If you're going abroad, you don't just have to rely on your credit card or bank debit card to pay for things. You could use a prepaid currency card instead and leave your normal plastic at home.
The great thing about these cards is that you can simply load it up with funds then spend safely and stick to a budget when you're away. If your funds run out, you can simply reload usually over the phone or online.
What's more, unlike the majority of credit cards and debit cards, in many cases, prepaid currency cards won't charge you to make cash withdrawals overseas and you won't always be charged a foreign transaction fee when you use the cards for purchases in places like shops and restaurants.
So let's take a closer look to see how some of these prepaid currency cards compare. For this exercise we're looking at Euro, Us Dollar, Multi-currency and Sterling prepaid cards and their fees when used abroad.
Euro, US Dollar and multi-currency cards are fairly self-explanatory, as they are designed for use in the Eurozone, the US or in a few destinations and the rate is normally fixed at the time of loading. Sterling cards can be taken anywhere in the world and your money is exchanged from Sterling into the local currency each time you transact using the card.
ICE Travellers Cashcard
This prepaid MasterCard is available in Sterling, Euro or US Dollar versions.
All are free as long as you load £700 or more. If you load less you'll have to pay a £4.75 fee. The minimum load amount is £50-worth of currency.
Loading the Euro and US Dollar cards is free, but the Sterling option attracts a fee of 2.85% each time.
None of the cards charge for purchases or cash withdrawals, plus there are no inactivity or redemption fees.
You also earn 1.5% cashback on all purchases above £50/€50/$50.
FairFX Currency Cards
FairFX also offers three prepaid MasterCard currency cards – the Anywhere Card, the Euro Card, and the US Dollar Card.
It has its own exchange rate, compared to most other cards which use MasterCard's or Visa's, and it's generally pretty competitive. But to offset this there are some fees to consider.
When you apply and load £200 or over onto any of the three cards, you'll avoid the one-off £9.95 fee. However the minimum load is £50, €60 or $75.
None of the cards attract a fee for purchases abroad, but all three cards attract a fee for ATM cash withdrawals of €1.50/$2/£1.
To redeem any leftover balance will cost you £10 for Euro and US Dollar cards. Or 1.4% of outstanding balance for the Anywhere Card subject to minimum charge of £10.
Caxton FX Currency Cards
Caxton FX offers three Visa prepaid currency cards: the Global Traveller (sterling version), Europe Traveller, and Dollar Traveller.
A £10 deposit will be taken when you apply for these cards. However this will be added to your overall balance when you load the card for the first time.
You won't be charged any fees for overseas purchases or ATM withdrawals on any of the cards. However you will need to load the cards with a minimum of either £100/€150/$200.
Redemption fees cost £1.50, €2 or $3 depending on the card you have.
Travelex Cash Passports
Travelex offers three prepaid MasterCard currency cards: the Single Currency Cash Passport Currency Card, the Multi-currency Cash Passport and the Globe Cash Passport.
The Single Currency Cash Passport Currency Card is available in seven currencies: Euros, US Dollars, Australian Dollars, South African Rand, New Zealand Dollars, Canadian Dollars and British Pounds.
You won't be charged for ATM withdrawals or purchases. But you will be charged a 2% fee (minimum £3) for loading a Sterling card. And if you don't use a card for a period of 12 months, you'll be hit with an inactivity fee depending on the currency used (US $3.5, EU €3, AU $4.5, CA $4, NZ $5.25, ZAR R35 and GB £2).
The Multi-currency Cash Passport allows you to load the card with up to seven different currencies including: Euros, US Dollars, Australian Dollars, Canadian Dollars, New Zealand Dollars, South African Rand and Sterling. Sterling is the only currency which attracts a load charge of 2% (minimum £3).
It will pick the right currency for you, depending on where you are in the world, and if you don't have any funds in one particular currency it will draw funds (if they're available) from another. Be aware that doing this will incur a 5.75% fee each time though.
There are no ATM or purchase fees for withdrawing or spending pre-loaded currency in an applicable destination, i.e. US Dollars in the US. But the card does have an inactivity fee of £2 per month if it's not used for 12 months.
The Globe Cash Passport is Travelex's Sterling card which can be used worldwide. It costs a one-off £9.99 to get and has a flat fee of 2.49% on all foreign cash withdrawals or purchases. There's no inactivity fee on this card.
The redemption fee for these cards is £6 for the Single and Globe card or £6, €7, US$9.50, AU$9, CA$9.50, NZ$25, ZAR140 with the Multi-currency option.
Avios Multi-currency Cash Passport
The Multi-Currency Cash Passport available from Avios also allows you to load up on up to seven different currencies: Sterling, Euros, Canadian Dollars, US Dollars, South African Rand, Australian Dollars and New Zealand Dollars.
Like the Travelex Multi-currency Cash Passport it will pick the right currency depending on your location and if you don't have any funds in one particular currency it will draw some (if they're available) from another, subject to a 5.75% fee.
