Three leading prepaid currency card providers have pledged to improve their customer service and the information they provide about their cards following an investigation by Which? Travel.
A Which? Travel investigation found that the fees charged for the ICE Travellers Cashcard weren’t clear online and the information provided by the Post Office and Travelex about the potential problems of using prepaid cards to hire cars could be improved.
Go further: Prepaid cards – find out more about using prepaid cards for spending abroad
When not to use prepaid cards
Pre-paid cards shouldn’t be used for anything where you pay a deposit, such as car hire, bike hire or reserving hotel rooms, because this portion of money is ring-fenced, unavailable to use and can take up to 30 days to be made available again.
But some card providers were poor at telling customers about this ringfencing pitfall, Which? Travel Research reveals.
Which? Travel research on prepaid cards
To test the information consumers get before signing up for a prepaid card, we called six leading providers six times and asked questions about how to use the cards, the fees charged and what not to use them for. We also looked at the information that they give online.
Post Office – In six calls to the Post Office about its Travel Money Card, our researchers weren’t warned about the risks of using prepaid cards to hire cars or reserve hotel rooms. And in five calls we were advised that the card could be used for anything. The problem of ringfencing funds isn’t mentioned in the website FAQs, but is in the T&Cs. The Post Office told us it would review its training to ensure information provided is accurate, clear and explained the implication of using the card for car hire and deposits for accommodation.
Travelex Cash Passport – In four out of six calls that we made to Travelex, we weren’t told about the problems of ringfencing funds when hiring cars with its prepaid card. In one call we were told we could use it for everything, despite the company’s website clearly stating the potential problems if you hire cars or guarantee hotel rooms by using your prepaid card. A spokesman for Travelex said it was disappointed at our findings and was taking action to ensure that its customer service team gave comprehensive advice and information about using its prepaid card.
ICE – ICE advised us in three calls to avoid using the card for car hire. In five, it advised us not to use prepaid cards for hotel deposits. But in one we were told they could be used for anything. There’s no mention of car hire or hotel deposits in the FAQs on its website, but it does say that the card can’t be used for online gaming, casinos or motorway toll booths. The car hire and hotel issues are noted in the T&Cs. A spokesman said ICE has addressed the issues and will expand the FAQs to explain pre-authorisations on its website.
Card providers tested were Caxton FX, FairFx, ICE, the Post Office, Travelex and Virgin. All of the six card providers tested gave our researchers clear general information about how to use prepaid cards, what to do if there was money left on them when you get home and what to do in the case of an emergency.
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