Credit Cards for Christmas Shopping Overseas

Nov 10, 2011   //   by Keith McDonald   //   Credit Cards, Money Saving Tips  //  Comments Off on Credit Cards for Christmas Shopping Overseas

Christmas shopping trip to Paris, Brussels, Cologne, Vienna, New York, anyone?

We could all do with taking some of the stress out of the Christmas shopping period, which only tends to add to an already manic list of commitments.

A trip to one of Europe’s finest Christmas market towns might be just the ticket.

Anyone planning to shop overseas for Christmas, though, even from the comfort of their own homes, should note the duty-free limits, which have been amended slightly in November.

HMRC’s guidelines for travellers or those ordering online show individual allowances before import duty and VAT become payable. Some of the basic rules regarding duties payable are as follows:


  • If returning from a non-EU country via commercial travel, you are allowed £390 worth of goods for personal use, with the exception of tobacco and alcohol. Above this, and up to £630, there is a flat rate of 2.5% payable. If any one single item is worth more than the £390 allowance, duty is paid on the full value of that item.
  • From November 1st, goods ordered over the internet or by mail order from outside the EU are subject to VAT if the package value exceeds £15.
  • If ordered goods exceed £135 in value, they may be subject to customs duty.
  • Duty-free quotas are strict on alcohol and tobacco brought in from outside the EU. Small measures of spirits or fortified wines are included, plus beer and still wine. Tobacco products can be combined but not exceeded to form the duty-free allowance.
  • A gift sent to the UK from outside the EU (between private individuals) incurs import VAT if the package is worth £40 or more.


  • There are no limits on the amount of duty-paid goods that can be brought back from another EU country, provided that they are for personal use.
  • Border staff may ask questions if you are found with the following quantities of alcohol or tobacco to establish that they are for personal use:
  • 110 litres of beer,
  • 90 litres of wine,
  • 10 litres of spirits,
  • 20 litres of fortified wines,
  • 800 cigarettes,
  • 200 cigars,
  • 400 cigarillos or
  • 1kg of tobacco

Full details of these regulations are available on the HMRC website.

Credit Cards for Travel

Credit CardIf you are fortunate enough to escape away for a break, what about the best method to pay for your goods abroad?

Credit card suppliers often apply hidden charges when their plastic wares are used outside of the UK. Such charges might include:

  • an extra percentage added to the sum withdrawal;
  • high interest on the transaction amounts, even if the balance is subsequently cleared;
  • and/or a cash withdrawal fee of 2-3%.

Debit cards are often astonishingly expensive to use as well. Providers will tend to add a penalty charge every time a card is used, making a host of small transactions very costly

Among Which4U’s credit cards for travel is Saga’s Platinum credit card (over 50s only), which offers a 0% charge on foreign currency payments around the world, plus free emergency travel assistance.

The Post Office Platinum card offers 0% commission on card use abroad and also waivers the 2.5% cash advance fee on foreign currency ordered through the Post Office.

Nationwide’s credit card operates a loyalty spending system, so that every £100 spent gives an allowance of £20 commission-free foreign currency purchases. Spending £250 per month on this card would offer the equivalent of £600 per year in commission-free transactions.

Are you planning a Christmas shopping trip abroad? With one of these credit cards, the savings really do mount up.. Why not make an application in good time and look forward to the extra funds you’ll have for those fabulous markets?

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