How to Save £529.96 on Travel in a Year

The number one way to save money on travel…

What would £530 buy you these days hey? A flight to Cuba? A weekend for two in Italy? A month in Thailand?


Why spend the money on those once in a lifetimes experiences when you can spunk the whole lot on foreign transaction fees, purchase fees and cash advances on your debit and credit cards?

That’s what I ‘chose’ to do. Thanks to not keeping my eye on the ball over the last year I’ve spent £529.96 on the pleasure of withdrawing cash.

Absolutely livid.

saving money on travel

Just so you know, this post isn’t sponsored in any way.

How to waste as much cash as possible

The two accounts in question, the ones I’ve been using, are the Natwest Current Account and the MBNA credit card. Both absolute fucking rip offs. I kind of knew, but just thought all banks were the same.


Just a little internet research shows me this is not the case. In fact, if I put my Natwest bank account into moneysavingexpert’s travel card cruncher it tells me that my card is ‘one from hell’, when it comes to travelling.

How joyful.

This Natwest card, the one that I’ve had since I set up my uni account at 18, didn’t even work in Guatemala – leaving me screwed – nor in Japan – leaving me to use my credit card and incur even higher fees.

I get charged 2% for ‘foreign cash’ as well as a £2-£5 ‘non-sterling transaction fee’ every time I use an ATM. If I purchase on my card the ‘foreign purchase fee’ is £1-3. For every £200ish that I withdrew I’d have to spend about £8. This has led to £339.52 over 12 months (£28.29 per month) with no benefits whatsoever.

My interest is 0.05%, if the money was ever in there long enough to spend.


Every time I take out money on this credit card – which has absolutely no benefits either (I used to get play.com points, when I bought CDs) – I get charged £5 flat out, as well as a 7% fee on top. It cost me £36 to get £400 out in Japan. Yikes.

Transaction fees and cash advance fees on this card have ended up costing me £183.90 over the year, although I only really used it in my five weeks in Japan.

Keep an eye on things

saving money on travel

One of the biggest worries for people wanting to travel is how to afford it. They spend all this time saving up money and carefully looking for the cheapest hostels when every time they use their bank card they’re pissing money up the wall.

When I say ‘they’ I mean me.

The thing is, I’ve never been home long enough to look into it properly, or fully realised how much I was getting ripped off.

You have to keep an eye on your bank accounts, credit cards and savings. Banks are ready to rip you off and slash your interest rates at any opportunity. You know when you open an ISA and they make a big fuss about it? After a year they put you right down to 0.02% again, usually without telling you. If you’re not on 1.5% they’re exploiting you. I’d suggest you look at moving your money every April when ISA season comes around.

So, how to save £529.96 next year

how to save money on travel

After much research I have now opened a bank account with Norwich and Peterborough Building Society. Mainly because they don’t charge a fee for foreign cash withdrawals or spends. Any fee, whatsoever. The 5-minute sign up is what’s going to save me up to £530 next year. That’s how much two of us spent in two weeks in Vietnam, it’s a holiday!

I’m still keeping the rip off Natwest one, just out of habit. I know all the codes, access numbers and I’ve had it forever but most of my action will move to the other one. All it requires is £500 per month in it, or you have to pay £5. Even if I get that once a month it’s still cheaper than what I’m paying now – £60 vs £530.

I’ve also signed up for a British Airways American Express Executive Clubcard. I’m already a member of the British Airways Executive Club and in just a year found I’ve saved up enough points to bring the cost of flights I need down. I saved £30 on my last BA flight from Malaga, brilliant!

As long as I pay it off every month, I’ll save even more than the £530 in the long run.

With them I’ll earn 9000 points for spending £1000 in the first six months too – easily done with all the travel I have coming up – and I’ll get 1 Avios point for every £1 I spend too. If I lose or damage anything bought on the card within 90 days, it’s covered too. Sweet!

Control your money before it controls you

So the point that I’m getting at is that you need to keep an eye on your finances. Check your interest rates, your fees, your benefits and your APR and if you spend as much as me, you could find yourself £530 richer.

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  1. I need to sort my bank accounts out too. It wasn’t until me and Sam were applying for a mortgage and we actually looked at our bank statements properly that we realised we’d wasted about £500 between us on ‘bank fees’. And all from being too lazy to actually research which card is the best. Really mad at myself.

    1. So bad isn’t it?! I think when you have so many other things to look after and keep an eye on you just think they’re all kind of the same, well I do anyway. Can’t believe we’ve both wasted so much money, banks just have a way of skanking it out of you whether you have money or not with fees for this and fees for that.

  2. It’s always a pity for me to hear that so many people get ripped off on transaction fees! I’m using a Swedish bank, called SEB, and I never had problems anywhere with it, even in South America. And I never had to pay any fee. I guess I was super lucky with my initial choice!

    1. Wow, that is lucky! In all my research I only found that one bank that had no transaction fees, in all the banks in England. You’ve saved yourself a lot by making a good choice!

  3. The Halifax credit card has no transaction fees and tends to have the best FX rate of any card that I have, the other option is a Caxton FX card which is easily managed and no transaction fees, easy set up and had the card in a few days! (always good to have more options!!)

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