This is how you should use your UK Santander debit or credit card abroad

Gert Svaiko

Heading abroad? If you have a UK-issued debit or credit card, there are certain things you’ll need to know about using it in other countries. Otherwise, you could end up stung by unexpected charges and poor exchange rates.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at using the Santander debit or credit card abroad. We’ll cover ATM and non-Sterling fees, exchange rates, what happens if you lose your card abroad and much more.

And while you’re thinking about holiday spending, check out the Wise card. It’s an easy, safe and potentially cheaper alternative to a typical bank card, because there’s no mark-up on the exchange rate.

You can spend in 175 countries and your Wise card will automatically convert your money to the local currency at the mid-market exchange rate.


Learn more about the Wise card

Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

Can I use my Santander credit or debit card abroad?

You can use your Santander credit or debit card while you’re away¹, just the same as you might at home. This includes shops, restaurants, ATMs and transport hubs. You can even use your contactless card wherever you see the contactless symbol displayed.

With most Santander cards though, you’ll find that there are additional fees to pay when you use your card overseas. We’ll run through these later in this guide.

You should also bear in mind that cash is still the main form of payment in some countries. If your holiday is somewhere exotic, then taking some cash with you might be a sensible idea too.

Do I need to tell Santander I’m going abroad?

If you’re travelling within the EU, you don’t need to tell Santander in advance that you’ll be using your card in another country¹.

Flying outside the EU? You’ll need to let Santander know in advance. Whichever type of Santander account you have, the easiest and quickest way to do this is via online banking. Follow these steps:¹

  1. Log into your Santander online banking
  2. Select ‘Account Services’
  3. Click ‘Use card abroad’.

And that’s it - you can now use your card in a non-EU country without disruption (such as your payments being blocked or flagged as fraud).

How much does it cost to use my Santander credit or debit cards abroad?

Whether you choose to spend abroad using your Santander debit or credit card, you’re going to incur some fees. Let’s take a look at some of the main charges you need to be aware of.

Fee 1: Foreign exchange rate mark-ups

When you spend abroad on a Santander card, the bank will apply the day’s exchange rate as calculated by Visa or Mastercard (depending on which kind of card you have), to convert your purchase into GBP.¹

You can expect a small markup to be added from the mid-market exchange rate you’d find on Google. But usually the rates are pretty competitive, as long as you’re being charged in the local currency.

If you end up being charged in GBP you might run into exorbitant mark-ups because of something called Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC). But more on that later.

Good to know - the Wise card only ever uses the fair mid-market exchange rate, with no mark-ups or margins attached. So if you’re looking for a way to make your holiday money go further, it could be worth to check out Wise.

Register with Wise today

Please see the Terms of Use for your region.

Fee 2: Non-sterling fees

On top of any exchange rate mark-ups, Santander will then deduct its cut. This is known as a non-sterling transaction fee, or what the bank calls a foreign currency conversion fee. This is currently **set at 2.95%**¹ for most (but not all) Santander debit and credit cards.

Fee 3: ATM fees and cash withdrawal charges

Now, do Santander charge for cash withdrawals abroad? Yes, but there is potentially a way around it.

Santander charges 2.95% for ATM withdrawals on a debit card, rising to 3% for a credit card.¹ Plus, individual banks or ATM providers might levy their own fees on top of those your bank charges.

There is a way to swerve these fees though. If you can find a Santander cash machine on your travels, you won’t pay a withdrawal fee when you use a Santander debit card.¹

Fee 4: Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC)

Remember Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC), mentioned above? This is when you’re asked if you want your purchase to be processed in GBP instead of the local currency. It might seem like a simple convenience, but should most definitely be avoided.

Always choose to pay in the local currency, because the foreign currency exchange rates applied when using DCC are always pretty poor. In this case, the rates are set by the local company or ATM machine.

Unlike your bank, which has an interest in ensuring you’re happy with their services, a foreign provider, has no such obligations. They’ll mark up the exchange rate so they can pocket the difference, meaning you pay over the odds for no real benefit.

Fee 5: Credit card interest rates

There are similar fees as debit cards for using your Santander credit card abroad. But on top of that, you’ll also have to pay any interest charges you might incur.

