Travel Money Cards – Do They Offer Advantages Over Debit Cards and Traditional Credit Cards?

How do travel money cards work?

These cards are fairly recent additions to the cards that are available out there, and they give you the ability to place a certain amount of a specific currency on the card at a predetermined exchange rate, so that you have ready access to funds when you travel.

You can apply for these cards on the providers’ websites online, and the transfer of funds to the card can be made on the phone, the internet, or through SMS services, in some instances. At this time, only the pound, euro, and U.S. dollar can be uploaded onto currency cards.

How are travel money cards better than traditional credit cards?

One major benefit is that you will receive an exchange rate that is much more favorable than if you went to High Street and use the services of the bureaux de change. Another advantage is that the exchange rate of the uploaded funds is fixed, so there will be no surprises after you use it. Traditional credit cards and debit cards typically use the exchange rate that applies at the moment of the transaction, so you never know what you have spent until you see your bill.

Is that all there is to it?

Not at all. When you use a traditional credit card or debit card to make a purchase abroad, you are typically charged around 2.75% of the transaction as a fee for the foreign currency exchange.

These foreign currency exchange fees also apply in shops and eating establishments; however, a travel money card does not have these associated charges. The rates charged for obtaining cash with a credit or debit card can be very high, but since you have prepaid the amount on your currency card, it is not a loan, and there are no fees for the service.

Wonderful. Are there disadvantages to having a currency card?

Since you are uploading cash onto the card before your trip, your vacation is paid for up front, not with credit, so you must save for your trip. But, that may not be a disadvantage in the current economy. Currency card do have fees for withdrawing cash from ATMs, but the associated fees are much less that those incurred with credit or debit cards.

One example of this is that, when this article was written, NatWest and RBS both had a withdrawal fee of two percent, which amounts to about EUR6 each time you withdraw the sum of EUR300. Currency exchange cards, however, have a flat fee that amounts to as little as EUR1.50 no matter how much your ATM withdrawal is.

The major disadvantage of a travel money card is that you will be charged as much as 2.75% if you use the card for a currency that wasn’t assigned to it when it was issued. For instance, if you paid for something in U.S. dollars on a card issued in euros, then you would have to pay this foreign currency exchange fee. There are cards, however, that don’t carry an FX fee.

What about credit cards that can be used without FX fees?

Traditional credit cards like Post Office, Nationwide Gold, and Abbey Zero fit into this category. The first two cards, though, have 2.5% withdrawal fees for cash with a minimum charge of £3 per transaction, even though they don’t carry FX fees. This isn’t as good a deal as a travel money card, unless you don’t have the cash upfront for your vacation.

There are no cash withdrawal or FX fees associated with the Abbey card, however, which makes it the preferred credit card. Cash withdrawals do carry very high interests rates, though, which are at 25.9%; the cash withdrawal interest rates with Post Office and Nationwide are 20.83% and 22.9%, respectively.

Tell me more. So which travel money cards are the best?

The best card available for euros is the FairFX Euro Currency card, because its ATM fee is the least at EUR1.50; it has no foreign currency exchange fees and has fantastic exchange rates. Another euro card, the Indigo Travelcard Euro has just a slightly higher ATM fee of EUR1.95, but its convert fee is high at 2.75%. There is no convert fee associated with the ICE Travellers CashCard Euro, but the ATM fee is a whopping EUR3.

When considering dollar cards, again, FairFX is the best deal, as the currency card charges just $2 for ATM transactions, and it doesn’t have a convert fee. Another bargain for dollar cards is the ICE Travellers CashCard, because it does not have a convert fee, and the fee for ATM transactions is just $3. Keep in mind that when there is no convert fee, the cards can used for any available currency.

What’s the best travel money card for world travel?

FairFX have just launched what they call an ‘Anywhere Card’ which at the time of writing appears to be the best value of all the travel money cards for worldwide use.

With a FairFX Anywhere Card there are no loading fees and no ATM fees! the only fee that applies is a 1.5% transaction fee which as far as we can tell beats every other similar type of card in the market.

FairFX have just launched what they call an ‘Anywhere Card’ which at the time of writing appears to be the best value of all the travel money cards for worldwide use.

With a FairFX Anywhere Card there are no loading fees and no ATM fees! the only fee that applies is a 1.5% transaction fee which as far as we can tell beats every other similar type of card in the market.

A Travel Money Belt: How Essential Is It?

When I am looking for peace of mind when I travel, I consider my travel money belt to be essential. The only way that I can be sure that I have control over my cash and other valuables when I travel, is to never travel without my travel money belt. The money belt of choice for me is a relatively small fabric pouch with zippered compartments that I fasten around my waist underneath my pants and completely out of sight.

I have become so used to wearing my travel money belt, that I feel like something is missing when I am not wearing it. I mean what else would give me the peace of mind that comes from knowing that all of my essential documents and valuables are securely and cleverly concealed out of sight in a belt around my waist, so that I can put my security concerns out of my mind and focus on enjoying my travels. It gives me a comforting peace of mind.

When my travels include a planned trip to the beach, I usually take advantage of the waterproof feature of my travel belt or money pouch rather than trying to hide it on the beach while I swim. I have discovered though, that unless I absolutely have to have my valuables with me while I’m at the beach, it is generally safer and easier to just leave them in my hotel room safe. The majority of nicer hotels will either have safes in the room or a place at the front desk where I can store my valuables.

In communal living or hostel situations where I can’t leave my Money Belt in my room or put it in a safe, I just keep it with me; even in the shower. I usually hang it from the shower nozzle in a plastic bag to keep the travel money belt and all the contents dry so that it is ready to wear when I’m done.

