We've looked at the travel cards available in the UK and found they offer a variety of features, such as fee-free purchases while abroad, earning miles (e.g., for free flights), earning points (e.g., for hotel stays) or withdrawing cash from ATMs without penalty. In our analysis, we considered foreign transaction fees, annual fees, reward rates and flexibility. There may be other cards with better features than those we mention here. Before choosing a card, think about what you're looking for out of a travel card and carry out your own research.
- Travel Credit Cards
- Summary of No-Fees Travel Credit Cards
- Average Rewards on Travel Credit Cards
- How to Choose a No-Fees Travel Card
Travel Credit Cards Overall
Travel credit cards may offer one or both of the following features: no foreign transaction fees (on purchases and also perhaps cash withdrawals) and travel rewards.
Travel Credit Cards for No Foreign Transaction Fees
Here are two other travel cards that don't charge fees on foreign transactions. Remember there is no one "best" card, as everyone has different requirements, so research thoroughly before choosing a card. If you're primarily interested in a no-foreign-transaction-fees card, you may want to look at our in-depth article that covers a wider selection of no-fee travel cards, in order to learn more.
Barclaycard Platinum Travel Credit Card
The Barclaycard Platinum Travel Credit Card won't charge you a fee for purchases or ATM withdrawals made in a foreign currency while you're overseas. Also, you won't be charged interest on foreign-currency cash withdrawals made abroad, if the full balance is paid off in full, and on time. This detail gives you up to 56 days interest free on ATM withdrawals. The current "no non-sterling transaction fees on your foreign spend and ATM withdrawals abroad" promotion ends on 31 August 2022.
- No fees on non-sterling ATM withdrawals or transactions abroad (fees increase after 31 August 2022)
- No interest charges on non-sterling cash withdrawals, if balance paid off in full and on time
- 18.9% variable purchase APR
- 27.9% variable cash withdrawal APR
- Eligibility checker
- No annual fee
Creation Everyday Credit Card
The Creation Everyday credit card is a travel credit card for use overseas that charges no fees on non-sterling purchases or cash withdrawals abroad. The 12.9% interest rate on non-sterling cash withdrawals is lower than average. It's important to be aware of your cash interest rate because, like most credit cards, the Creation Everyday card starts charging interest on cash withdrawals immediately.
- No fees on non-sterling ATM withdrawals or transactions abroad
- Lower-than-average 12.9% APR (or 17.9% or 21.9%, variable) cash withdrawals
- 12.9% purchases APR (or 17.9% or 21.9%, variable)
- Quick Eligibility Check available
- No annual fee
Travel Credit Cards for Airline Rewards
In the past year, the Virgin Black and White, Lloyds Avios and Miles & More credit cards have closed to new applications. That leaves us in the UK with a shortage of airline rewards credit cards. That just leaves the FlyBe card and the British Airways American Express cards. If you're quite interested in an air miles rewards card, perhaps one of these will suit your travel needs.
British Airways American Express Premium Plus Credit Card
The British Airways American Express Premium Plus card is a solid airlines reward card for frequent BA flyers who spend more than £39,000 a year on their cards (or half that on British Airways purchases). Depending on how you redeem your Avios points, you can see rewards rates around 1.6% on everyday spend and 3.2% on BA flight and Holidays spend. Greater value can be found by redeeming your earned Avios points for Premium Economy to Business upgrades, the sweet spot for Avios. Used in this way, it is possible to achieve rewards rates topping 6% to 7% on your BA purchases.
- 25,000 Avios welcome bonus
- Collect 1.5 Avios per £1 spent, and 3 Avios per £1 spent with British Airways or BA Holidays
- Earn a 2-for-1 Companion Voucher when you spend £10,000 each year
- Travel accident and Travel inconvenience insurance
- 22.9% purchases APR
- Annual fee of £195
Travel Credit Cards for Hotel Rewards
If you're after hotel rewards so that you can can stay for free the next time you're on holiday, you may be considering a hotel rewards credit card. Because of their different annual fees and rewards rates, finding a card is a very individual decision and will depend on annual spending and if you want to align your hotel reward earning with a favourite hotel property or brand. For a more thorough analysis see our Hotel Rewards Credit Cards article.
In the meantime, the chart below shows how the rewards can change for different levels of annual spending.
Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa Card
The Hilton HHonors Platinum Visa Card gives hotel rewards on your spending, but as a free card does not offer annual bonuses. For every £1 you spend on the Hilton HHonors card at participating hotels within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio, you'll earn 3 HHonors Points. Every £1 spent elsewhere earns 2 HHonors Points. We estimate the value of an HHonors point at 0.5 pence, yielding an ongoing rewards rate around 1.5% on participating Hilton spend and 1% elsewhere.
