Le plastique c’est fantastique: France comes top for Brits spending on credit cards

Spending on credit cards set to soar as Heathrow Airport reports busiest day ever for departures

24 July 2015

As Heathrow Airport announces its busiest day ever for departures, credit card spending abroad is set to soar as much as the temperatures this summer holiday season. Figures released by Nationwide Building Society show the average tourist spent £412 on their credit cards last summer, with France the most popular place in the world to reach for the plastic.

Holidaymakers reached for their credit card an average of six times per trip with hotels, entertainment and retail shopping being the most popular places to spend, customer data shows.

Using credit cards abroad could be costly if people haven’t checked the terms and conditions – typically, most credit cards charge 2.99% of the transaction value when the card is used outside the UK. However, Nationwide customers saved approximately £8m* last summer when compared to spending the money on a competitors’ card. This is because Nationwide’s Select Credit Card offers unlimited commission-free spending abroad, while the Nationwide Credit Card offers a commission-free allowance.

According to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), the ten most popular holiday destinations for British tourists are, in order: Spain, France, Italy, United States, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, The Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland. However, according to Nationwide’s figures, which recorded usage over the summer period last year (May-August 2014), there is a significant difference in how people use credit cards in transactions abroad.

Overall, British tourists spend more money on their credit cards in France than in any other country in the world, with visitors using them an average of 12 times per trip. Visitors to France will spend an average of £606 per trip, nearly three times as much as visitors to Belgium, who spend an average of £203.

The top ten most popular holiday destinations by country and the average credit card usage is below:

Details of the top ten most popular holiday destinations by country and the average credit card usage
Top ten most popular destinations (2014)** Average credit card spend Average number of transactions Total average spend
Spain £69.51 6 £448
France £51.17 12 £606
Italy £83.64 5 £451
United States £66.63 8 £500
Portugal £73.64 5 £393
Greece £95.37 4 £316
Turkey £64.78 4 £243
The Netherlands £68.93 3 £208
Belgium £74.03 3 £203
Ireland £67.30 4 £280

Outside the top ten places to visit, Nationwide data shows people use their credit cards to differing degrees. For example, people visiting Israel use their card their card an average of 15 times – the highest worldwide usage in terms of transactions recorded by Nationwide. The top six destinations for average card transactions are, in order: Israel (15), France (12), Brazil (10), Canada (9), South Africa (9) and Mozambique (9).

If customers are planning to use a credit card abroad, Nationwide recommends they notify their card provider before travel. This reduces the risk of the card being declined.

John Crossley, Nationwide’s Head of Credit Card and Personal Loans, said: “While some British tourists will take their credit cards for emergency use only, others will use them alongside local currency as the main way to fund their purchases.

“As France is the UK’s closest neighbour, it is no real surprise that more money is spent in the country by British tourists than any other country in the world. The country is popular with those looking for their two weeks of sun, as well as weekend city breaks and day trips.

“Often people don’t realise that most credit card providers make an additional charge, typically 2.99%, every time they use their card abroad. This could leave them with a nasty post-holiday surprise when the credit card statement arrives on the doormat.

“At Nationwide, our Select Credit Card offers unlimited commission-free purchases abroad, a feature that last summer saved our customers around £8m. At a time when other providers are removing incentives due to the recent reduction in interchange revenue, this is another example of how the Society rewards customer loyalty.”

Notes to Editor:

* Figure based on Nationwide credit card spend abroad between May 2014 and September 2014 at 0% commission free purchase charge against the same spend on competitor cards at 2.99%.

** ABTA Travel Trends Report 2015

The Select Credit Card is available to members over the age of 18 who use their Nationwide FlexAccount or FlexOne Account as their main current account or hold a Nationwide FlexDirect or FlexPlus account.

To qualify as a main FlexAccount holder, you must hold a FlexAccount with a Visa debit card (not a cash card or cash card +) and:

  • Have been paying in £750+ a month for the last 3 months (excluding internal transfers);
  • Completed an account switch to us (from a non-Nationwide account) using our Current Account Switch Team in the last 4 months

Nationwide credit cards are available to those aged 18+ and are subject to circumstances. Nationwide subscribes to the Lending Code.

Representative example – Nationwide Credit Card:
17.9% APR representative (variable). Based on an assumed credit limit of £1,200 and a purchase rate of 17.9% p.a. (variable).

Representative example – Select Credit Card:
15.9% APR representative (variable). Based on an assumed credit limit of £1,200 and a purchase rate of 15.9% p.a. (variable).

For full details and terms and conditions see Nationwide’s credit cards

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

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