Hi all brilliant travelers! I am traveling to Ireland, UK, France, and Italy with my 11 year old son in 10 days! (eek!) I have a debit card with a Visa logo, a major credit card with a MC logo, and will have about $100 euro as starter cash. We have no desire or time to apply for any other international ready credit cards. We do want ease at many subway and bus stations, as well as wanting to use the Velib bikes in Paris. Which makes me think we will need a chip-and-pin card. We could just get the minimum amount $250 on a Travelex card. This way on the day we are using a Zipcar in London, there will be no issues at a gas station, and the bike rental should be fine. The Travelex card seems to take about 10% for their services, so on a small amount I am willing to pay for the ability to do what I want. Does this seem like a smart choice? Should I just give up the Velib idea in Paris and just rent a bike from a bike rental company instead to avoid hassles? What are your thoughts please? and fast! Mary
Renting things with a debit card (including pre-paid) is never a good idea. When you rent a car or even a bike, a hold/deposit is placed on the funds on your debit card, or checking account. That hold will be released when you do the return, but sometimes it can take a few days to clear. So you could run into some cash flow problems. You can get around this by heading to Velib's website and arranging everything in advance via your credit card: http://en.velib.paris.fr/Subscriptions-and-fees
Unless you get the Travelex card at the airport in Europe, you won't get one. They stopped making them as they are going to a chip and pin credit card "some time this summer" (or so I was told on the phone when I called to inquire prior to our trip.) http://www.travelex.com/US/For-Individuals/Cash-Passport/Chip---PIN-Cash-Passport-FAQs/
If you are comfortable with the 10% fee for Travelex, then that card should work.
Velib bikes are not often that useful for tourists. They were designed to keep Parisians from driving into the city center. The morning commuters get the bikes at the train stations and park them near work. Only the first 30 minutes are free, so you have to return the bike to a Velib station and lock it in within 1/2 hour, then you can take another bike and continue. If you get to a station which is full (because the commuters have taken all the spots in the morning), then you must continue on to the next station. It's €1 for the next 30 minutes (or portion thereof), €2 for the subsequent 30, €4 every 30 minutes after that. It will probably be more relaxing and possibly cheaper to rent from a bike company.
I do not think your Travelex card will let you rent a Velib bicycle in Paris. The whole enterprise is premised on users registering with a secure credit card with sufficient funds to pay for an entire bicycle or bicycles should the rental fail to be returned. Unless there is some kind of loophole (which would surprise me) the $250 card will not cut it. On the other hand you can use your regular credit card on Velib if you buy a pass online.