The travel comparison experts have drawn up a list of useful hints when using our current accounts abroad this summer. Research has shown Brits could spend over £670 million* in current account fees over the remainder of the summer.
1. Inform your bank – avoid having your debit card blocked whilst abroad
Occasionally, if your bank notices activity on your account in another country they can issue an immediate block to your card or temporarily hold your account, freezing your ability to spend in foreign countries. Notification to your bank is fairly straightforward and can be via phone, in person at any branch or through the bank’s website. The bank simply needs to make a note on your account. Reassuringly for Barclay’s customers, they have a holiday flagging service and Nationwide has a similar online notification facility for holidaymakers.
2. Leave the correct contact information with your bank
This is a simple ‘double-check’ before you leave to ensure your provider can reach you overseas in emergency circumstances. When your bank’s call centre representative inevitably asks you “is there anything else I can help with today”, you can actually say yes on this occasion and clarify your contact details!
3. Should the unlikely event of fraud occur…
Each major bank has a protocol they follow in the event of current account fraud. Banks pride themselves on top-notch security measures and will shut down accounts at the slightest hint of fraudulent activity. Specifically, Halifax and Lloyds make contact with customers via SMS, automated dialing and a call centre unit. Remember to take an international contact number for your bank with you and notify them as soon as you think your current account card is being misused.
4. Where is your debit card accepted overseas?
Not all debit cards work internationally so dig out a list of countries in advance, especially if you’re travelling through a few countries on a road trip or backpacking gap year trip. For instance, the HSBC debit card is not accepted in Iran, Afghanistan or South Korea, while Halifax and Lloyds’ bank cards will not function in North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba or Burma. However, Visa is more commonly accepted worldwide, and you can those countries where your card can be used, by logging onto Visa online.
5. Take contact numbers with you
As we mentioned earlier, take a note of the correct departments to contact at your bank in times of trouble and it’s worth noting that 0845 numbers are not always available from abroad.
6. ATM charges can be huge overseas
To avoid ATM charges completely, getting a pre-paid card (FairFX or CaxtonFX are current best buys) before you travel could help. They have no purchase, withrdrawal or foreign loading fees and are really easy to top up, either online or over the phone. If you don’t fancy taking a pre-paid card on holiday then ensure you understand the ATM fees your bank charges, the small print is boring but can save you money.
7. Do some budgeting for the period whilst you’re away
If your usual bills are to be paid with direct debits and standing orders when you’re sunning yourself on the beaches Europe and beyond, make sure you have the foresight to keep enough back to cover yourself so you don’t occur overdraft charges and a hefty ‘charges’ bill when you return.
Thinking about your current account may be the last thing on your mind as you prepare for a trip abroad. However, it’s vital that you consider the small print and any potential charges before you set off, particularly if you plan to rely on your funds from your current account. Notifying your provider of your whereabouts takes a matter of minutes and can prevent a world of bother should your account become blocked abroad. Minimising the risk of fraud to your finances should be a top priority, and one that can ensure your holiday is an enjoyable one.
* Barclays forecasts that total overseas debit card spending and cash withdrawals will hit £1.47 billion for the summer holidays.