Best Travel Credit Cards

The right travel credit card can help you pay for expenses fee-free while abroad, earn miles for free flights, earn points for hotel stays or even withdraw cash from ATMs without penalty. We've looked at the travel cards available in the UK and picked the best ones for different needs. If you want to learn more before choosing a card, see our guides on FX Fees, Cash Withdrawals and Types of Card Rewards.

The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.

  • Learning
    How Does a Travel Credit Card Work?
  • Comparing
    Summary of the Best No-Fees Travel Cards
  • Choosing
    How To Pick a No-Fees Travel Card for You

According to our analysis of the market, the following cards stand out as objectively the best for certain purposes. The best card for you will depend on your individual situation and spending patterns. Please use the information in this guide to learn about differences between products and to help you decide which features are most suitable for you.

Best Travel Credit Cards for No Foreign Transaction Fees

If you don't want to pay any fees when you make purchases overseas, a no-fee travel card may be just what you need. Features such as the treatment of cash and interest can vary widely, so be sure a card meets your needs before making a decision. 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.

Best No-Fees Travel Credit Cards: Barclaycard Platinum Cashback Plus Credit Card

Consider this if you don't want to pay fees when you use your card abroad, and you'd like a grace period on foreign cash withdrawals and to earn 0.25% cashback on purchases.

Purchase Rate (variable) 21.9%
0% on Purchases for up to up to 12 months
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee n/a
FX Fee none
Cash Fee 2.99% (min £2.99) on sterling transactions only

The Barclaycard Platinum Cashback Plus Credit Card is one of the best travel cards, because you won't be charged any FX fees when you use the card abroad, plus you can withdraw foreign currency cash from ATMs abroad without incurring fees from Barclays (although the ATM might charge a fee) and you won't be charged any interest on foreign cash withdrawals, so long as the balance is paid off in full, and on time by the next due date. This detail gives you up to 56 days interest free (from the date of withdrawal until your next statement date). This grace period does not apply to sterling cash withdrawals, however. It is important to note that the Barclaycard Travel card's current "no non-sterling transaction fees on your foreign spend and ATM withdrawals abroad" promotion ends on 31 August 2023, but it could be extended (as it was in 2018). Plus you can earn 0.25% cashback on purchases through August 2023.

Summary

  • Earn 0.25% cashback on purchases through August 2023
  • No fees on non-sterling ATM withdrawals or transactions abroad (Fees increase after 31 August 2023)
  • No interest charges on non-sterling cash withdrawals, if balance paid off in full and on time
  • 27.9% variable cash withdrawal APR
  • Eligibility checker
  • No annual fee

Halifax Clarity Credit Card

Consider this if you don't want to pay fees when you use your card abroad.

Purchase Rate (variable) 19.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee 3%
FX Fee none
Cash Fee none

The Halifax Clarity Credit Card is another solid card to use abroad because you won't need to pay a fee for non-sterling transactions (e.g., purchases and cash withdrawals). While ATM withdrawals won't incur a fee, they will be charged interest from the date of a withdrawal. The interest rate on cash withdrawals on this card is lower than average, at 18.9% variable APR. Since interest charges on cash transactions start accruing immediately, it's best to pay back any ATM withdrawals as soon as possible.

Summary

  • No fees on non-sterling ATM withdrawals or transactions abroad
  • Lower-than-average variable 18.9% interest rate on cash withdrawals
  • Eligibility checker
  • No annual fee

Best Travel Card for Student and Weak Credit: Aqua Advance Card

Consider this if you want a credit-builder card to use abroad.

Purchase Rate (variable) 34.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee 3%
FX Fee none
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

The Aqua Advance Credit Card is a great card for those with poor credit or limited credit to use abroad, as it doesn't charge foreign transaction fees and is also open to applications from students who are not yet employed or those with weak histories. However, due to higher-than-average interest rates starting at 34.9% (variable), Aqua Advance cardholders should try to pay off their full balance every month, on time. Doing so, and staying within your credit limit, may result in the interest rate dropping by 5% a year over three years to a closer-to-average 19.9% (variable).

