street bank tick tick tick tick
HSBC Global Money  High-street bank tick tick tick tick
Santander Edge  High-street bank tick tick tick tick
Curve Spending card (connect to your existing debit and credit cards) 2% fee or £2 whichever is higher Up to £250 every 30 days 2.5% fee thereafter tick tick
Caxton FX Pre-paid card tick tick cross tick
Travelex Pre-paid card tick tick cross tick

^cost may vary depending on whether Monzo is your main bank account 

Pre-paid travel cards

Pre-paid cards are a fairly new way to take money on holiday. You simply put as much cash as you want on the card before the start of your holiday (or even top up while you are away). Pre-paid travel cards can be used in a similar way to a credit or debit card, and you can even use them to withdraw money from an ATM (using a pin that is sent out once you set up the card).

Most cards will allow you to check the card balance and add or withdraw funds, either by phone, online or via an app. The charges on these cards vary by provider, so you will need to check the terms and conditions.

Be aware, however, if you use a pre-paid card when checking into a hotel or hiring a car, the provider may ‘ring fence' an amount on your card to protect themselves against future charges for services used or damage incurred. Typically a hotel will ‘ring fence' around £250, whilst a hire car firm could ‘ring fence' as much as £1,000. This amount will not be physically taken from your card but it will mean you'll be unable to spend that amount until you have checked out of the hotel or returned the car.

It may be wise, therefore, to use your normal credit card as security in these instances, but make sure you settle the bill in the local currency as the provider's currency exchange rate will normally provide poor value.

Best pre-paid travel cards

Some of the best pre-paid travel cards on the market are outlined below:


  • Can hold, send, spend and withdraw more than 40 currencies across 160 countries from one account
  • Transparent fees that are up to five times cheaper compared to high street banks
  • Low conversion fees start from 0.35% depending on the currency
  • Withdraw up to £200 per month fee-free (max 2 withdrawals per month); a fee of 1.75% + 50p applies beyond this limit
  • No monthly subscription fees or minimum balances; Wise is a pay-as-you-go service
  • Can set up currency alerts via the currency tracker to ensure you're getting the best rates
  • Provides real-time information on competitors' conversion rates and fees to ensure you're always getting the best deal
  • Virtual card can be added to Google Pay or Apple Pay right away
  • Debit card can be frozen (and frozen) via the app instantly
  • Can earn up to 4.66% interest on GBP balances, 5.05% on USD balances, and 3.67% on EUR balances (capital at risk)

Read our full independent Wise review to find out more.


  • Can have balances in different currencies on the same card
  • Easy to top up when travelling using the Revolut app
  • Very competitive exchange rates
  • Exchange up to £1,000 per month abroad fee-free, a fair usage fee of up to 1% applies thereafter depending on the subscription plan you have
  • Make 5 free cash withdrawals or withdraw up to £200 per rolling month (whichever comes first), withdrawals over £200 will be charged at 2% with a minimum fee of £1 (be aware that some ATMs will also charge a separate fee)
  • If a balance is left on your card when returning from travelling, this can be spent at home by using the Revolut card as a debit card
  • Split bills with family or friends at the touch of a button with no need for them to download the app, and you'll receive funds instantly
  • Instant payment notifications with all transactions automatically categorised
  • Ability to freeze or unfreeze your card through the app if lost, mislaid, or stolen

Read our full independent Revolut review to find out more.

Caxton FX Card

  • 15 currencies can be held at any one time
  • Free cash withdrawals (be aware that some ATMs will charge a separate fee)
  • No charges on spending
  • Top up is free via the app or online but there is a minimum load of £50 (this is in addition to the £10 deposit amount required when applying)
  • £12,000 maximum balance on card at any time
  • £300 daily cash withdrawal limit
  • Add your card to Apple Pay

Head over to their website to find out more about the Caxton FX Card.

Travelex Money Card

  • Choose between 15 currencies
  • No ATM withdrawal fees (although ATM provider fees may apply)
  • App for checking balances and topping up card (minimum top-up of £50 via the app)
  • Fixed exchange rate at the time of buying currency
  • £5,000 maximum balance on card at any time
  • £500 daily cash withdrawal limit
  • Add your card to Apple Pay and Google Play

Head over to their website to find out more about the Travelex Money Card.

