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AAA Visa Travel Money Card / MC Cash Passport Card

Hi, I wasnt able to find any current forum discussion on this...
Has anyone had the recent experience of using the AAA Visa Travel Money Card or AAA Master Card Cash Passport Card? We are leaving for France in a few weeks and are trying to figure out the best approach to having some cash in hand during our trip. These look like fairly good options - like a prepaid card to use at the ATMs.
We also use PNC but aren't sure about taking money out at foreign ATMs with that card (Visa check/debit card). And we have a credit card to use for larger purchases (with an unfortunate foreign transaction fee but oh well).
Thanks in advance!

Posted by
16769 posts

Rick's advice at http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money/card-fees is evergreen:

Don’t bother with prepaid cards. It’s possible to buy prepaid “cash cards” — which you load with funds before you leave, then use like any other credit or debit card — but they come with high fees and aren’t worth considering for most trips.

The same has been said in recent discussions in the forum.

A Visa debit card tied to your home checking account will be accepted by ATMs all over Europe.

Posted by
2518 posts

I've used my PNC Bank debit card in ATMs all over France and never had a problem getting Euros. Make sure to call the bank and inform them of your trip before you leave.

Posted by
20628 posts

Prepaid cash cards tend to be expensive. On the order of about 8 to 10%. The Walmart cash card is the only that I have seen recently that has reasonable fees - in the range of 5%. A couple of years the fees for the AAA cash card was 12%. Could have changed since then. HOWEVER ---- The cheapest and most convenient way to obtain local currency is always a debit card at a bank owned ATM. Nothing is cheaper unless you are printing you own money. As long as your debit card is branded as VISA or Mastercard, it will work fine.

PS - Should add that prepaid cash cards are considered gift cards and fall outside of the bank regulations (especially regarding disclosurer) that governing debit and credit cards. Your protection with cash cards is min. Banks, credit unions, others push these cards because they are a good revenue source.

Posted by
17656 posts

AAA Travel money cards features can vary with the individual clubs. I used to be able to go online and find out the details, and it was never favorable to them for me to find out, so they have stopped showing that information online (unless you are a member). Last time I checked, the local club was using Travelex, which charges over 10%.

I once found a pretty good deal (almost as good as an ATM card) for a prepaid card from Key Bank. That was some years ago; I don't know if it is still true. Nevertheless, I don't think you can beat using an ATM card with a credit union. Mine charges 1% over the exchange rate with no ATM fees.

I also have an ATM card with my Wells Fargo PMA account. I gives me two withdrawals (I raised the minimum to $750) per calendar month (four withdrawals if the trip spans 2 months) at the Interbank rate and no fees.

Posted by
4499 posts

Most regular bank fees will total between 3-5% over the actual interbank exchange rate at the time your transaction is posted. Some here will recommend opening new accounts with no-fee credit unions and that is fine if you feel it's worth it to you. But the savings for a typical 2 week trip is less than $100.

As noted above, pre-paid cash cards typically have much higher fees, on average about 10%. Not much reason in my mind to use them over your regular old ATM/debit card. Do inform your bank and credit cards of your travel plans, with each country to be visited (and layovers). They need to know so as not to lock your card for unusual activity.

Some also like to buy a $100-200 worth of euro from their bank or AAA to have on hand on arrival. There are of course ATMs at the airports, but it saves you an extra step that day and has pretty minimal cost to you (most banks charge 5-10% in fees or inflated rates).

Posted by
661 posts

I have been using a "Travel EMV Card" (Mastercard) issued through my bank. I like this because I can load the card with whatever amout of money I will need and then I can use it at ATM's anywhere in Europe for my trip. The reason that this is better for me is that 2 years ago my credit card was hacked will in Europe and they ran up $20,000 dollars and maxed the card out in 48 hrs so I wasted time during my trip straightening this out with my bank on the phone (long distance). This card has a "chip" in it so it works everywhere in Europe and if the card is hacked they can only get what ever is loaded on the card, they have no access to my regular checking account or my regular VISA account. This works for me!

Posted by
25 posts

The AAA travel money card for the Carolinas club has $3.00 international ATM usage fee and a foreign exchange fee of 3%. Not even close to the 10-12% that others have quoted. As mentioned, though, other clubs may have different fees, so you should just contact your local club and find out the fees. They may turn out to be comparable to your bank debit card.

Posted by
7173 posts

Just stay away from prepaid cards. It's another layer of "stuff" you don't want/need to deal with.

Posted by
2525 posts

Would someone familiar with the Carolinas AAA travel money card identify ALL costs say for a card purchased, then loaded with $2,000USD, used for five ATM withdrawals in Europe at 200€ per withdrawal, and the cost to withdraw the remaining balance after returning home? Please then compare with an ATM card from a credit union or bank with neither a withdrawal fee nor an international transaction fee.

