18 Aug The Best Bank Card for Travelling Abroad
One of my pet peeves about travelling is the costly transaction fees that can come with using bank cards abroad. I tend to prefer using my bank card, as it means I don’t have to carry cash or visit a currency exchange, but if I’m making lots of little transactions then those bank charges can soon add up.
There have been times where I’ve checked my bank statement after a trip, only to realise I’ve lost a lot of it on foreign transaction fees, which seems really, really wasteful.
As a frequent traveller I’ve always been on the lookout for the perfect card. I’ve tried prepaid travel cards and even cards that link all your cards in one place, but I’ve often found those cards get rejected at certain retailers or machines in foreign countries. You just never quite know whether you can rely on them or not while travelling.
So I was really excited to hear about a new mobile-only challenger bank called Starling Bank, which offers a current account with debit card offering zero fees abroad. Yep, zero fees!
I signed up for an account and took my card to Amsterdam for a test drive, where I used it to pay for meals, train tickets and souvenirs, as well as withdrawing cash at an ATM. It allowed me to live like a local while I was there, so I thought I’d share with you some of the unique features of this card.
Starling Bank – the best bank card for travelling abroad
The debit card with this account is a Mastercard, so it’ll be pretty much accepted worldwide, and Starling Bank doesn’t charge any ATM withdrawal fees or foreign transaction fees on their end. Foreign transactions are charged at Mastercard’s globally accepted exchange rate and Starling Bank doesn’t add anything on top. It comes in a slick cardboard case when it arrives in the mail…
Starling Bank does everything a normal bank account would, except it’s mobile-only, so there are no physical branches. Which is fine for me, since I haven’t visited a bank branch in years. Nowadays I do all my day to day banking online or through my mobile phone, and I’d rather speak to someone on the phone than have to line up in a branch. If you’re paid in cash and you need to deposit bank notes regularly or you’re a complete technophobe like my Mum (she doesn’t even understand how to work a phone) then it may not be for you. But if you have a simple grasp of apps then you’ll find the Starling Bank app is very user-friendly. So user friendly you’ll wonder why you’ve stuck with your bricks and mortar bank for so long…
Whenever I make a transaction on this card, I get an instant notification that pops up on my mobile phone screen. It really does happen instantly! The notification tells me how much money I’ve spent and where I’ve spent it, meaning I know that the transaction has gone through. Psychologically it helps to remind me how much I’m spending, so I don’t go too crazy on a trip away.
No ATM or Transaction Fees
The best feature about this current account is that Starling Bank doesn’t charge you any ATM fees on their end for withdrawing cash abroad, and there are also no foreign transaction fees from them. In Amsterdam I withdrew €20 from the ATM and paid for everything else on the card, knowing there wouldn’t be any surprises when I get back home. I was able to pay for even small things, like a cup of hot chocolate, knowing that there would be no nasty fees for spending small amounts.
The Spending Insights feature sorts your spend into categories, so you can see what percentage you’re spending on different things. Categories include things like “eating out” and “shopping”, but you can also customise your spend, so for example, you can make it so that everything on your trip falls under “holiday”. It’s really useful to be able to see how much I’m spending on groceries in one month, and to keep control of my spending.
There have been instances where I’ve misplaced my card while travelling, so I’ve had to call up my bank to cancel it. This causes a bit of a problem because not only do I end up with a hefty phone bill, but I’m then also unable to use my card. Which is really annoying if I find the card in my pocket later and it’s already been cancelled…
With Starling, I can lock and unlock my card from within the app. So if I misplace my card but then find it again, I can easily lock it and unlock it, without having to actually cancel it altogether. Locking the card is instant and will mean that no transactions can be made on it…genius!
24/7 in app support
Calling banks from abroad can be costly; I either have to use my minutes or top up my Skype credit to call them. Often if I’m travelling in a different time zone the lines are closed, which means having to wait until they’re open again. With Starling I don’t have to worry about that, because there’s a live chat feature available within the app, 24 hours per day. I can talk to someone quickly whenever I want as long as I have Wi-Fi or data connection.
So many retailers accept Apple Pay now – even the London Underground accepts it. So if I forget to take my card out with me, I can also use my mobile phone to make payments, wherever I see the Apple logo or contactless.
I’ve been really happy with this card and since it’s a proper current account, I’m planning to switch my ordinary bank account over to this one using the switching service. I’ve tried various bank accounts and credit cards over the years for travelling abroad, but honestly none have come close to Starling Bank. The card worked everywhere, the app is incredibly slick and I can easily add money by bank transfer or debit card. All in all, it’s the best bank card for travelling abroad, and it’s been featured by Money Saving Expert as one of the top overseas spending cards.
You might be wondering…well what’s the catch?
I’ve yet to find a catch with this bank card. There’s no minimum pay in, no fee for using it, and you can even sign up for an overdraft if you need it.
Sign up and skip the queue!
If you want to sign up for yourself, you can sign up by clicking this link: http://bit.ly/2uOWyMJ
Pssst: There’s usually a wait to open an account, but you can use the code POMMIETR to skip the queue when you sign up, so you can start using Starling Bank straight away.
Disclosure: I partnered with Starling Bank to create this post. However, I only partner with brands I like and as you can see from my glowing review, I genuinely really love this card.