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Splitting Incidental Costs...Visa Gift Card?

I'm (hopefully) going on a 16 day trip with my family (Mom, brother & his 2 daughters, sister & her husband, & my partner) in June 2022. We'll be visiting Rome, Florence, Alps, Paris. My mother has graciously offered to pay for airfare, lodging, and ground transportation. Yay!

The kids are responsible for everything else: Meals, museums, tours, guides, etc.

In a nutshell, it will be split between my brother, sister and me. I'm thinking I will get a portion from my partner and my sister will get something from her husband to cover our thirds. No sure if my brother will get something from his ex wife for his two daughters, but that's his issue.

I know we will be buying advance tickets for many sights and museums online before we leave, but my question is about incidentals, meals, etc.

Instead of keeping track and paying each other back later, what if we got a prepaid Visa Gift Card to use for these costs? Or perhaps another way. I know the Visa will have a 3% fee per transaction. Has anyone had experience with this type of situation and how have you handled it? Looking for convenient, safe, and easy way to go about this. Thanks!

Posted by
286 posts

Look into the app Tricount to use for tracking expenses. I've used the free version and happy with it. You can set it to equally divide any expense or split it yourself with specific entries such as your brother's share with daughters that would be larger than yours and your sister.

At end of the trip, the app specifies the expenses division totals for each person.

Posted by
3469 posts

Visa gift cards are generally considered to be a bad deal. In addition to the transaction fee, there is the exchange rate to consider; and you can be pretty sure it won’t be a good one for you. When we’ve been in similar situations, everyone just kept their receipts and reconciled at the end of the trip. Really not much hassle.

I just hate the idea if giving banks more ways to squeeze money out of us. On the other hand, if you don’t care about that, maybe the prepaid card is the way to go.

Posted by
3654 posts

If the brother’s daughters are young enough they may be able to order from a children’s menu or only one course so his 3 portions may be almost equal to the other couples. At least that’s what we’ve encountered when traveling in Europe with our grandchildren.

Your app idea sounds really great too to check accurately if that’s what’s needed.

Posted by
2950 posts

I’ve used an app called Splittr, from the AppStore and Google Play, for many years and many trips. It’s easy to use and is loaded with features. I don’t leave home without it!😂

Posted by
5697 posts

My experience has been travel with one friend, when adding everything up and settling at the end worked out fine -- we took turns buying dinner and admissions and by the end of the trip it almost evened out.
If someone in your group has a credit card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees, that's an easy way to consolidate costs before the split time. Another person could carry local currency for items that do not accept cards (get cash at an ATM using a debit card.) Souvenirs are of course personal expenses.

Posted by
24056 posts

There have been complaints in the past about some prepaid cards simply not working at all in Europe. (Some I believe are intended for domestic use only.) That's in addition to the extra fees users incur. I would search for another way. For example, you might, in combination with one of the tracking programs suggested by others, agree that each of you would initially pay all group expenses for 5 or 6 days of the trip, then settle up at the end.

Posted by
16 posts

I frequently travel with my partner and an assortment of family members. Because my partner and I are usually more "into" travel credit cards and stuff, and I'm the planner of the family, we usually have a lot of the incidentals paid for (I pay, they pay me back), far in advance. I think that actually created a sense that I was paying for things individually, which my mom then reacts against by feeling like she has to pick up meals/presents . . . To change this, we're going to use a mix of a Wise Card (previously TransferWise), which we can all send money to and convert to the right currency, and the Tricount app mentioned before to keep track of everything else. In case this is relevant to you, my partner and I also made sure to have a credit card that we both have a card for, that will be "empty" except for expenses we incur together on the trip. Previously our finances were more separate on trips (in a "Well, we've both saved up for this and know our budget" kind of way), but to have to split between us AND family members just got to be too confusing. The hope is we can use cash from our joint account or the cc for expenses that are just us ("surprise" museum entrance fees later on, coffee when we need to escape from the others), and the Wise Card (and a pool of communal cash) for things that are easier to not split between us four - some meals, accommodations that aren't prepaid, that kind of thing. We'll have a set amount in the Wise account beforehand, informed by my expected budget, and then we all have access to the account and can check in throughout.

Posted by
8624 posts

In addition to the meals that Mona mentioned, children will also have lower entry fees for attractions, so I’m not sure the brother with two daughters will necessarily spend more. And they certainly won't be drinking any booze !

Of course this depends on their age !

Posted by
500 posts

We traveled to Iceland recently with friends, and keeping track of how much everyone spends can be a real pain. What we decided to do is my husband and I paid for everything (rental car, gas, etc.), I kept track as we went along (I'm very organized that way!), and then we reconciled at the end of the trip. For meals we each paid individually. It really wasn't much problem with being out of pocket since we paid for everything with credit cards.

Posted by
9874 posts

Perhaps open a special dedicated account where everyone puts in 'their share' of estimated costs before the trip. Then use a debit/ATM card for the account to pay for your collective share of the expenses from it. At the end split what is leftover.
Just be sure to 'overfill' the account before the trip to preclude having to re-load it during the trip.

