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This year's top tips for holidaymakers using their card overseas

17 June 2011

Overseas spending on cards totalled £27.5 billion in 2010, an 8% year-on-year increase

Spending on cards abroad more than doubled over past ten years

With the holiday season fast approaching, The UK Cards Association and ABTA, the travel association, have today (17 June 2011) published Using your card overseas to provide advice and information for holidaymakers and business travellers who are planning to use their cards abroad this summer.

The following key advice (taken from the Guide) can help ensure that using your cards is a hassle-free experience:

  • Only take cards with you that you intend to use; leave others in a secure place at home.
  • Ensure you have your card company’s 24-hour contact phone number.
  • Ensure your card company has up-to-date contact details for you, including a mobile telephone number.
  • If your cards are registered with a card protection agency, ensure you have their contact telephone number and your policy number with you.
  • Don’t let your card out of your sight, especially when using it in restaurants and bars.
  • Don’t give your PIN to anyone – even if they claim to be from the police or your card company.
  • Shield your PIN with your free hand when typing it into a keypad in a shop or at a cash machine.
  • When you pay make sure you know which currency you are paying in. Some retailers may allow you to pay in sterling but this should be made clear to you at the time of purchase.
  • Check any charges for using your card abroad before you depart. You will probably find that it’s generally cheaper to use your debit card for cash withdrawals and your credit card for purchases.
  • Remember that your credit card provides great additional consumer protection if you buy something over £100 and less than £30,000 that you don’t get if you pay by cash. However this should never be seen as a replacement for travel insurance

The UK Cards Association’s latest statistics show that just over three per cent of all card transactions on UK-issued cards took place overseas last year. Britons abroad spent £20.3 billion on credit and debit card purchases in 2010 and withdrew £7.2 billion out of cash machines. In 2000 we spent £12.2 billion in 165 million transactions, compared with £27.5 billion in 386 million transactions last year.

However, when it comes to which card we prefer to use overseas there has been a marked shift in our spending habits. Transactions abroad on both credit and debit cards have increased over the past ten years, but credit card usage is up by a comparatively small 41%, with debit card usage up by a massive 364%.

There’s no single reason for the disparity in these increases. However, debit cards are more widely accepted overseas now than they were ten years ago. Consumers also seem to be wisely reserving their credit cards for emergency situations or for big ticket items, such as hotel bills and car hire. This is probably because of the additional consumer protection for transactions over £100.

The Using your card overseas guide provides tips on what to do before, during and after your trip to minimise the chances of being a victim of fraud, and details the types of charges that may be incurred when withdrawing cash at a cash machine or when making a card purchase. The advice guide can be downloaded at

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