Don’t forget, there’s no grace period on currency withdrawals on a credit card, so you start to pay interest as soon as you have got your cash.¹

Santander Debit Card

Here’s your at-a-glance look at the fees involved with using your Santander debit card internationally:¹

FeesPurchasesATM withdrawals
Non-Sterling Transaction Fee2.95%2.95% when using non-Santander ATMs

Santander All in One Credit Card

The fees for the Santander All In One credit card are a little different, and remember that there’ll be interest to pay on top

FeesPurchasesATM withdrawals
Non-Sterling Transaction Fee0%0%
Cash withdrawal feen/a3% (min. £3)

Most other Santander Credit Cards

If you have a Santander Everyday No Balance Transfer Fee Credit Card or Everyday Long Term Balance Transfer Credit Card, here are the fees for using either abroad:¹

FeesPurchasesATM withdrawals
Non-Sterling Transaction Fee2.95%2.95%
Cash withdrawal feen/a3% (min. £3)

What if my Santander credit or debit card gets lost or stolen while I’m overseas?

It’s worth thinking about how you’ll cope if your card is somehow lost or stolen when you’re on your holiday.

Whatever has happened, if you lose your card when you’re abroad, you must contact Santander immediately to report the loss. Here are the phone numbers you’ll need:²

  • For debit cards, call +44 1908 237 963
  • For credit cards, call +44 1512 648 725

The bank will most likely block the card and issue you with a new one. If you’re worried about accessing your money in the meantime, Santander will let you know whether you can still use your digital wallets², get a virtual card or access emergency money.

You could also look into getting card protection insurance before you travel, which could be handy if your card is lost or stolen while you’re abroad. This can be arranged through your bank or by using an insurance company. However, this will come at a fee. If you do take this additional protection, make sure you have all your policy details with you when you travel, just in case.

How to freeze a Santander credit or debit card?

While Santander advises customers to call one of the numbers above if a card is lost or stolen while abroad, there may also be options available in the Santander mobile banking app.

If you have a Mastercard debit or credit card, you may be able to freeze and unfreeze it in the app. This gives you time to look for your card without leaving your money unprotected. For Visa card holders, there are options to freeze your card in online banking

Is it better to use debit or credit cards abroad?

Your personal preferences and spending habits will dictate whether it’s best to use a debit or credit card abroad. But it’s crucial to understand the fees and charges associated with your specific Santander card, so you can make an informed decision.

Using a debit card is usually better if you intend on taking out cash from an ATM. That’s because the non-sterling cash fee is lower when using a debit card. Watch out though for extra fees added by local ATMs.

However, a credit card might suit you if you need to spread the cost of your holiday over time. Depending on which credit card you have, you could be eligible for discounts on additional services such as travel insurance. You might rack up additional interest costs, though.

Spending on a card could be safer than using cash, as your purchases will be monitored by your bank. You should also be able to get help if you're a victim of fraud. To get the most out of this option, keep all your receipts and check your card statements thoroughly.

The Wise card is one of the most convenient solutions for holiday spending. It works in 175 countries and automatically converts your money at a fair exchange rate. There are no hidden costs, and you can manage spending in the handy Wise app.


Register with Wise today

Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

What are some good tips for using a Santander credit or debit card abroad?

  • Make sure to tell Santander if you’ll be using your card outside the EU.
  • Keep your contact details up to date - if the bank thinks they see any suspicious activity, they’ll phone or message you to check everything is okay. If they can’t get through, this could result in your account being limited or blocked.
  • Take a secondary card away with you, just in case. It could also be worth keeping a small amount of cash on you for emergencies.
  • Sign up for Santander email or text alerts (if available) so you can keep track of your spending. You might also want to set a daily spending limit.

And that’s it - pretty much everything you need to know about using a Santander card abroad. We’ve looked at all the different fees and exchange rates for both credit and debit cards, and what to do if you lose your card during your holiday. All you need to do now is look forward to your trip!

Sources used:

  1. Santander Support - Travelling
  2. Santander Support - Lost or stolen cards

Sources last checked on date: 16-Dec-2022

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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