Pre-paid currency cards

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions
Perplexed © Dan Sperrin

Perplexed © Dan Sperrin

For a few years now, an alternative to carrying a lot of foreign currency or relying on credit cards has been the pre-paid currency cards but are there advantages?

ICE – International Currency Exchange – and a pre-paid card provider published some research a little while ago that compared the main providers and, as you might expect, ICE came out of it rather well. Most are free to obtain apart from that issued by FAIRFX and ICE will charge if you put less than £700 on the card whilst My Travel Cash Euro Card will charge unless you load €30. Let’s face it; it’s hardly worth having a card in the first place if you are only going to load it with €30.

None charge top-up fees (unless you load from a credit card) or monthly fees but three, Travelex, Post Office Euro Card and My Travel Cash Euro Card, do charge fees if the card isn’t used. AceFX, Tuxedo, Post Office Euro Card and FAIRFX charge when you withdraw money from a cash point machine overseas and some charge if you use a cash machine in the UK.

Some will offer add-ons like restaurant membership but generally, you shouldn’t be swayed by these. What travellers want is a hassle-free card that is inexpensive to use otherwise you might as well use a credit card. The argument that a pre-paid card will limit your spending and keep you to a budget is meaningless when you consider how easy it is to reload you pre-paid card.

The biggest thing to watch for is the conversion rate that each will charge. At Friday close (12th of June) the tourist rate to but euros was about £1 = €1.3498. Rates offered by pre-paid card suppliers ranged anywhere from €1.27 to €1.35 giving an 8 cents in the euro difference. Those offering anything below €1.30 were profiting very nicely from any give-aways or incentives they offered. At those rates it is cheaper to use a credit or debit card and you’ll save money. Anything less than about €1.33 you should reject unless you can see a really good reason for using them.

As with all holiday purchasers; check the small print and compare it with the tourist rates that are listed on the BBC website or the newspapers.

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