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Prepaid travel money cards reviewed

Discover which are the best prepaid currency cards to save money on your trip – wherever you're travelling to

In this article
Which prepaid travel card do you need? What exchange rate do you pay? What fees and charges do you pay? The best multi-currency prepaid cards
The best sterling prepaid cards Alternatives to prepaid travel cards Pros and cons of prepaid travel cards Prepaid travel cards FAQs

Which prepaid travel card do you need?

 

Prepaid travel cards, also known as ‘currency cards’, allow you to load money in pounds and spend in another currency.

 

They typically come with no foreign exchange fees on spending or cash withdrawals and usually allow you to lock in competitive exchange rates, saving you money compared with using your everyday debit or credit card.

 

There are three types of prepaid travel cards to consider packing for your next trip:

  • Single-currency prepaid cards are restricted to one type of currency, such as euros or US dollars. You can lock-in the exchange rate on the day you load cash – which could work in your favour if rates fall later. You'll also know exactly how much you have to spend in the local currency. There was a wider selection of these available before the coronavirus pandemic, however currently there are none offering single currency.
  • Multi-currency prepaid cards allow you to load several currencies onto one card, ideal for visiting multiple destinations. For example, you could have £100, $200 and €300 stored on one card in different 'wallets'. You can lock in rates by converting when you load the cash, or store some money in pounds to convert later.
  • Sterling prepaid cards offer the most flexibility, as you can load your card with pounds and spend in dozens of different currencies. Each time you spend or withdraw cash, the pounds are converted to the required currency at the exchange rate on the day. This may make it harder to forecast how much money you'll have available in any given destination.

What exchange rate do you pay?

Prepaid cards providers offer different exchange rates.

Some use the 'interbank rate' (the rate banks charge one another) and others may use Mastercard or Visa's exchange rates.

In some cases, a provider may pick one of these rates, then apply a percentage on top, usually between 1% and 2.5%.

When picking a prepaid travel card you should compare the exchange rates offered as well as the card’s fees.

What fees and charges do you pay?

Prepaid cards designed for spending abroad are usually cheaper than spending on your everyday debit or credit card. 

However, almost all prepaid cards currently on the market come with a variety of fees and charges. Common charges to watch out for include:

  • Application fees – some providers apply a one-off charge to open the account ranging from £5 to £10, though most will offset this if you load a certain amount.
  • Monthly fees – the worst prepaid cards will charge an ongoing fee just for holding the card. It can range from £2 to £5 a month, which can be hugely expensive over a year.
  • Top-up fees – if you're using a credit card to top up your prepaid card you could be charged a fee by your prepaid card provider. Plus as it counts as a ‘cash transaction’ your credit card provider could charge you a fee and interest. So it’s usually best to use a debit card to top-up your account.
  • UK and foreign ATM withdrawal fees – some prepaid cards charge for using ATMs abroad, usually £1.50 to £2 per withdrawal. Some providers will waive the fee if you withdraw a certain amount. You can minimise the risk of being hit with fees by planning how much you want to spend before you travel and taking out cash in one lump sum.
  • Cross border fees – if you use your prepaid card for a transaction that's not in your card's currency, you could be charged a fee of around 2.75%.
  • Inactivity fees – if you don’t use your card you could also face a penalty. Some providers will charge around £2 a month if you haven’t spent on the card within 12 months. 
  • Replacement fees – prepaid cards, like credit and debit cards, come with an expiry date, which can range between one and five years after opening. You'll normally have to pay a renewal fee of around £5 if you want to continue to use the account. 
  • Redemption fees – some providers charge a fee to get any money you haven’t used back. This can be up to £10 so it’s wise to only load what you plan to spend and nothing more.

Prepaid cards also often come with limits on loading and transactions, which could leave you in a tricky situation if you aren’t aware of them. For example, if you're likely to want to withdraw lots of cash, it's no good picking a card with a £50 or £100 per day limit for cash withdrawals.

The best multi-currency prepaid cards

 

Multi-currency prepaid cards allow you to load a variety of major currencies in one place.

 

We've analysed the main providers of multi-currency prepaid cards in the table below including the type of currency offered, fees for withdrawing cash and inactivity fees that could catch you out. Please note the tables are ordered alphabetically, not ranked in order of features.

Card name Number of currencies What exchange rate will you get? Card issue fee Load fees

ASDA Money Travel Card

 

More info

Currencies offered: Pound Sterling, US dollars, Euros, Australian Dollars, New Zealand Dollars, Canadian Dollars, South African Rand, Turkish Lira, Swiss Francs, Emirati Dirhams, Mexican Peso, Polish Zloty, Czech Koruna, Croatian Kuna, Swedish Krona and Japanese Yen. 

