Using a credit or debit card while you travel is convenient and may feel safer than carrying around foreign currency - but you could end up paying extra fees. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the costs of using your Nationwide cards abroad - and introduce an alternative which may be able to help you save - the Wise travel money card.
The good news is that your card should work, no matter what Visa terminal type the merchant has. Nationwide debit and credit cards are issued on the Visa network. This means you can use them to pay or withdraw cash anywhere you see the Visa logo.¹
If you use your Nationwide card abroad, you can expect to pay some fees for the service. The amount will differ depending on the card used and the transaction type - foreign purchases or foreign cash withdrawals. Here’s what you need to know.
The Nationwide exchange rate used to convert your foreign purchase will actually be set by Visa, and may include a small mark-up compared to the mid-market rate. That said, using Visa debit abroad usually will get you a decent exchange rate.
It’s also good to know that the rate used will be the one available when the purchase is processed by Visa - which may be a day or two later than when you actually make the transaction. You can get the current or historic Visa exchange rate using the handy Visa rate calculator.²
Whether you’re paying for something in a shop or making a cash withdrawal in a foreign currency, you may also need to pay non-sterling transaction fees. This is usually a percentage of the transaction value. Some Nationwide cards waive this fee, while others have a fee of 2.5% - 2.75% or a minimum cost of £3.³ Detailed fee information follows this section.
When making a cash withdrawal in a foreign currency you may be charged an ATM fee by your own bank, or the operator of the ATM. If you’re using an ATM abroad, check your card terms and conditions to see if Nationwide adds an ATM fee. You’ll also need to watch out for the messages on screen when using an ATM which usually give you warning of any extra fees, before you confirm the withdrawal.
A final fee - and a big headache for travellers - is Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC). This is where you’re asked if you’d like to pay in pounds rather than the local currency wherever you are.
It’s always best to pay in the local currency. Choosing to pay in pounds means the ATM operator or merchant can choose the exchange rate they give you - and this will seldom be as favourable as the Visa rate.
There are several different debit cards available from Nationwide - here are the fees you’ll pay to use them abroad.³ For this comparison we’ve excluded the specialist FlexStudent Debit Card and FlexGraduate Debit Card.
|FlexBasic Debit Card||FlexAccount Debit Card||FlexDirect Debit Card||FlexPlus Debit Card||FlexOne Debit Card|
|Non-Sterling Transaction Fee||2.75% of transaction value||2.75% of transaction value||2.75% of transaction value||No fee||Foreign purchases not available|
|ATM Fee (non-sterling cash fee) *||£1 + 2.75% of withdrawal value||£1 + 2.75% of withdrawal value||£1 + 2.75% of withdrawal value||No fee||No fee|
*ATM fee based on foreign cash withdrawal outside of the UK.
Let’s take an example, to show how the pricing works when using a Nationwide debit card abroad. Let’s say I share a meal with friends in a Paris restaurant, and foot the bill, which comes in at €200.
At the time of writing**, this converts to around £169.57 using the Visa exchange rate. Assuming you’re paying with your Nationwide FlexAccount Debit Card, there will then be an additional fee of 2.75% of the transaction value added - another £4.66. This brings the total cost to around £174.23.
** Fees and exchange rates correct at time of research (29/01/2020). For full details of Nationwide pricing and charges, see the Nationwide site directly.
Using a card when you travel is convenient and safe. However, you can get a nasty surprise after your holiday if you’re hit with fees you didn’t expect. This is where Wise can help.
|Save when you spend abroad - Get started with Wise.|
You can open a Wise multi-currency account online for free, order your linked debit card and get started right away. Hold multiple currencies in the same account, and switch between them whenever you want to, using the mid-market exchange rate, and for just a small fee.
Let’s see the costs of the borderless card compared to Nationwide Flex Account debit cards, as a comparison.
|Spend £100 on debit card in EUR||£0.37||£2.75|
|Withdraw £100 / month cash in EUR||£0.37 - £2.37. Cash withdrawals free up-to 100 GBP, with 2% fee after this.**||£3.75 if made in one single withdrawal - multiple smaller withdrawals may cost more.|
It’s always free to spend currencies you hold in your account - and you can use your card anywhere you see the Mastercard logo. Just switch your pounds to the currency you need and spend like local.
*Figures based on FlexBasic Debit Card from Nationwide, fees may vary depending on the card used. Figures taken from the Nationwide site, correct on 8 January 2020.
**ATM withdrawals with Wise debit MasterCard are free up-to £200 in a 30-day period, after this there is a 2% withdrawal fee applied. For details of see Wise account and card pricing.
Here’s what you’ll pay when using any of Nationwide’s 5 credit cards overseas. It’s worth noting that the Cash Reward, Gold and Classic Credit Cards are no longer available to new customers - details included for information and existing customers only.³
|Nationwide Credit Card||Select Credit Card||Cash Reward Credit Card||Gold Credit Card||Classic Credit Card|
|Non-Sterling Transaction Fee||Up to 2% of transaction value, depending on commission free allowance earned||No fee||No fee in the Visa Europe region - 1% of transaction value elsewhere||No fee in the Visa Europe region - 1% of transaction value elsewhere||No fee in the Visa Europe region - 1% of transaction value elsewhere|
|ATM Fee (non-sterling cash fee) *||Non sterling cash fee of 2.5% of transaction value (minimum £3)||Non sterling cash fee of 2.5% of transaction value (minimum £3)||Non sterling cash fee of 2.5% of transaction value (minimum £3)||No fee in the Visa Europe region + non sterling cash fee of 2.5% of transaction value (minimum £3)||No fee in the Visa Europe region + non sterling cash fee of 2.5% of transaction value (minimum £3)|
*ATM fee based on foreign cash withdrawal outside of the UK.
** 1% of transaction value elsewhere.
There’s no need to inform Nationwide of your plans to travel. If their fraud team are concerned about any unusual spending, they’ll get in touch with you - just make sure your contact details are all up to date.
Nationwide also recommend you use your chip and PIN card in an ATM or store at an air or sea port before you travel, so the fraud detection software can see you may be leaving the country.⁵
You can report your card as lost or stolen using the Nationwide banking app. Alternatively you can call the service team to report the issue and discuss how to get a new card, using the phone numbers available online.⁶
There are pros and cons to both credit and debit cards when you travel. A debit card typically incurs lower charges, because there is no interest to pay, and you won’t be charged a cash advance fee when using an ATM.
However, if you want to spread the cost of your break over a few months, or have a credit card with a great introductory offer or which earns you specific perks you want to use, credit might be the way to go. Plan your spending in advance, and check all the terms and conditions - as well as the small print relating to fees - so you don’t end up paying more than you expect for your well deserved holiday.
No matter where you’re headed, you’ll have more fun if you don’t need to worry about travel money. Do some homework before you head off to see which of your cards will serve you best while you travel. Or - even better - get yourself a Wise debit Mastercard to spend like a local all over the world.
- Nationwide FAQs: Using cards abroad
- Visa Exchange Rate Calculator
- Nationwide Support: Fees and Charges
- Wise account and card pricing
- Nationwide Support: Useful Travel Information
- NationWide Support: Contact Us
Sources checked: 29-January 2020.
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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