Travelex has launched the Supercard, a new prepaid card for travellers which allows them to skip a number of fees.
There is no exchange rate fees or cash withdrawal fees to worry about, and no credit check either. You just need to be over 18 and own a smartphone or tablet.
The card is only being released on a trial basis, so when Travelex gets enough interest, it'll withdraw the offer. The website is currently "experiencing significant demand" and may not work straight away.
How to use it
The Travelex Supercard is a prepaid card, but you don't load it with cash.
All you have to do is go to the Supercard app on iOS or Android and register. You'll then be sent a physical card to activate.
You can connect up to five existing debit or credit cards through the app (not American Express, unfortunately) and switch between them. If they are a reward card, you'll still get your normal points and rewards for using them, too.
Spend abroad like you would do with any regular card - it's processed by your bank as a domestic payment. It converts to the same day Visa Wholesale Rate as banks get, without adding a nasty margin on top. You'll even get update to your iPhone or Android phone telling you how much you've saved in foreign transaction fees for each purchase.
For example, if you buy a $500 handbag in New York with your debit card, the average fee would be £10.02 based on rates from Halifax, Santander, Lloyds, TSB, NatWest and HSBC. You'd save £10.02 with the Supercard.
It'll immediately charge your bank account or credit card in pounds sterling at its top exchange rate and without fees abroad, even for ATM withdrawals.
It should be accepted anywhere with the Visa logo, but as it's a new card there's a slight possibility you might be turned away. Take a back-up card with you just in case, or have the money in cash if need be.
If you use the card to pay or withdraw cash in sterling you'll be charged £2 for each ATM withdrawal and 50p for every point of sale (POS) purchase, so it's advisable not to use it in the UK.
You also won't get Section 75 protection. This is added protection that you benefit from when you use your credit card. It holds the card company jointly liable with the retailer should something go wrong on anything you purchase between £100 and £30,000. But prepaid cards don't qualify.
If you're planning on making any major purchases, it's best to take a back-up currency card with you.
Travelex Supercard: new top prepaid card to use abroad
Once you have opened a current account with a bank or other lender, you will get a steady flow of emails, letters (and maybe phone calls) offering you a savings account, loan, mortgage, ISA etc to go with it. But while it may be tempting to have everything in one place, it's better to do the legwork and shop around for the best financial products. You can compare interest rates on loans and savings accounts in the 'best buy' tables in the newspapers, or look online on comparison sites. Remember you can still easily transfer your money between accounts, even if they are not with the same financial institution.
Whether you want to apply for a new mortgage or refinance an existing one, your bank will probably be very happy to give you an instant quote in the hope that you will go with them. They may not tell you that you can shop around at other lenders. A mortgage broker can give you an overview of the best interest rates on offer, and might be able to cut you an even better deal him/herself.
Want to cash in your jars of change that are sitting on your shelves at home? Many banks are not very keen on coins. They often only take it from their own customers. You will have to sort it into different denominations and put the coins in the bank's bags in set amounts (for example, £1 for coppers, £5 for silver, etc). Some banks only take a limited number of bags a day, or won't take any at busy times. Others take a different view: HSBC has free coin deposit machines in many larger branches where you pour your jar of coins into the machine and it counts them and automatically credits your account. Barclays, NatWest and RBS also have machines in large branches in city centres.
Bank employees now have a duty to point out that they only advise on the bank's products and don't offer independent financial advice. What they won't tell you is that even the advice they give you about the bank's own products should be treated cautiously. Bank staff are often undertrained, underpaid and overworked. (You could ask for the employee's qualifications before getting advice.) So do your own research and/or find an independent financial adviser.
Nothing is set in stone. Your bank won't tell you this, but sometimes it will waive a fee, for example an overdraft or an ATM fee, depending on the circumstances. You have nothing to lose by asking, if you can argue persuasively why they should waive the fee. Citizens Advice says your bank should treat you sympathetically if you can show financial hardship.
As stated in the previous slide, some things are negotiable – such as interest rates or waiving fees – if you can make a good case for it. In that instance, talking to an employee in person is better than filling in a form online.
If your account is overdrawn and you get paid, your bank could use this money to pay off your overdraft without your permission. However, you have a right to ask them not to do this so you can pay your rent or mortgage first. This is called first right of appropriation. You have to ask your bank in writing, and you'll need to write to them with new instructions every time money gets paid into your account. Make sure you write 'first right of appropriation' in your letter.
If money is mistakenly credited to your account, your bank or building society can recover the money, assuming they do this within a reasonable time. But you may be allowed to keep the money, for example if you didn't realise the bank had made a mistake and spent the money in good faith. You would have to prove that you spent it in such a way that it would be unfair to ask you to pay it back. You can complain to the Financial Ombudsman if you think your lender is being unfair in asking you to repay the money.
If you do have to pay it back, you could try to reach an agreement with your bank to pay it back in instalments without interest being added.
The Financial Ombudsman Service has more advice on what happens when payments have been credited to the wrong account. If you did something wrong - for example, by entering the wrong account number - rather than the bank, the Financial Ombudsman may still uphold your complaint. They consider whether the financial institution made it clear to the consumer that only the bank sort code and account number are used to process the payment, rather than the name of the payee. They will also ask whether the lender should have realised that the consumer had made mistake, and once the problem came to light, did the firm take reasonable steps to try to get the money back from the recipient.
If too much is deducted from your account, your lender may have to refund the full amount of the payment. For example, if the money is taken through a direct debit or credit card payment for a hotel room or car rental. When deciding whether the debit was reasonable, the bank or building society will take into account your previous spending pattern. But the bank doesn't have to refund the payment if you agreed the amount beforehand or were informed of the payment by your lender at least four weeks before.
If you don't have enough money in your account to cover a direct debit payment, your bank may not make the payment. It doesn't have to tell you that the payment hasn't been made, so the onus is on you to keep checking your account. If, on the other hand, the payment goes through, you may be charged for an unauthorised overdraft.
Travelex Supercard: new top prepaid card to use abroad
If you are a victim of a strike, or any other event beyond the airline's control (including ash clouds!), they must offer you a refund (in which case it's up to you to find a way home) or an alternative flight. While you are waiting for the flight you have the right to food and refreshment and accommodation.
If you are on a package holiday, your tour operator is entirely responsible for looking after you until you get back to the UK.
This is more likely to happen due to the financial crisis, but in some situations you are covered.
If you pay by credit card and it's over £100, you'll get a refund from the card company.
Your travel insurance may well cover you too, but check before you go.
Talk to the airline, and if it is temporarily misplaced they should arrange for it to be sent to your accommodation, and you should be either given cash to cover the essentials in the interim.
If it's completely lost you must wait 21 days and then make a claim for compensation. If you are travelling as part of a package you can claim costs from your operator.
If you are travelling within the EU you need an EHIC card, which gives you access to public healthcare. However, this won't necessarily be free, and if you need extra services such as accommodation for a carer, a helicopter home or a delayed flight, you could end up seriously out of pocket.
The only protection that will guarantee you will be looked after without running up a horrendous debt is by having travel insurance - which often covers up to £10 million of costs.
The most common form of theft is pick-pocketing, followed by theft from a car and bag snatching. Meanwhile, 752,000 of those surveyed had items stolen from their hotel room or villa.
If you have anything stolen, your only protection is insurance. You need to tell the local police immediately and get a crime reference for your travel insurer.