The best prepaid cards for spending abroad
If you're off on holiday, a prepaid currency card can be a useful thing to pack. We take a closer look at some of the best ones on the market.
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 up your card with funds and away you go. Then, if your funds run out, you can simply reload the card.
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 either when you use the cards in shops and restaurants.
So let’s take a closer look to see how some of these prepaid currency cards compare. In this article, we're looking purely at charges as currency rates fluctuate.
We're looking at euro, dollar and Sterling cards. Euro and dollar cards are fairly self-explanatory, as they are designed for use in the eurozone and the US. 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.
One important thing to note is that cards that don't charge fees generally have a poorer exchange rate than those that do. You can compare rates on some of the cards mentioned in this article at the Timedial website.
Related how-to guide
Find out how to cut the cost of your flights, get discounts, tip correctly, spend wisely, get cashback and most importantly, cut the cost of your holiday.See the guide
Ice Travellers Card
This prepaid MasterCard is available in Sterling, euro or dollar versions. Which? says the sterling version has beaten euro and dollar cards when looking at a combination of exchange rate, loading and ATM fees. There are no withdrawal, foreign transaction or top-up fees on all of the cards, with the exception of the Sterling card, which has a 1.85% top-up fee.
You also earn 1% cashback on all purchases made with one of these cards.
FairFX Currency Cards
FairFX offers three different pre-paid currency cards – the Anywhere card, the Euro card, and the Dollar card. It has its own exchange rate, compared to most other cards which use MasterCard's, and it's generally pretty competitive.
The Anywhere card allows you to load up with Sterling. If you load over £500 onto the card initially then the card is free, but if it's less than that amount the card costs £9.95. There are no further loading charges once you have the card.
With the Anywhere card, you'll be charged £1 for every ATM withdrawal you make and a 1.4% foreign transaction fee for purchases you make.
On the flipside, the Euro and Dollar cards can only be loaded with either euros or dollars and these offer a fixed exchange rate – so if you decide to load your card when the exchange rate is strong, you can keep that rate on the existing money on the card (so it won’t be impacted if the pound weakens, for example). There are no transaction fees for using the cards abroad, but there IS a fee if you withdraw money from an ATM – €1.50 or $2 respectively.
Caxton FX Currency Cards
Caxton FX offers three currency cards – the Global Traveller card, Europe Traveller card, and Dollar Traveller card.
The Global Traveller card is the Sterling version. You won't be charged any fees for overseas ATM withdrawals or purchases. Although there’s no loading fee, you will need to load the card with a minimum of £100. Which? has also singled this card out as a good one for a combination of exchange rate and no fees.
Finally, note that a £10 deposit will be taken when you apply for these cards – this will be added to your overall balance when you load the card for the first time.
Travelex Cash Passports
Travelex now offers three prepaid MasterCard currency cards – the Cash Passport Currency Card, the Cash Passport Globe and the new Multi-currency Cash Passport.
The Travelex Cash Passport Currency Card is available in six currencies (Euros, US Dollars, Australian Dollars, South African Rand, New Zealand Dollars and Canadian Dollars).
If you buy yours online from Travelex, you won’t be charged for ATM withdrawals or purchases. But you will be charged a 2% commission fee 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.
The Travelex Cash Passport Globe is designed for use in countries not covered by the Cash Passport Currency Card. It has a flat fee of 2.49% for all cash withdrawals and purchases and a one-off purchase fee of £9.99. There's no inactivity fee on this card.
The new Multi-currency Cash Passport allows you to load the card with up to seven different currencies (Euro, US Dollars, Australian Dollars, Canadian Dollars, New Zealand Dollars, South African Rand and Sterling). 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.
There are no ATM or purchase fees for withdrawing pre-loaded currency in an applicable destination, ie US Dollars in the US. But the card does have an inactivity fee if it's not used for 12 months.
My Travel Cash
My Travel Cash is another option. There are three MasterCard cards to choose from – the Multi-Currency card (which is loaded with Sterling), the Euro card, and the Dollar card. There are no ATM or transaction fees on any of the cards. All of the cards pay 1% cashback on whatever you spend on them. Note that these cards have dormancy and inactivity fees.
Post Office Travel Money Card Plus
This Post Office card 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 only 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. They don't charge fees on purchases.
AA Travel Currency Cards
The AA offers Euro and Sterling (worldwide) cards. The cards are free if your first load is over £100, otherwise you will pay a £9.95 fee. 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.
Other things to bear in mind
Although I've mentioned that some of the above cards don't charge a loading fee, 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 to load them. It's also worth bearing in mind that most prepaid cards do not benefit from Section 75 protection – unlike credit cards.
Many of the cards also have a cancellation or redemption charge when you stop using the card. This is usually around £10.
How prepaid cards stack up to debit and credit cards
Both Norwich & Peterborough Building Society and Metro Bank offer accounts with debit cards that don't charge any fees if you use them abroad. However, the Norwich & Peterborough accounts require you to either fund them or use them each month, even when you're not travelling. Find out more in The best debit card to use abroad.
In terms of credit cards, there are five cards that don't charge you for using them abroad – the Halifax Clarity and Clarity Rewards cards, the Post Office Platinum, the Aqua Advance 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.
This is a classic lovemoney article that has been updated
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