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Nationwide - FlexAccount
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The Nationwide Flexaccount's Visa debit card offers commission and fee-free foreign transactions within Europe plus fee and interest-free cash withdrawals from ATMs across the continent too.
Outside of Europe transactions are eligible for the 0.84% charge applied to non-sterling transactions by Visa, however, no additional profit-making commission is added by Nationwide.
The Nationwide Flexaccount Visa debit card is considered by many to be the best option when it comes to cash-based spending within Europe.
For starters, it doesn't apply the foreign transaction loading fees of up to 2.75% favoured by many debit and credit card providers. Granted, it does now pass on the 0.84% Visa charge to transactions made outside of Europe; however, this is as Nationwide state, merely to cover costs. Purchases made on the card within Europe are free from this Visa charge so don't cost you a penny extra.
The Nationwide Flexaccount Visa debit card also enables you to make purchases overseas without the worry of the foreign usage fees (often totalling well over £1 per transaction) added by some other current account providers.
Better yet, it trumps the top credit cards for spending abroad by offering commission free cash withdrawals overseas too - again, something not done by the vast majority of debit card providers. This feature in particular makes the card particularly appealing as even the best foreign-use credit cards aren't recommended for withdrawing cash as most apply elevated interest rates to cash withdrawals from the time they're made, adding to the cost of your cash considerably. The Nationwide Flexaccount Visa debit card manages to side step this issue completely and gives you an affordable way of withdrawing cash overseas.
The Nationwide Flexaccount is available to individuals over the age of 16 and, rather usefully, no minimum income is required. It's also fee free and relatively non-committal as it doesn't come with any requirements in terms of minimum monthly contributions either. This makes it a good option to consider as a foreign-use only current account for economical spending as and when you travel overseas.
When it comes to making transactions overseas both the Post Office and Santander Zero credit cards offer commission free spending although both apply rather hefty rates of interest to cash withdrawals and so, like most credit cards, aren't particularly well suited for this purpose. They both offer 3 months worth of interest free purchases so this is an added bonus should you wish to spread the cost of a larger purchase over a number of months.
The Saga Platinum credit card offers commission-free spending within Europe (to those over 50) and, like the Nationwide Flexaccount, only applies the Visa charge to transactions made outside of Europe. The Nationwide Classic Gold credit cards work on the same basis. However, just as with the aforementioned credit cards, neither the Saga nor Nationwide credit cards provide a means of withdrawing cash overseas that is nearly as economical as the Nationwide Flexaccount.
Despite this, using a foreign-use credit card for spending overseas can be a good idea as it provides you with protection against transactions valued at the equivalent of between £100 and £30,000 under Section 75 protection. This holds your credit card provider equally liable for your purchase should something untoward happen.
When it comes to debit cards and current accounts, while many are more competitive when it comes to day to day UK based spending, at the time of writing none measure up to the Nationwide Flexaccount when it comes to spending and withdrawing cash within Europe.
Until recently Nationwide absorbed the Visa charge loaded on transactions made outside of Europe. However, it has recently started to pass on the 0.84% charge and this is set to increase to 1% at the start of July. That said, it is still free from the 'profitable' commission charges loaded by other providers.
As a day-to-day current account for UK usage the Nationwide Flexaccount doesn't stand out against the competition as it doesn't pay any interest at all on in-credit balances and charges a relatively uncompetitive 18.9% EAR on overdraft balances.
IGNORE THIS ITEM ABOUT NATIONWIDE IT IS NOT TRUE NOW: THEY HAVE WITHDRAWN THIS FREE USE OF DEBIT CARE AND ATM THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. IT IS NO LONGER A GOOD OFFER AND SHOULD BE AVOIDED LIKE THE PLAGUE. YET AGAIN A BANK THAT HAS MOVED THE GOALPOSTS AFTER ATTRACTING CUSTOMERS WITH AN OFFER THEY HAVE NOW WITHDRAWN.