The best high street banks for travelling abroad

Most people avoid taking their high street debit card abroad due to the high foreign transaction fees however, it may be possible to spend abroad fee-free using your debit card. Using your high street bank abroad means that you don't have to open another account or card to have additional means of spending and you also have the added benefit of FSCS protection.

First Direct

  • No fees for spending abroad
  • No fees for withdrawing cash abroad
  • Access to £250 interest-free overdraft (subject to eligibility)
  • access to 7.00% Regular Saver
  • Track spending using the app or online banking

Head over to the First Direct website for more information.

HSBC Global Money

  • Spend and send money abroad in more than 50 currencies with no fees
  • Withdraw money abroad fee-free
  • Multi-currency debit card
  • Only available via the HSBC app
  • Live competitive exchange rates
  • Store 18 currencies in your account
  • Must have an active HSBC UK current account (excluding Basic Bank Account, Amanah, Appointee and MyAccount)

Head over to the HSBC website for more information.

Santander Edge

  • £3 monthly fee
  • No fees for spending abroad
  • No fees for withdrawing cash abroad
  • 1% cashback
  • Access to 7.00% savings account

Find out more in our Santander Edge independent review.

The best app-only banks for travelling abroad

App-only banks are a great and relatively cost-free way of taking your money abroad. These banks are mobile-only and everything is managed in-app. They work in a similar way to Revolut but are also actually a bank, so you can spend using your debit card and you benefit from FSCS protection. You may think this sounds too good to be true and there must be a catch. In reality, the only catch is that some limits apply to the no overseas spending fees. It is also worth remembering that some ATMs are subject to charge a fee.


  • Use wherever Mastercard is accepted
  • Unlimited fee-free cash withdrawals within the EEA if Monzo is your main bank account, if not, you can withdraw £400 for free within EEA every 30 days with 3% fee thereafter
  • Withdraw up to £200 for free every 30 days outside EEA (a 3% charge applies afterwards)
  • Spend with Mastercard's exchange rate and no markup fees
  • Current exchange rate notifications upon arrival
  • No need to notify the bank that you are travelling abroad (meaning your card will not be blocked)
  • Ability to freeze and unfreeze your card if lost or stolen

For more information, read our independent Monzo review.

Starling Bank*

  • No cash withdrawal fees
  • Spend with Mastercard's exchange rate and no markup fees
  • Earn interest on your balances (3.25% on current account balances up to £5,000)
  • Instant spending notifications in both pounds and the local currency
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Lock and unlock your card in-app if lost or stolen

For more information, head over to our independent Starling Bank review.

Chase Bank

  • No ATM withdrawal fees
  • Spend abroad fee-free
  • Earn up to 1.00% cashback on your spending for the first 12 months both abroad and in the UK (capped at £15 a month)
  • Currency conversion using Mastercard's Exchange rate
  • Get up to 4.10% interest on an easy-access savings account
  • Get up to 1.00% interest on your current account balance
  • Earn up to 5.00% interest on your round-up savings
  • Freeze and unfreeze your card if lost or stolen

For more information, head over to our independent Chase Bank review.


Curve card is another great option to consider when travelling abroad. The card enables you to link all of your debit and credit cards via a secure app, meaning you only need to take one card away with you (you can switch between cards using the app). By using the Curve card, you won't pay any hidden fees, you'll get instant notifications so you can keep track of your money and you'll benefit from paying at the ‘real exchange rate' each time you make a purchase.

  • Only have to carry one card – but can spend on all of your personal cards
  • Instant notifications on spending
  • Spend up to £250 fee-free every 30 days when abroad (2.5% fee thereafter and increased currency conversion fees at the weekend)
  • Fee for withdrawing money at an ATM while abroad (2% or £2 whichever is higher)
  • Categorised spending
  • Notifications in local currency as well as your currency

For more information about the Curve card, read our independent Curve review.

TOP TIP – If you are using a card to settle bills when abroad, you will often be asked whether you want to pay in local currency or in pounds sterling. You should always choose the local currency otherwise the retailer can apply what is known as Dynamic Currency Conversion, which is likely to have a higher exchange rate than your card issuer, and so the cost to you will be greater with the retailer pocketing the difference.