16 ASDA's own rates Free Free for foreign currency 2% GBP

Caxton Currency Card

 

More info

Currencies offered: Euro, Canadian Dollar, Hong Kong Dollar, South African Rand, Hungarian Forint, US Dollar, New Zealand Dollar, Norwegian Krone, Swedish Krona, Japanese Yen, Australian Dollar, Danish Krone, Polish Zloty and Swiss Franc

15

 

Caxton's own rates Free Free

Easy FX Personal Currency Card

 

More info

Currencies offered: Australian Dollar, Sterling, Canadian Dollar, Swiss Franc, Danish Krone, Euro, Hong Kong Dollar, Japanese Yen, Norwegian Krone, New Zealand Dollar, Polish Zloty, Swedish Krona, US Dollar, South African Rand

14 Easy FX's own rates £50 first minimum order for card deposit Free 

Fair FX Currency Card

 

More info

Currencies offered: Pound sterling, Euro, US dollar, Australian dollar, Canadian dollar, Danish krone, Hong Kong dollar, Hungarian forint, Japanese yen, New Zealand dollar Norwegian krone, Polish zloty, South African rand, Swedish krona, Swiss franc

15 Fair FX's own rates Free Free

Post Office Travel Money Card

 

More info

Currencies offered:Euro, US, dollar, Australian dollar, UAE dirham, Canadian dollar, Swiss franc, Chinese yuan, Czech koruna, Danish kroner, Pound sterling, Hong Kong dollar, Croatian kuna, Hungarian forint, Japanese yen, Norwegian krone, New Zealand dollar, Polish zloty, Saudi riyal, Swedish kronor, Singapore dollar, Thai baht, Turkish lira, South African rand

23

 

Rates set by First Rate Free Free for foreign currency
1.5% - GBP

Sainsbury's Travel Money Card

 

More info

Currencies offered: Euro, US Dollar, Australian Dollar, Canadian Dollar, New Zealand Dollar, Pound Sterling, South African Rand, Swiss Franc, Turkish Lira and UAE Dirham

10

ira and UAE Dirham

Sainsbury's own rate. Nectar cardholders get a better rate. Free Free for foreign currency
2% - GBP

Travelex Money Card

 

More info

Currencies offered: Pound sterling, Euro, US dollar, Australian dollar, Canadian dollar, Danish krone, Hong Kong dollar, Hungarian forint, Japanese yen, New Zealand dollar Norwegian krone, Polish zloty, South African rand, Swedish krona, Swiss franc

10 Travelex's own rates Free Free for foreign currency 2% - GBP

TUI Travel Money Card Multi-Currency

 

More info

Currencies offered: Euro, US Dollar, Australian Dollar, Canadian Dollar, New Zealand Dollar, South African Rand, Turkish Lira, Thai Baht, Mexican Peso, Bulgarian Lev, Croatian Kuna, UAE Dirham and Pound Sterling

13

 

TUI's own rates Free Free - foreign currency
2% - GBP

The Post Office Travel Money Card can load up the most currencies, however, charges apply for cash withdrawals at an ATM – so if you’re planning on doing this during your holiday, you might be better off with a different card.

FairFX lets you hold up to £50,000, 15 currencies and will let you withdraw £1,500 from an ATM – the most of any card. However, you will be charged £1 per foreign cash withdrawal.

Sainsbury’s and Asda had similar offers with free ATM withdrawals and £500 limits, however, Asda holds 16 currencies and Sainsbury’s only holds 10.

Caxton had one of the smallest withdrawal allowances at £300 but loads up to 15 currencies.

All the cards allow you to load money that is immediately converted to a foreign currency free of charge. However, you may pay a 2% fee for topping up your wallet with pounds to convert at a later date.

The best sterling prepaid cards

Sterling prepaid cards offer the most flexible option for travellers and our analysis shows they can be as competitive as single and multi-currency deals. 

We looked at the exchange rates offered, as well as fees you'll pay and maximum balances. Please note the tables are ordered alphabetically, not ranked in order of features.

Card name What exchange rate will you get? Card issue fee Load fees

Revolut Standard Account

 

More info

Mon-Fri, you'll pay a 1% mark-up on THB and UAH and a 0.5% mark-up for transactions over £5,000 per month. Sat-Sun, 0.5% mark-up applies to USD, GBP, EUR, AUD, CAD, NZD, CHF, JPY, SEK, HKD, NOK, SGD, DKK, PLN, and CZK, 2% to THB and UAH and 1% to all others.

More inf

Mon-Fri - Interbank rate*
Sat-Sun - 0.5% markup on major currencies, 1% on others*

Free Free
Wise Travel Money Card Interbank rate + 0.35% Free Free

These cards are convenient as it means you can load as much currency as you want into your account, however, you'll need to download an app to use them.

The Revolut card is free and you will incur no fees on the exchange rate if you convert money Monday to Friday – therefore it’s worth loading up and exchanging before the weekend. You'll be charged fees if you withdraw more than £200 a month.

