I will be in France and Italy for 3 weeks. Has anybody used the TravelEx Prepaid Master Card? My sister in law said it helps you avoid bank fees and conversion rates over there.
Here is an excerpt from an article we found in Budget Travel magazine that may help:
"Launched by foreign-exchange company Travelex in 2007, these cards can be used just like credit or ATM cards, but travelers preload them with a set amount of euros or British pounds (the only two currencies available for now). This seemingly nifty convenience comes at a cost—numerous fees (for withdrawals, inactivity, and to close the card) and restrictions (withdrawal minimums and limits per day). One plus: If the card is lost or stolen, Travelex will replace it; however, the company won't refund the money lost, and it will charge a fee for the replacement card. *$100 buys €68.34.
Exception! Though not very flexible, this option would work nicely for those on a set budget or for those who are sending kids off on a European vacation but don't want to hand over a wad of cash.
Basically, it will cost you more to use the card than its worth. There is no way to really avoid fees, but you can keep your fees low by just using your regular debit car in an ATM machine over there. Your bank will charge a foreign transaction fee but thats about it. You won't have any conversion fees unless you use a privately owned ATM machine instead of one associated with a bank. Make sure you withdraw several hundred euros at a time instead of a few at a time. That way you get charged only one fee for using the card. No fees for using cash. Also, when the ATM asks if you want to convert your money from Euros to US dollars, you should decline it since it is not the best exchange rate.
I hope this help some.
Go to their website and look at their Fees. http://www.travelex.com/US/For-Individuals/Cash-Passport/Fees-and-Limits/
There's a lot that's not clear, but I immediately see a 5.5% foreign currency fee, and fees to use foreign ATMs even though those ATMs themselves are not charging fees.
I don't see how this can be advantageous over an ATM card linked to a bank such as Schwab or CapitalOne, or a credit union, which has no ATM fees, no foreign transaction fees, and your foreign currency will come with a surcharge of only the .6 to .8 of one percent that the Cirrus/Plus networks are invoking.
Also note the inactivity fee charging you every month for not using your money and letting them hold it for you. Uh, you are doing them a favor by letting them invest your money, and you have to pay them? Or further sacrifice $20 to reclaim it?
Condensed Report: it's a screw job.
I have not used that card, but to really compare, you need to figure out, I give Travelex 1000 USD, how many euros of spending do I get, and what are the other options.
As an example, from the Travelex site, to get a card with 1000 euro on it today, it costs $1401.35
Using my Credit Union ATM/Visa card I could get the same amount for around $1275.00 (~1% cost)
Using my credit card, at the most it would cost around $1320.00 if I have a 3% international use fee
The Travelex card is costing you close to 10%, that would cover lots of fees. Point is, do not be afraid of fees and conversion rates over there if someone here is charging you more. On the plus side, if you were to take cash with you and change, the loss would be about the same, the card does offer some security in that only the amount loaded is at risk versus your credit line or bank account, and it seems to be Chip and pin enabled, just not sure if it is worth the cost.
There are prepaid cards that have no loading fees on currency conversion, no fees on purchases, but maybe ATM fees for cash. Travelex is not one of these. I know of 2 or 3 that work that way in the UK, but maybe there aren't any in the USA.
At worst, your bank ATM/debit card and your credit cards will charge between 3-5% for using them or getting cash. As shown by those above, that is far less than the fees from Travelex. And never use a currency exchange service unless it's an emergency or you just want to have $100 worth of local currency before you depart from your home airport. Exchanges charge between 10-20%. Buying a small amount of local currency from your bank might run you 5-10%
Your SIL is full of it. It might avoid bank fees and conversion rates over there, but the bank fees and conversion rates over here will kill you.
In short, avoid anything that says Travelex.
Historically the prepaid debit card, regardless of branding, have had significant fees attached to the cards which is one reason banks and others have been pushing these cards. These are not financial products that are protected by banking rules and regulations. The prepaid card is considered a gift card and is not covered by banking rules and regulations. The only rules (contract) that applied are the ones written by the card seller and their rules seldom favor the buyer. The standard debit cards provides a lot of protection and security so it makes no sense to even consider a prepaid card. Why would want to buy something that is more expensive and less secure? The only travelers who consider prepaid cards are those who bought the marketing hype.
However, it is my understanding (no experience) is that the prepaid cards sold in Europe are very different and function under European rules and regulations. And may, in fact, be a good deal.
Yes it is different in the UK, it is a competitive market. Traditionally UK people, having paid for travel and accom in advance, are used to taking their spending money with them when going on holiday although that is changing because of ATM cards. However the majority of UK banks do charge, sometimes high, fees for overseas use. We still say " tickets, passports, money" as a sort of good luck mantra before setting off!
We use 2 prepaid cards, one is Euro denominated and the other is for New Zealand dollars (Travelex!!). Both offer exchange rates as good as and sometimes better than debit cards and do not have any usage charges. The risk we take is that the exchange rate improves after we have loaded the card but, touchwood, likely to be small so stiill cheaper than using our ATM cards. There are some bad value cards on offer here as well but a bit of research should weed them out.
I appreciate all the comments. I will definitely not get the TravelEx card!