I travel a lot for work, so deliberately opened a Nationwide account to make use of the fact that they didn't charge for transactions made abroad. Now I see that they are going to start charging! How I can avoid being charged a fortune to spend abroad. Any suggestions please? Tom Taylor, Bath
Stuart Bensusan, Essential Travel.co.uk's Insurance Specialist replies:
You're quite right - Nationwide will charge people using debit cards abroad as of May 6 2009, and for credit cards from June 1 2009. Which means what was a quick and convenient way of getting foreign currency could quickly become very expensive.
And frankly, now that the pound is so weak, paying extra every time you buy something abroad really isn't an option. With this in mind, there are three options open to you. The first is to use a Post Office credit card - now the only one that doesn't charge for foreign usage. You might also want to consider using prepaid currency cards, such as Fairfx's Travel Money Card or Thomas Cook's Cash Passport - which essentially works like a credit card, but you pre-pay an amount onto it. You have to pay to get the card initially, but there are no further charges for withdrawing cash or buying something with it.
Probably the cheapest option of all, is buying your currency ahead of time, online. That way you can be absolutely sure of the rate you are getting - and it can be delivered to your door free of charge. And, if you're using thomascook.com currency exchange - www.thomascookmoney.com/ then it will be commission free, too.
Have a great trip! Stuart
You can buy commission-free foreign currency from EssentialTravel.co.uk here
Last Updated: May 2009