Travel Money or Travel Woes?
What do you decide on? Travellers cheques (do they exist anymore?) prepaid cards, debit or credit cards or stick with hard cash? Just what is the best option when you need currency for overseas travel? Here at 5dayguides.com we decided to consider the pros and cons of each one.
Despite the demise of the standard cheque, you can still get travellers cheques for use on your travels. The Post Office for example still offer them in five different currencies, US, Canadian and Australian dollars, UK pounds sterling and Japanese yen.
Considered to be a safe option as if they do get lost or stolen you can generally get replacements. Travellers cheques are registered to you personally through the issuing company but remember to sign each one as soon as you get them. Also, make a note of the serial numbers, you’ll need those if you do need replacements.
If you’re travelling for a while or intending on making some big purchases you’re also going to feel more comfortable with a few travellers cheques in your pocket rather than a wad of notes.
On arrival you’re going to have to find somewhere that you can cash in the cheque to get the cash. Now if you’re going to a large city that’s not going to be too much of a problem. Find a local bank and you’re sorted. As long as it’s not the weekend, early closing day or after 3pm in many locations. Arrive Friday evening for a weekend away and you might run into real problems. Likewise if you’re heading for somewhere more remote then you could have trouble.
We checked out a few locations on the American Express website to see how easy it was to find an exchange point. Murcia in Spain, pretty big university city but there was nowhere within 10 miles that’s going to swop a travellers cheque for you. If you’re lucky enough to be travelling to Bermuda, don’t take travellers cheques, they’re not been accepted since 2014. You definitely need to do you research on this in advance of leaving home.
Your own bank may issues travellers cheques for free but if you’re not an account holder, there may be a fee to pay. Also when you come to cash the cheque, there may be a commission fee which varies from bank to bank and also within different countries.
Prepaid Currency Cards
This is an area which has seen huge growth in recent years. It seems that every man and his dog is offering you their very own currency card.
But it is a case of buyer beware, do you really need one? What advantages might there be compared to using a standard debit or credit card? And what happens if you don’t spend all the money you loaded on?
Currency card are easy to use, all of the exchanging has been done before you left home and so you know exactly how much you got and what’s available to spend. If you do need to top up that’s easy too with many of the card companies offering apps or websites where it’s quick and easy to add more cash.
Using the card is easy. Anywhere that takes a credit card is going to take your prepaid card too. Generally you can also use the card to withdraw cash though check out any extra fees and how much you can withdraw each day.
If you don’t use a prepaid card within certain period you may find that you started to get charged an ‘inactivity fee’. It took some digging around but we did finally find within the terms and conditions of the Asda prepaid card that they’ll charge you a fee of £2.00 for every month that you don’t use your card. So if you’re not planning on travelling make sure you use up every last cent before you head home or add funds cautiously.
Check in advance how you can get cash from your card if you need to. WeSwap for example have a daily maximum of an equivalent to £500 and no more than two ATM transactions per day. With a FairFx card, you can make up to three ATM withdrawals a day and ten over a four-day period. If you exceed those limits the card will be temporarily locked for ATM usage.
Believe it not, credit cards can be a really good way of paying for your purchases whilst on holiday. But you need to make sure you’re using the right card; use the wrong one and you’re going to get home to be greeted by huge fees.
The Ones to Look Out For
This is the one that’s going to fit the bill for most people, the Halifax Clarity credit card. It has no fee for withdrawing cash overseas. Yep, you heard right, no fee. At least none set by Halifax. Do watch out for ATMS in bars, which may charge ridiculous fees to slightly inebriated tourists needing funds for one more cocktail.
Halifax also use the standard Mastercard exchange rate so remember to always choose to make payment in the local currency
Any downsides? Well as with any credit card, if you don’t pay off in full you’re going to get hit with interest charges. Though not as high as some, there is an APR of nearly 20% for this card.
Another option is the Post Office Platinum card. It too offers no fees on withdrawals though interest is charged immediately and as ever there may be local ATM fees to pay.
Like the Halifax card, there is no fee for overseas purchases but as ever get it paid off quick to avoid interest charges when you get home.