Summary

  • No fees on foreign transactions
  • 3% (min £3) fee on cash withdrawals
  • Higher-than-average initial interest rates (which can drop every year with good behaviour)
  • 44.9% variable cash APR
  • 34.9% variable purchase APR
  • No annual fee

Best Travel Credit Cards for Air and Hotel Rewards

In the past few years, the Virgin Black and White, Lloyds Avios, Miles & More and Hilton HHonors credit cards have closed to new applications. That leaves the UK with a shortage of air rewards and hotel rewards credit cards, but perhaps the remaining options can still be valuable to you and suit your travel needs.

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card

Consider this if you want to earn Flying Club miles.

Purchase Rate (variable) 22.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to 6 months
Initial Balance Transfer Fee 3%
FX Fee 2.99%
Cash Fee 5%

Virgin Atlantic has re-launched their Flying Miles rewards credit cards, and the new Reward and Reward+ cards offer some of the best potential rewards of any credit card. The £160 per year Rewards+ card comes with an easy-to-earn welcome bonus of 15,000 Flying Club miles (potentially worth £150), high rewards rates around 1.5% on general spending, 2x the rewards on qualifying Virgin Atlantic/Holidays spending and the chance to earn perks like Premium upgrades, 2-4-1 Companion Vouchers or even airport lounge access (if you're Gold).

Summary

  • 15,000 Flying Club miles upon first purchase within 90 days
  • Earn 3 miles per £1 spent with Virgin Flights/Holidays (online or Contact Centres)
  • Earn 1.5 miles per £1 spent elsewhere
  • Virgin Atlantic Reward (Premium upgrade, 2-4-1 Companion Vouchers or—for Gold members—airport lounge access by spending £10,000 per card year
  • Wifi access

Best Air Rewards Travel Card: British Airways American Express Premium Plus Credit Card

Consider this if you want to earn Avios and a 2-4-1 voucher.

Purchase Rate (variable) 22.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee 3%
FX Fee 2.99%
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

The British Airways American Express Premium Plus card is a solid airlines reward card for frequent BA flyers who spend more than £10,000 a year on their cards (or half that on British Airways purchases) in order to earn the Companion Voucher. Depending on how you redeem your Avios points, you can see rewards rates around 1.5% on everyday spend and 3% 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 sometimes possible to achieve rewards rates topping 6% on your BA purchases, but you'll need to spend more money buying the Premium seat first.

Summary

  • 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
  • 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. (Note, the Hilton card is currently not open to new applicants.)

A graph showing the rewards over first two years with the 3 best hotel rewards card, the SPG Credit Card, the IHG Rewards Club Premium Credit Card, and the Hilton HHonors Credit Card, for average UK spending and higher spending
Rewards on 3 Hotel Rewards Cards over 2 Years, for both Average UK Household Spend and Higher Spending

Best Hotel Rewards Travel Card: IHG Rewards Club Premium

Consider this if you spend at least £10k a year to earn a free night.

Purchase Rate (variable) 22.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to 12 months
Initial Balance Transfer Fee 3% (min £3)
FX Fee 2.99%
Cash Fee 3% (min £5)

With the IHG Rewards Club Premium Credit Card, 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:

IHG Hotels
InterContinentalKimptonhotel Indigo
Even HotelsHualuxeCrowne Plaza
Holiday InnHoliday Inn ExpressHoliday Inn Club Vacations
Holiday Inn ResortStaybridge SuitesCandlewood Suites

Summary

  • 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

Best Hotel Rewards Travel Card: Starwood Preferred Guest by American Express

Consider this if you spend over £25k a year to earn a free weekend night award.

Purchase Rate (variable) 22.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee n/a
FX Fee 2.99%
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

Note: The welcome bonus on the SPG card fluctuates from time to time, and is 30000 points (February 2020). Also, please be aware that since the merger with Marriott, points on this card are now earned in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty programme.

The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card card delivers ongoing rewards rates estimated at 2.1% on general spending, a 30,000 point welcome bonus estimated to be worth £210 and a free weekend night that you can earn each yar by spending at least £25,000. Be aware that the free night voucher can only be redeemed at a hotel in Categories 1 through 4.

After analyzing different ways redeem points, we arrived at a value per Marriott Bonvoy point of 0.7 pence. In order to make up the annual fee, a cardholder would need to spend at least £3,500 a year on regular spending, or half that at participating properties where you earn 2X the rewards.