The Wise card uses the interbank exchange rate but charges a smaller 0.35% fee every day of the week. It also has two fee-free cash withdrawals of up to £200 each month

Alternatives to prepaid travel cards

Prepaid cards are a safe way to carry cash overseas. But you won't be able to spend from your main current accounts or borrow money in an emergency.

A credit card with low fees on overseas spending can work out as the best option for purchases made abroad, as long as the bill is paid off in full each month. For a credit card with low overseas spending fees, check out the best travel credit cards.

Alternatively, many banks offer debit cards with fee-free overseas spending. We round up your options in our guide to the best debit cards to use abroad.

That said, applying for a credit card or current account for a debit card requires a credit check, whereas applying for a prepaid card doesn’t. So if you have a poor or no credit history it will be easier for you to get a prepaid card.

Currensea has launched what it calls the ‘first UK direct debit travel card’. This card is linked to your bank account which means you do not need to top up the card, as long as you have money in your account.

It provides a layer over your existing bank account that will allow you to spend in all 180 currencies without charges. It uses the interbank exchange rate for 16 major currencies and Mastercard rates for all other available currencies.

Currensea doesn't charge any non-sterling transaction fees or dormancy fees. For personal accounts, there is a 0.5% markup on the exchange rate. ATM withdrawals are free under a limit of £500 a month. After this, a 2% fee will be applied.

Pros and cons of prepaid travel cards

If you’re considering getting a prepaid travel card, here are the pros and cons to weigh up. 

Each card provider will have its own terms and conditions, so read them carefully before you sign up.

Prepaid travel cards FAQs

Still have questions about prepaid travel cards? Take a look at our FAQs to see if we have the answer.

 

Are prepaid cards secure?

 

Prepaid cards offer a secure way to carry cash when abroad.

They come with the same security features as credit and debit cards, so you need a Pin to withdraw cash or use them in person. However, many are now contactless so you may not need a Pin for smaller purchases.

It's also worth bearing in mind that prepaid cards offer no protection for losses under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.

However, redress may be possible under the MasterCard or Visa chargeback scheme.

 

What if the prepaid card provider goes bust?

 

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme does not cover deposits onto prepaid cards.

Most prepaid providers will deposit customers' cash in a ring-fenced account held in a bank or building society. So, if the prepaid company goes bust, your money should be protected by the bank holding your cash.

However, if the bank or building society fails, your cash won't be protected. So you should never store lots of money on a prepaid card, just what you need to spend in the near future.

 

Where can I use a prepaid travel card?

 

Prepaid cards are usually issued by major card networks like Visa or Mastercard, meaning they can be used in millions of places around the world, as well as online, just like a debit or credit card.

You should be able to use your card at most ATMs abroad, and at most retailers that accept card payments.

However, there are some notable exceptions to this, including car hire firms, hotels and petrol stations that require pre-authorisation.

 

 

Should I pay in pounds or in the local currency?

 

When abroad you will sometimes be asked if you want to pay or withdraw cash in sterling or the local currency. This is called dynamic currency conversion and is usually best avoided.

With a specialist prepaid card you’ll get a better rate paying in the foreign currency rather than in sterling. In fact, you might be charged a fee for paying in sterling if you don’t have a multi-currency card.

 

What happens if my prepaid card is lost or stolen?

 

Like travellers cheques, your money is safe and will be replaced if the prepaid card is lost or stolen. 

However, you might be charged for calling the customer helpline and for emergency card replacement by courier.

Exceptions include Travelex, which operates a 24-7 freephone emergency number and offers free money transfer anywhere in the world for lost or stolen prepaid cards.

As long as you contact the provider of your prepaid card and get it blocked, you shouldn't lose out on any money, though you may have to pay up to £10 for a replacement card. 

Bear in mind that if your prepaid card is contactless it could be used for a series of small, fraudulent transactions, so always alert your card provider as soon as possible. It's also worth alerting local police or security services if there's been a theft – you may need an incident number to claim losses back on your travel insurance.

 

Why can't I use it for car hire or a hotel room?

 

Most prepaid cards don’t allow you to make pre-authorised transactions. These are often required when you have to pay for something where the final cost hasn’t been decided, or where you use the service before paying.

As such, you may not be able to use your prepaid car to pay for petrol at the pump, hire a car, or pay for a hotel room.

 

What if I have an emergency or run out of money overseas?

 

You'll be able to load more money onto your prepaid card after you've activated it, usually through the provider website or app.

Most cards have daily withdrawal limits, so make sure you can withdraw enough cash to cover your spending for the full day.

Keep in mind that prepaid cards don't have a borrowing facility, so you won't be able to rely on it for emergency funds. For this reason, it can be wise to bring a travel credit card overseas with you, in case you need to buy flights home or pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses.

 

 

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