Currency cards have become something of a revelation for frequent travelers, holiday makers and those that travel abroad for the occasional business trip. People no longer want to walk around a foreign country with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of the local currency in their pocket. The money can be misplaced or stolen at any time, ruining the entire trip as you worry about solutions instead of focusing on what you were out there for in the first place.
What is a currency card?
Essentially they are pre-paid cards much like the debit or credit cards we use everyday. You top them up online, by a bank transfer or via phone. The provider of the card will then transfer your native currency into the foreign currency for the country you’re visiting, e.g transfer Great British Pounds onto the card and it will be converted to Euros for you to use abroad.
Why would I use a currency card?
Those of us that have had the misfortune of using our debit or credit card abroad will have noticed the ridiculous bill that was waiting for us when we got home. Each transaction can cost anything up to £4.99, plus a surcharge of anything up to 4% of the value of the transaction. So, if you withdraw £100 from your bank account while on holiday in Greece via an ATM or make an in store payment, you will actually be paying £8.99 for the privilege of accessing your money! That leaves you with a few options; carry an obscene amount of cash around with you or make lots of smaller payments on your card — incurring an obscene amount of fee’s along the way instead.
Currency cards remove that dilemma entirely. You won’t be charged any fees for using an ATM abroad, unless the ATM provider themselves charge a fee, such as the ones we see in the UK which charge up to £2 per transaction.
The cards themselves are usable anywhere that you see the Visa or Mastercard logo and are used in the exact same way as your domestic card. Pop your card into the ATM and enter your pin. It’s safe, convenient and can be replaced if you lose it or have it stolen. If the card is stolen, it’s useless to the thief without the pin, so your funds will remain available!
In addition to all of these lovely little features, you will also receive a much more competitive exchange rate than you would from your bank. High street banks are notorious for charging a huge markup on currency exchanges, which can be avoided completely by dealing with one of the many tried and testing providers that we recommend here on CurrencyCards.org.
Why not just use travellers cheques?
If you have ever used travellers cheques you will know how fiddly they can be. You have to have your passport with you at all times to exchange the cheques for cash, which is a massive risk in itself. If you lose that passport, you’re going to have a difficult time getting home. Travellers cheques also have the negative aspect of unfixed exchange rates. If you purchase £1000 worth of Euros and the price of a Euro increases while you’re abroad, you will actually get a lot less to spend. This can make budgeting for your trip an absolute nightmare and has been known to leave people in awkward financial situations while in foreign countries.
How much do the cards cost?
Most currency cards are free of charge. The providers make a small margin on your currency exchange, while still ensuring that you pay much lower rates than you would on the high street.
What happens if I overspend?
You can’t! As with all pre-paid credit cards and debit cards, you can only spend what you deposit on the card — there are no overdrafts!
Are they reusable?
You bet! A currency card has an expiry date, much like any other card. So long as the card is still valid, you can use it as many times as you please, just make a deposit through one of the normal channels. If you have no intention of visiting the country again, you can simply call the provider and ask to “buy back” the currency, which will result in the remaining funds being deposited back in your account minus a small administration fee. If it’s just a matter of £20 or so left on the card though, you can use it in shops or at ATM’s in your own country and just pay the small fee associated with any such transactions.