Credit cards

One of the safest ways to take money on holiday is a credit card, as the security issue is minimal and you don't have to decide in advance how much money you're going to need. If you do lose your credit card, or have it stolen, then you can just contact the card provider and they will issue a replacement. Additionally, some card providers allow you to block the card in seconds by simply using the linked smartphone app. However, there are still a couple of things you need to be aware of before deciding on this method to take money on holiday:

  • Conditions – Check the conditions for your particular credit card, as there will usually be a charge for cash withdrawals and for using your card abroad. One thing to note is that most cards charge interest on cash withdrawals even if you repay the balance.
  • Dynamic currency conversion – This means that suppliers may charge you in pound sterling rather than the local currency. The rate used for these sterling transactions is invariably not very competitive so you should always opt to pay in the local currency.

If you do not currently have a credit card, then there are a number of credit cards that offer 0% interest for a period of time as well as some with reduced or no transaction fees, but again make sure to check all the conditions as providers can change terms regularly. Using a credit card will also require a degree of discipline to make sure you pay off the balance when returning from holiday, and do not end up still paying for this year's holiday next year.

Best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees

Some of the best credit cards with no overseas transaction fees are outlined in the comparison table below. To find out more about the best credit cards to use abroad, check out our article “Compare the best travel credit cards“.

Provider Fees Abroad Interest Rate (Variable)^ Cash Withdrawal Fee Cash Withdrawal Interest rate (Variable)^
Barclaycard Rewards Credit Card  0% 28.90% 0% 28.90%
Halifax Clarity Credit card 0% Will depend on your individual circumstances 0% Will depend on your individual circumstances

^Interest rates are likely to vary based on your individual circumstances 


A popular method of taking money on holiday is to just carry cash in the currency of your destination. Taking cash abroad also allows you to stick to a budget and is an easier way to track your spending. However, there are a couple of drawbacks to this option:

  • Security – Carrying a large amount of money anywhere creates a security problem. Often when abroad we inadvertently advertise the fact we are tourists – checking maps, asking for directions, etc – thus leaving us vulnerable to theft. If cash is your only means of payment, a pickpocket could theoretically snatch everything you have to pay for your holiday with just one swipe.
  • Exchange rate – All foreign currency services advertise two exchange rates – buying rate and selling rate. This means that you often buy foreign currency at a higher rate than the one offered if you have money left over at the end of your holiday. Additionally, when purchasing cash, you are locking in at one exchange rate which doesn't necessarily guarantee you get the best deal for your money.

It's not recommended to take cash abroad as your only means of payment, but obviously, you'll inevitably need to take some cash on your holiday to pay for things like taxis and restaurant tips. In this instance, make sure you take no more than necessary and be mindful of your security at all times. Avoid carrying cash in an easy-to-reach pocket or a bag that can be unzipped discreetly behind your back. Be mindful in close crowds and consider asking if your hotel or villa has a lockable safe.


A great way to take money abroad is by using a pre-paid card or an app-only bank debit card with a small amount of cash for emergencies. It's easy to open a new app-only bank account, and if you do so before you go on holiday, you don't need to do anything else.

Alternatively, if you're not interested in opening an app-only bank account, it is simple enough to apply for a prepaid card and you'll then have similar protection and security as a bank account without the costly hidden fees.

Overall, try to carry the least amount of cash possible – just enough for low-ticket items, such as taxis or tips – leaving the card for bigger purchases or withdrawing top-up cash when needed. Although withdrawing cash at an ATM may incur a small charge (usually levied by the ATM operator and not the prepaid card provider), this is a small price to pay for the security provided.



If a link has an * beside it this means that it is an affiliated link. If you go via the link, Money to the Masses may receive a small fee which helps keep Money to the Masses free to use. The following link can be used if you do not wish to help Money to the Masses – Starling Bank, Wise 

  1. I always pre pay into my credit card before I go so I don’t have bill to come home to. I still have capacity to cope with emergencies and spur of the moment extras but that’s what the card is really for

  2. I’ve been exchanging money for years and bought a home in the EU as well as exchanged cash for holidays. The exchange rate is the critical element. Reducing fees to zero is relatively easy to do today. I think the article would benefit from a fees conversation comparison (GBP to Euros). When I compared all of them, Revolut cam out on top by a mile.

    1. Hi Greg

      We have carried out an exchange rate comparison in our full Revolut review. In that instance Staling beat Revolut.

      It all depends on the exchange rates at the time and day you exchange. Sometimes Revolut will be best, other times not.

  3. I always take cash, find it easier to manage my spend, just take a daily amount out with you, and a card for back up.

  4. Very useful advice,thanks, we are going to st Vincent and Barbados, trying to find the best way to take money over there.

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