Pre-Paid Foreign Currency Cards: Are They Worth The Hassle?

Pros & Cons Of Pre-Paid Travel Cards

From travellers’ cheques and foreign currency to credit cards, there are oodles of ways to spend money abroad without constantly having to change your GBP at the nearest foreign currency exchange while you’re on holiday.

A combination of different methods is probably best dependent on individual situations but what does one look for when choosing travel money? The two key things we really want are 1) an option that’s convenient and safe 2) you’re not paying more than you have to.

Pre-paid foreign currency cards are a popular choice for travellers and holidaymakers that can meet both mentioned wants. But like anything, they have their pro’s and cons. Read on to discover if a pre-paid travel card is a good option for your holiday money the next time you jet off abroad.

The Good Points
Locked In Exchange Rates

One of the best things about pre-paid travel cards is the fact that you lock in your exchange rate on the day you add funds to the card, so if the Pound plummets while you’re away, you’ll still be getting a good deal on your holiday spends. It might not be as good if the Pound increases in value but it may not be as detrimental as you will have kept to your budget at a known rate.

Sticking To Budget – If You Have One

Unlike credit or debit cards, which allow you to go overdrawn, you can only spend what you’ve put on a currency card. This is a very helpful tool for sticking to your holiday budget. If you are using this method to curb spending, you may want to carry another form of payment in case of emergencies.

Load Multiple Currencies

If you’re going to be travelling to multiple destinations that all have their own currency, a pre-paid travel card allows you to load up more than ten currencies at a time, so you won’t have to pay conversion fees.


Currency cards offer a secure way to take your travel money away with you. If your pre-paid travel card gets stolen, thieves will only be able to access the amount loaded on to the card as it has no link to your savings or current accounts.

Points To Look Out For

Most not so good points come under choosing the correct travel card. It is not as simple as like for like comparison as they all have different fee structures. And make sure to check small prints before committing. A few things to look out for:

Steep Fees

Most debit and credit cards charge high fees when you use them abroad. They can charge a fee for pretty much anything from ATM withdrawals to shop purchase fees. The good news is that prepaid cards usually have much lower overseas fees, or nothing at all. What you need to look out for are reload fees, where you are charged each time you load money to the card and inactivity fees, which kicks in when you have not used the card for some time. If so, make sure that you’re happy with any charges that you might face when selecting a card to use on holiday.

There are a number of websites that compare the best pre-paid travel cards, so it pays to do your homework before you load one up with your holiday spending money.

Reload Times

Some pre-paid travel cards can take up to three working days to load or reload funds from your bank account, which isn’t much use when you’re in the middle of your holiday and need to top your card up.

Unfavourable Exchange Rates

This needs some checking not only between debit and pre-paid cards but between pre-paid and pre-paid too. Although pre-paid travel cards allow you the opportunity to lock-in exchange rates at the time you load the card up with funds, the rates you get may or may not be quite as attractive as you’d get with credit cards or with your bank. They usually are very competitive but bear in mind that prepaid cards providers offer different rates to each other too, so always check out the current exchange rates before choosing which option gives you the best return on your holiday spending money.