HHonors Points can also be exchanged for miles at Virgin Atlantic (1 Virgin Flying Club Mile : 1.5 HHonors Points), Hawaiian Airlines (1 HawaiianMile : 1.5 HHonors Points), or Sri Lankan Airlines (2 FlySmiles : 1 HHonors Point). Hilton Worldwide brands incorporates over 4,600 properties across 14 brands:
|Hilton HHonors Hotels|
|Tapestry Collection||Hilton Garden Inn||Hampton|
|tru||Home2 Suites||Homewood Suites|
|Embassy Suites||Hilton Grand Vacations|
- Rewards rates around 1.5% on participating Hilton Worldwide purchases and 1% elsewhere
- Earn 3 HHonors Bonus Points for every £1 you spend at participating Hilton Worldwide hotels (in addition to the Base Points you already earn)
- Earn 2 HHonors Bonus Points for every £1 you spend elsewhere
- Gold Elite Status (when you spend £10k each year)
- One free night e-cerificate (when you spend £750 in first 90 days)
- 2,500 Bonus Points for each of your first four stays in your first 12 months
- Eligibility checker
- No annual fee
- 18.9% purchases APR (variable)
IHG Rewards Club Premium
With the IHG Rewards Club Premium, cardholders earn 4 IHG Rewards Club points for every pound spent at IHG properties and 2 rewards points per pound spent elsewhere, achieving potential rewards rates of 2% and 1%, respectively. Add to this a welcome bonus of 20,000 points (worth approximately £100) and a free night each year in which you spend £10,000, and over two years the average consumer could earn around £640 of rewards. IHG Rewards can be redeemed at over 5,000 properties, part of the following brands:
|Even Hotels||Hualuxe||Crowne Plaza|
|Holiday Inn||Holiday Inn Express||Holiday Inn Club Vacations|
|Holiday Inn Resort||Staybridge Suites||Candlewood Suites|
- Rewards rates around 2% on participating IHG purchases and 1% elsewhere
- Platinum Elite status
- One free night voucher each year in which you spend at least £10,000
- Welcome bonus of 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points (when you spend £200 in first 3 months)
- Eligibility checker
- Annual fee of £99
- 19.9% purchases APR (variable)
Starwood Preferred Guest by American Express
The Starwood Preferred Guest card delivers ongoing rewards rates estimated at 1.4% on general spending, a 10,000 Starpoint welcome bonus and an annual bonus of a free weekend night (earned by spending more than £25,000 in a year). Be aware that the free night voucher can only be redeemed at a hotel in Categories 1 through 4; the exclusion of the highest categories does limit the value of this feature.
After analyzing the cost of random nights at hotels across the spectrum of categories, we arrived at a value of 1.4 pence per SPG point. This yields a rewards rate of 1.4% on regular spending. Until November 2017, cardholders earn double points on SPG & Marriott purchases for a rewards rate of 2.8% on participating hotel spend. In order to make up the annual fee, a cardholder would need to spend at least £5,500 a year on regular spending, or half that at Starwood properties.
The SPG program offers redemption flexibility; Starpoints can be redeemed for flights on over 150 airlines, usually transferred at a ratio of 1 mile : 1 Starpoint.
|W Hotels||Le Meridien||The Luxury Collection|
|Tribute Portfolio||Design Hotels||Starwood Preferred Guest|
Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) and Marriott Rewards have recently merged, but continue to operate as two separate entities. They are expected to combine in 2018 and will keep all 30 brands, encompassing around 7,000 properties. Until then, join both the Marriott Rewards program and the SPG program, linking your accounts to accumulate points and benefits at all of the hotels in the portfolio. Once you’ve linked your accounts, you can transfer points between them in order to redeem across the portfolio. Points are transferred at a rate of 1 Starpoint = 3 Marriott Rewards Points. Linking accounts also serves to match your status in one program with the other.
- Rewards rates around 2.8% on SPG & Marriott purchases and 1.4% elsewhere
- 10,000 Starpoint welcome bonus (spend £1k in first 3 months)
- SPG Gold Preferred Status (spend £15k each year)
- Earn a free weekend night (spend £25k each year)
- Redeem Starpoints for flights
- Eligibility checker
- Annual fee of £75
- 19.9% purchase APR (variable)
Summary of Travel Credit Cards
Below is a summary of our top picks for best travel card across different categories.
|For...||Credit Card||Quick Summary|
|Overseas Purchases & Cash||Barclaycard Platinum Travel||No foreign transaction fees on purchases or cash until 31 August 2022; Grace period for cash—no interest if pay balance in full and on time|
|Overseas Purchases & Cash||Creation Everyday||No foreign transaction fees on purchases or cash; Lower-than-average 12.9% interest rate on cash|
|Air Rewards||Virgin Black||Potential to earn 5% on Virgin Atlantic/holidays spend and over 2% elsewhere through companion voucher and upgrades|
|Free Air Rewards||Miles & More||Potential rewards rate nearly 2% on all spend; No annual fee|
|Hotel Rewards for higher-than-average spend||Starwood Preferred Guest||Annual spend over £25,000 qualifies you for free weekend night voucher; Ongoing rewards around 1.4% on everyday spend|
|Hotel Rewards for average spend||IHG Rewards Club Premium||Free night voucher each year spend £10,000; 1% rewards on everyday spend|
|Free Hotel Rewards||Hilton HHonors||Hotel rewards around 1% on all spend; No annual fee|
Average Rewards on Travel Credit Cards
How to Choose a Travel Card
There is no "best" credit card and choosing a credit card is a very individual decision. The right card for you will depend on your personal financial situation, needs and spending patterns. We give you some concepts to keep in mind when doing your own research.
To take some confusion out of choosing the right travel card, think of your primary goals for the card. Do you want a travel card to pay for hotels, restaurants, shopping, and other expenses while you're on holiday overseas? Learn more about No Foreign Transaction Fees cards. Do you want a travel card to earn free or discounted flights or hotel stays? Learn more about Airline Rewards cards and Hotel Rewards cards.
Keep in mind that while air rewards cards may appear to be much more valuable than other rewards cards, realizing these rewards is not always possible. Much of the value on air cards stems from companion vouchers. However, companion vouchers can be difficult to use - seats can be difficult to find on your desired routes and dates, especially if you are flying at peak times. Consequently, companion vouchers may expire before you can redeem them, massively dropping the estimated value of an air rewards card.
Beyond this, the value of a mile can vary significantly depending on route and cabin class. Poor use of miles can, again, drop the value of an air rewards card. (The same applies to hotel rewards cards.) For our calculations, we have used average values we think a savvy flyer can achieve for their rewards miles. However, the value earned on air (or hotel) rewards cards can vary significantly from one card holder to the next.