Travel money cards: the pros and cons
Carrying wads of cash around on holiday can be a pain, and also quite risky!
A prepaid travel card – also known as a travel money card or currency card – allows you to spend abroad just like you would back home.
What is a travel money card?
A prepaid travel card is a card – just like your debit card – which can be loaded with a range of different currencies before you set off on your travels.
A travel money card is not a credit card, so you needn’t worry about running up any unwanted debts when using them – you can only spend as much as you choose to put on.
These pre-loaded travel cards carry either MasterCard or VISA logos and can be used to either get cash out from an ATM or purchase goods from retailers who accept card payments abroad.
How does a travel money card work?
If you’re travelling within the UK or to a country that does not use euros or US dollars as their primary currency, you should look at getting a sterling prepaid card. When you use this card abroad, the cost of your purchase will be converted into the country’s local currency by using an exchange rate set by your travel money card provider.
If you’re travelling to one of the 19 countries that use euros as their local currency then you should look at getting a euro prepaid card. This is the best prepaid travel card for Europe as you will able to check your exchange rate at the start of your trip.
If you’re travelling in America, you should choose a prepaid travel card with dollars.
You could also get a multi-currency card, which you can load with your choice of currency if you plan on visiting more than one country.
The pros and cons of a travel money card
If you’re reading this article, you might be asking yourself: are travel money cards a good idea? To help answer the question, here are some advantages and disadvantages of using prepaid travel cards, with more detailed explanations below:
Budget your money
No foreign-exchange fee
- They’re safer – Just like you probably wouldn’t choose to carry hundreds of pounds with you at home, a prepaid travel card allows you to keep your money with you at all times without the risk of losing it or having it stolen. If your card is stolen, contact the card issuer and they can block the card, offer you a quick replacement and sometimes give you cash to tie you over.
- Budget your spending money – We’ve all got carried away while looking around the shops on holiday. A prepaid travel card limits you to however much you preload onto your account, so you can’t spend more than you expected. In case of emergencies, we would recommend that you still travel with a credit card.
- No foreign-exchange fee – Unlike with most credit and debit cards, you will not be charged an additional fee for using your card to make purchases abroad with a prepaid travel card – so long as you have it loaded with the correct currency!
- Your exchange rate is fixed – Exchange rates can fluctuate depending on the economic climate of a country, but prepaid cards offer you peace of mind that your exchange rate will not change from when you loaded up the card.
- Special offers – Some prepaid travel card issuers will give new customers special offers when you sign up, such as free £10 credit when you load it with more than £50. Make the most of these deals by shopping around!
- Smartphone apps – Most prepaid travel card issuers have a smartphone app on which you can easily add money, exchange currencies or view your transaction history – just make sure you have Wi-Fi or mobile data where you are.
- Administration fees – some prepaid travel card issuers will charge certain administration fees – such as sign-up fees or monthly charges – so make sure that you shop around for the best deal and always check the terms of your chosen card.
- Delivery time – Your card can sometimes take up to two weeks to arrive in the post, so make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to receive it before you leave. You will need to wait until your card arrives to add any money to your account.
- Cash limits – If you’re looking to load a significant sum of money to your account (we’re talking thousands, not hundreds) then you may need to pass some security checks. It is a legal offence to carry more than the equivalent of €10,000 with you to another country undeclared.
What is the best travel money card?
If you’re interested in putting your holiday money onto a card then you should look online for a travel card comparison, available on most reputable price comparison sites.
Before settling for a travel money card, be sure to shop around and compare travel money alternatives – you may find it easier to stick to cash, or simply use your UK debit or credit card.
And finally, remember:
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