The Marriott Bonvoy program offers redemption flexibility; points can be redeemed for flights but they're not as valuable that way (redeemed at a 3:1 ratio). When points are redeemed for hotel stays, we estimate the value of this card to be £1,300 over the first two years.

Summary

  • Rewards rates estimated at 4% on SPG & Marriott purchases and 2% elsewhere
  • 30,000 point welcome bonus (spend £1k in first 3 months)
  • Gold Elite Status (spend £15k each year)
  • Earn a Free Weekend night (spend £25k each year)
  • Redeem points for nights or flights
  • Eligibility checker
  • Annual fee of £75

Here's How Travel Credit Cards Work

There are two types of travel credit cards: those for using abroad without fees and those for earning rewards. Unfortunately, there are currently no cards on the market which do both!

No-Fee Travel Cards

Most credit cards charge a non-sterling transaction fee on foreign purchases and cash withdrawals (typically 2.99%) PLUS another cash transaction fee (typically 3%, minimum £3 per transaction), which acts as a double whammy on foreign-currency ATM withdrawals. A no-fee travel card can help you avoid paying the non-sterling fee every time you use your card overseas, either to make a purchase or withdraw cash from an ATM. The best no-fee travel cards will also not charge a "cash transaction" fee.

Rewards Travel Cards

If you travel enough, you may benefit from an air or hotel rewards card. On these types of cards, each time you spend you'll earn rewards in the form of air miles or points. These rewards accumulate over time and can be redeemed for free or discounted travel or accommodation. Sometimes, by reaching a certain annual spend requirement, you can earn a free companion voucher or a free night stay.

Summary of Best Travel Credit Cards

Below is a summary of our top picks for best travel card across different categories.

Best For...Credit CardQuick Summary
Overseas Purchases & CashBarclaycard RewardsNo fees on non-sterling transactions but a 2.99% (£2.99) + FX fee on foreign cash withdrawals; 27.9% variable interest on foreign cash withdrawals
Halifax Clarity Credit CardNo foreign transaction fees on purchases or cash
Overseas Purchases for Weak CreditAqua Advance Credit CardCash withdrawals will still incur a cash fee and incur interest at a high rate
Air RewardsBritish Airways American Express Premium PlusPotential to earn 3% on BA spend and over 1.5% elsewhere plus a companion voucher
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit CardPotential to earn 3% on Virgin Flight and Holiday spend and over 1.5% elsewhere, plus a companion voucher, premium upgrade or possible lounge access
Hotel Rewards for higher-than-average spendStarwood Preferred Guest Credit CardAnnual spend over £25,000 qualifies you for free weekend night voucher; Ongoing rewards around 1.4% on everyday spend
Hotel Rewards for average spendIHG Rewards Club Premium Credit CardFree night voucher each year spend £10,000; 1% rewards on everyday spend

Since annual bonuses are triggered at certain spend levels, the rewards you can earn from a travel rewards card are highly dependent upon your spending levels. The average UK household makes around £22,000 of purchases per year that can be put onto a credit card. Below we've estimated rewards based on spending of £20,000 a year so you can help decide which might be best for you based on your individual spending levels.

A graph comparing the rewards over two years for the best UK travel rewards credit cards based on £25,000 of spending.
Estimated rewards on travel rewards cards over 2 years for £25,000 of spend

Assuming Amex Used on 100% of Credit Card Spending

Total 2-Year Estimated Rewards£25,000 Annual Spend£15,000 Annual Spend
BA Amex Premium Plus£1,033£1,510
Virgin Atlantic Reward+£1,004£1,340
Starwood Preferred Guest£985£722
BA Amex£952£350
Virgin Atlantic Reward£837£285
IHG Rewards Club Premium£562£756
IHG Rewards Club£305£204

In fact, the Virgin Reward cards might prove to create more day-to-day value, since Mastercards are widely accepted. The BA Amex cards, on the other hand, won't be accepted by many vendors. If we adjust the earnings estimates to reflect this, by assuming Amex can be used for 80% of spend, then the Virgin Reward+ card tops the charts.

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.

Erin Yurday

Erin Yurday is the CEO, Co-founder and Editor of NimbleFins. Prior to NimbleFins, she worked as an investment professional and as the finance expert in Stanford University's Graduate School of Business case writing team.

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The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.