Posted by
5719 posts

I like the Splitwise App to enter meals, etc. for tracking. Then about 3/4 through the trip, the person owing the most can pay for awhile to keep it fairly even by the end of the trip.

Personally, I don’t like the large pooled money method or taking turns paying for meals method because we like to eat lighter & cheaper meals than the norm and usually skip desserts & alcohol.

Posted by
7749 posts

I believe its been reported multiple times here that the Visa gift cards dont work abroad, since they're not really credit cards. Anyone know different?

Posted by
507 posts

I was going to buy a prepaid Visa gift card for my Spain trip last month, but the fine print said it could not be used outside the United States.

Posted by
2088 posts

We went with our adult kids to Italy last August. They were responsible for lunches and all incidentals. We just figured it out and they paid cash. At the end of trip, my son had run out and just venmoed me in US dollars.

It was our second trip with them and both times it was pretty seamless.

Posted by
700 posts

Young folks now days use Venmo for sharing/splitting expenses. Don't know if it'd work overseas, though.

Posted by
2078 posts

hey hey Bart
read the fine print. i think they are only usable in the united states.
open up a seperate debit card and with each kid putting in money, say $500 each. let them use that to pay for their "everything else" or whatever they decide even amongst each other. someone will have to be in charge or have the account in two names (brother/sister or brother/brother), no worries when paying for things, whip that card out knowing the money is there.
if all used up, keep track and repay back when you guys all get back.
do a multi-city flight (USA-Paris-Alps-Florence, train to rome, Rome-USA) so no back tracking.
book early since june is a busy month, who knows where covid and other issues will be, make sure all covered and vaccinated, if you need a pass for paris, passports are all valid.
check all the sites you want to see how early to book online
look at for the cities and some are kids free with an adult, depending on age
check and different cities, lunch/dinners in residents homes, cooking classes/food tours,
tours around the city and classics
if tired feet for anyone, get a taxi cab.
always keep address of place staying. are you all staying together or renting two/ three rooms?
enjoy the fun times

Posted by
3898 posts

"Togetherness" while travelling can be both reassuring and vexing. My long-running group of friends (not relatives, and all adult) has learned to remain semi-independent. We make no attempt to do everything together. Folks can pursue their own interests, meeting up for the evening meal to share both the food and the day's adventures.
As to finances, all group expenses are paid by individual credit card, informally taking turns, with the receipts tossed into a bowl to be added up and divided on the final day. Less stress than trying to keep a running total for pay-as-you-go.
Fortunately we have a member who is adept with a spread sheet.

Most critically, talk this all out before you leave.

Posted by
22593 posts

You can make it easy or make it complicated. I vote for easy. We were on a couples trip -- I had small notebook - deck of cards size. As we travel, I just wrote it down when something that was shared was spent. Didn't keep any receipts or other records, just a quick entry in the notebook - time, location, amount. If we split something like a taxi and both had tossed in 10 euro then if didn't make the book. Sometimes at dinner, I would run through what I had entered just to make sure everything had been captured.

Another approach --- Some friends of our do this frequently with a fairly large family. They just designated one person as the banker and that person pays all sharable expenses. (And gets to keep the points as payment).

Have not looked at it recently but historically the prepaid debit cards or gift cards are a bad deal. Too many fees and too many buried fees you don't see.

Posted by
3493 posts

Visa (or MasterCard, or AmEx) pre paid cards work only in the US unless you buy one specifically for travel use outside the US. Those intended for foreign use have extra fees that further reduce the value of the cards. So not a good option for your intended use.

You also have to consider that all credit cards are for a single user and sharing the actual card may be difficult depending on how strict the merchant is in checking the user name.

I would do as Frank suggested and just keep track of who is using the cards and settling up with each user daily.

Posted by
1922 posts

Hi Bart, you have a large number of people traveling together on a long trip. I think there will be many times when you'll want to split up, perhaps agreeing to just meet for dinner. Even though it’s all family there will probably be issues with spending, someone ordering expensive meals, drinks, etc. I think it would be a better idea to pay separately, picking up mom’s meals on a rotating basis.

I don’t like the idea of a Visa gift card. I have a hard time getting rid of them in the states. In my experience vendors can’t track the balance available. I end up putting the card toward a single purchase and just paying the balance in cash.

Posted by
61 posts

After reading all the comments I think the best solution is to pay for meals and other shared expenses separately, as well as using an app like "TriCount" to track who pays for what. At the end of the trip compare totals spent by whom and divy up accordingly. Of course people will buy stuff on their own (souvineers, treats, etc) that won't go on our running total of shared expenses.

Thanks everyone!

Posted by
2988 posts

Why not use Venmo, as we do in the US? When one person pays, immediately everyone sends their portion via Venmo to the paying party.

When cash was king we used to put equal money into a common fund when traveling. However, Venmo has simplified that and made life so much easier! IMO

Posted by
61 posts

Because some in our group don't use Venmo...they don't trust it. I've had no problems with it myself and use all the time

Posted by
2988 posts

Bart, I would then say those people need to carry lots of cash to reimburse whoever at the end of the day. But/Or if they worry about Venmo taking all their money, they can set up a checking account just for travel and attach Venmo to that.