I have learned that just as with my luggage I need to pack lightly when it comes to my travel belt. I generally pack only the bare essentials in my Travel Money Belt. Some of the things that I consider essential are: my passport, which I am legally required to have with me at all times; my driver’s license, which even works just about everywhere in Europe, in case I need to rent a car on short notice; my credit card, which is necessary for car rental and extremely handy if my cash runs low; my Visa debit card, which is accepted practically everywhere for ATM withdrawals; my cash, only large denomination bills; my airline tickets and rail passes, because they are just like cash and very difficult to replace if damaged, lost or stolen; my important contacts with phone numbers and e-mail addresses, and my itinerary, along with a small plastic bag in case I need to keep the entire travel money belt and its contents dry.

Based on all that I’ve listed above, I think it is safe to assume that I consider a travel money belt to be essential when I travel and I highly recommend one to anyone else who is planning to travel.

Byron McDade has experience in many areas and just created some new sites. On this one he explains the concept and importance of using a Money Belt [http://www.money-belt.org/tips_for_staying_alert_and_safe_during_holiday_travel.html] when you are traveling, as well as offering hints, safety tips and information for the effective traveler who is considering the merits of using a Travel Money Belt [http://www.money-belt.org/travel_safely_for_the_holidays_use_a_money_belt.html] during his or her travels.

How to Get the Best Exchange Rate on Your Travel Money

The obvious answer to the question is shop around! No one currency provider will be able to give you the best deal all the time. If they could then they would be the only one left in the industry, why would anyone go to anyone else? The reality is that most of the providers have some unique selling point or niche where they are the best.

There are some generalisations that we can state right from the start. Firstly, online providers will almost certainly give you a better exchange rate than a high street provider. Secondly there is almost no good reason for having to pay commission on your currency order.

Right, now that is out of the way, lets look at those online providers. The exchange rates change constantly throughout the day so I cannot tell you explicitly who has the best offering because it could change before you had finished reading this. I will look at three typical providers that do business in different ways, but are fairly typical of their type.

Travel FX are a purely online travel money provider, you order your currency online, pay by bank transfer and they deliver, normally the next day, by royal mail special delivery. This is the cheapest option 99.99% of the time. They could be anywhere in the UK, it makes no difference so they are paying minimal business rates, and none of the expenses associated with regular retail.

TTT Moneycorp. You will not find any high street stores but they have a presence in all themajor UK airports. You can choose whether to have your money delivered by post or pick it up at the airport.

The Post Office. Order online and then have it delivered or pick it up at your local branch. Here you have a truly local service but still with competitive rates.

So which do you go for? Well there are other considerations to take into account, you could get a great exchange rate but then pay more in delivery charges than you saved. All these providers and the other in the industry have a tipping point where they will offer you free deliver. With so many options to juggle, exchange rate, delivery options and collection options and delivery charges a comparison table would be helpful.

One option is to use a price comparison website. Not many compare foreign exchange rates but a Google search for compare exchange rates or Euro rate comparison will turn up turns up all the big names that offer this service.

What none of these sites can tell you is when to buy though. Exchange rates vary day by day. On top of that if you are having cash delivered then you do not want to be caught in a postal strike. Be prepared and get your travel money in plenty of time. If you give yourself a week before you travel that is plenty of time to guarantee that you will have your cash before you go.

If it all goes wrong? British Airways will happily sell you cash on the plane and it is about the worst exchange rate you can imagine, but then you can hardly get off and go somewhere else at that point can you.

Compare Holiday Money is the top UK impartial travel money and travel insurance comparison website. They publish articles and regular blog posts with focus on saving money when you travel.

World Cup 2010 – How Easily Accessible Will Your Travel Money Be?

South Africa will become the first African nation to host the World Cup this year between 11th June and 11th July 2010. Minister of Police, Mr Nathi Mthethwa, has promised FIFA World Cup visitors and fans that “any type of deviant behaviour be it criminality or terrorism will be dealt with swiftly and with no mercy” during the month-long soccer spectacle. He also stated that South-Africa’s track record of hosting events of international importance spoke for itself. This includes, amongst others, the recent Indian Premier League IPL in 2009, which ironically was moved to South Africa for safety reasons.

Nine host cities are taking part in the internationally represented event which undoubtedly is the most exciting experience to descend on the country since the release of Nelson Mandela. However, five of these host cities, are in fact classed as small towns (Mangaung, Rustenburg, Port Elizabeth, Polokwane and Nelspruit). These small towns have limited resources, including access to an international banking infrastructure and foreign currency exchange portals. It’s often difficult to buy euros and dollars, and travellers often wait up to 48 hours for their travel money to arrive. To make matters worse, traveller’s cheques are often deemed unusable as many establishments won’t accept them.

It’s not all bad news though. One option to visitors who have foreign currency woes and who want to ensure that they have sufficient holiday money would be to take along a prepaid travel money card. Currency cards from companies like MyTravelCash.Com often offer the best exchange rates, and some even offer to buy back your currency when you return from your holiday. These cards are available in euro, dollar and pound denominations, so for South Africa UK travellers will be best off with the pound cards as then payments will only be subject to one currency exchange transaction. Any cross currency transactions will usually be at a more favourable rate than received with UK bank cards, and will be subject to fewer commission fees.

Currency cards work like any Mastercard or Visa card – you are able to make cash withdrawals from any ATM worldwide and like a debit card it’s accepted by most establishments. The cards are preloaded with foreign currency, leaving you in control to spend while abroad. If you run out of credit, you can easily top up your card, so you never need be without. Most providers let you top-up on-line allowing you to exchange euros or dollars anywhere in the world.