Posted by
23563 posts

Bruce,

I'm on the wrong side of the pond but I can conduct an internet search.

To use the card in question for that $2,000 load I'll see if I can run the numbers. As I am not a AAA member in the Carolinas I can't see the Purchase Fee nor the Reload Fee, as you have to inquire at your local AAA for those costs. I'll guess and use $5 for purchase and $3 for a reload.

The Carolinas AAA website gives the following fees paragraph:

  • Purchase fee applies. Consult your local AAA office for details.
  • The minimum card load is $100; maximum load is $5,000 daily in branch, $1,500 USD daily online.
  • Maximum balance on the card is $9,999
  • Reload fees may apply. Consult your local AAA office for details.
  • Up to 3 Companion cards for $1.50 each
  • ATM Fee domestic: $1.50
  • ATM Fee international: $3.00
  • Foreign Exchange markup: 3%
  • Account Maintenance Fee per month: $1.25 after 12 months of inactivity
  • Daily ATM limits and/or Over the Counter Cash Advance: $1,000 per day
  • Over the Counter Fees for cash advances: $5.00
  • Replacement cards: $5.95
  • Emergency Cash (amount available): up to $1,000

So here we go:
Your hypothetical circumstances were:

ALL costs say for a card purchased, then loaded with $2,000USD, used
for five ATM withdrawals in Europe at 200€ per withdrawal, and the
cost to withdraw the remaining balance after returning home? Please
then compare with an ATM card from a credit union or bank with neither
a withdrawal fee nor an international transaction fee.

AAA Prepay card:
Purchase: $5.00
Load charge $3.00
5 European ATM €200 w/ds $15.00
Foreign exchange m/u ($1,111.36 x.03 = $33.34) $33.44
US ATM fee is $1.50 over the counter is $5. To get the odd cents and dollars and close card to avoid $1.25 a month fee over 12 months: $5.

Total costs as I figure it, $61.44

The cited fee free bank or credit union: $0.00
They will probably capture a percent or so in foreign exchange rate, but then so could the AAA card. It isn't clear.

BTW - I don't have a dog in this fight, I just like playing with numbers while watching Formula 1 racing.

Posted by
2525 posts

I think you nailed it Nigel. The mentioned travel card is VISA branded...the same as my bank debit/ATM card, so the exchange rate is the same. AAA (or underlying firm) adds 3% to the travel card. My card was free to receive, with no maintenance fees, foreign transaction fees, etc. Easy choice for me. There are seemingly a fair number of zero foreign transaction fee credit cards. Again, an easy choice for me.

Formula racing....a lengthy scientific equation?

Posted by
23563 posts

F1, Formula 1, where a bunch of men (soon perhaps women too?) drive very quickly in cars that now sound like angry bees.

Posted by
25 posts

The AAA Visa card was mentioned. I provided an answer. The snarky, smarta$$ comments from the 'regulars' on here are why I stopped reading this forum on a regular basis. Perhaps some people like the idea of using a card like a debit/credit card but not have it tied to any of their accounts. Perhaps people don't want to get yet another credit card. Just because the almighty Rick Steves doesn't recommend it, doesn't mean it's a bad option for every single person. But, if someone provides an answer that doesn't fit in line with the 'experts', apparently the SOP around here is to treat that person with contempt.

Posted by
2525 posts

Have I now been elevated to "expert" category with "snarky, smarta$$ comments"?
/s/ Just Wondering

Posted by
17656 posts

Gator,

I don't see where anyone here treated you with contempt. All they did was point out factual information that you didn't want to hear.

The last time I checked with the local AAA office, they were using Travelex with a 10% exchange fee to load the card. Other clubs might be different. But, with one exception, every prepaid card I have ever looked into had additional fees that made it a worse deal than a bank ATM card.

Even so, my credit union charges 1% exch. fee and nothing else. You admitted your card charges a 3% exchange fee and a $3 ATM fee. Plus, according to what Nigel found, there is a fee to buy the card. Any time they say, "Consult your local AAA office for details", what they are saying is, we don't want to tell you the fee because if you knew, you wouldn't want the card. If the fee were zero, they would proudly tell you.

"Perhaps some people like the idea of using a card like a debit/credit card but not have it tied to any of their accounts"

I've been on this forum long enough to know that "some people" are determined to make the cost of their travel as much as possible. Wanting a debit card that is not tied to any accounts is irrational. Set up a checking account with the same amount you would put on the prepaid card, decline overdraft protection, and get an ATM card to go with it.