The minimum load/top up is £50. You won't have to pay a fee for purchases but there is a fee for cash withdrawals which depends on the country (£1.50/€1.75/US$2.30/AU$2.30/CA$2.40/NZ$3/ZAR20).
There is also a an inactivity fee of £2 a month if you don't use your card for 12 months but if you choose to redeem the card you'll have to pay £6.
The card allows you to collect one Avios point for every £1 you load onto the card, which offsets the fees if you're a collector. However, you'll need at least 9,000 points to get a free flight.
My Travel Cash Currency Cards
My Travel Cash is another option. There are three MasterCard prepaid deals to choose from: the Multi-currency card (which is loaded with Sterling), the Euro card, and the Dollar card.
There are no ATM or purchase transaction fees on any of the cards. All are free to order and subject to minimum loads of £25/€30/$40.
However you should bear in mind that these cards have dormancy (€1.25/$1.50/£1 per month) and inactivity fees (€2.50/$3/£2 per month). There is a redemption fee of €6, $8 or £5 depending on the card you have.
All of the cards pay 1% cashback on whatever you spend on them.
Post Office Travel Money Card Plus
The MasterCard Post Office Travel Money Card Plus can be loaded with one of eight currencies: Sterling, Euros, US dollars, Canadian dollars, Australian Dollars, New Zealand Dollars, South African Rand and Swiss Francs.
You'll have to pay a load fee if you opt for the Sterling version, which is 1.5% (minimum of £3, maximum of £50).
All of the cards have an ATM withdrawal fee, which varies depending on the local currency (€2/$2.50/AUD $3/CAD $2.50/NZD $3.50/R 20/Fr 2.50/£1.50)
You won't be charged a fee on transactions unless you have gone for the Sterling option which attracts a £1.50 fee.
AA Travel Currency Cards
The AA offers Euro and Worldwide (sterling) MasterCard prepaid cards.
The cards cost £9.95 fee, but you get refunded if your first load is over £100. The minimum load is £10 or €10.
There are no transaction fees and no withdrawal fees if you withdraw £50/€50 or more (the withdrawal fee will be charged but then refunded to your account). If the withdrawal is less than these amounts, then you will be charged £1.50/€1.50 respectively.
You will earn AA Reward Points on your spending. Be aware that a £1 a month dormancy fee will kick in if you don't use the card for 12 months. If you choose to close the card there is a £10 redemption fee.
Ukash Travel Money Prepaid MasterCard
The Ukash Travel Money Card is available for Euros or US Dollars and you'll need a minimum of £50 to top-up.
Neither charge fees for withdrawals or purchases in these currencies.
You won't be charged any inactivity fees but you will be charged €12.00 or $17.00 if you choose to close the card.
Virgin Money Travel Money MasterCard
The Virgin Prepaid Travel Money MasterCard allows you to load either Euros or US Dollars.
You'll need to load a minimum of either €100 or $100 when you apply.
You can use the cards to make purchases for free in the currency specified. However, cash withdrawals attract either a €1.50 or $2 charge.
There are no inactivity, dormancy or initial fees to worry about. But there is a redemption fee of €7.50 or $10 which may apply.
EasyJet Euro Currency Card
EasyJet has also got a prepaid card you could consider in the shape of the Euro Currency Visa.
You can get the card free if you load over £100. Loading under this amount will attract a £5.95 charge. However, there are no fees on purchases or withdrawals.
The minimum you can load is €60. ATM cash withdrawals and overseas card purchases are free of charge.
The card lasts five years. 12 months after expiry the card attracts £1 a month fee. Closing the account costs £10.
Other things to bear in mind
It's worth noting that some of these cards will add a fee if you use a credit card as opposed to a debit card or bank transfer to load them.
It's also worth bearing in mind that most prepaid cards do not benefit from Section 75 protection – unlike credit cards. So you should be wary making big purchases with them.
You are also likely to be charged for using your card outside the currency it was intended for. If you think you'll need more than one currency when you are away go for a multi-currency option or a Sterling card.
Many of the cards also have a cancellation or redemption charge when you stop using the card and ask for it to be closed down and any money refunded to you. This ranges from £6 to £10 in most cases.
How prepaid cards stack up to debit and credit cards
Norwich & Peterborough Building Society's Gold Classic Account comes with a debit card that doesn't charge any fees if you use them abroad. However, you'll need to either fund the account with £500 each month or have a balance of £5,000 in order to avoid a £5 monthly charge.
The next best alternative is Metro Bank, which offers a current account that doesn't charge fees when you use your debit card within Europe.
In terms of credit cards, there are quite a few cards that don't charge you for using them abroad – the Halifax Clarity, the Post Office Platinum, the Aqua Advance, the Nationwide Select, the Nationwide Credit Card, the Lloyds Bank Avios Rewards, Lloyds Bank Premier Avios Rewards and the Saga Platinum (only open to people aged 50 or over). You can find out more about these in The best credit cards to use abroad.
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