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VISA or Master Card?

If you could only pick one pre-loaded debit card to take to Italy (for getting cash from ATMs), would it be a Visa or a Master Card?

Posted by
20718 posts

It would make no difference. Both networks are widely available and nearly always at the same ATM. I would not do either simply because of the fees (10-12%) and lack of flexibility with preloaded cards.

Posted by
606 posts

I should add that I'm asking because my brother is headed to Italy and he doesn't have a bank account of any kind, and no credit cards.

He was planning to take cash (USD) or traveler's checks. I told him traveler's checks are passé and carrying several thousand dollars in cash is bulky, risky, and gets a bad exchange rate.

I've seen these pre-paid Visa debit cards at the Wal-Mart checkout counters, and I thought that might be a good solution for him since it's useless without the PIN, so if he loses it he can just cancel it and switch his balance to a new card.

Their website HERE says there's a $2 charge per ATM cash transaction plus a 2% foreign transaction fee. That doesn't seem unreasonable considering that he'd only use it for large (like $400) withdrawals at ATMs. He doesn't plan to use it like a credit card at stores and restaurants.

But it seems like I've heard in the past that Visa isn't as commonly accepted in Italy as Master Card, hence my question.

Do you have another suggestion for someone with no bank account and no credit cards?

Posted by
31055 posts

Patrick,

As Frank mentioned, both Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in Europe (from what I've seen, the acceptance is about equal).

Using Traveller's Cheques is not a good idea. Not only are they passe, but could be difficult to cash at many merchants. They're probably more problematic than useful these days. I'm with Rick on this point - "I've cashed my last Traveller's Cheque"!!!

I'm not familiar with the Wal-Mart Visa product you mentioned, but it sounds like it may be a feasible option? Is there just a mail-in application for the Visa, or in-store staff to process the applications? If he can speak to someone, they should be able to answer any questions regarding use of the pre-paid Visa in Europe. That would be a much preferable option to Traveller's Cheques!

Good Luck!

Posted by
20718 posts

Maybe WalMart is doing something well. I am not familiar with this card. Is there any information as to the exchange rate that will be used for the card? If it is or close to the interbank rate, that would be good deal. The preloaded cards I am familiar use a poor exchange rate.

Posted by
606 posts

There's a "HERE" link three posts up that links to the Wal-Mart statement about the card terms. Of course, it reads like the legal document it is, but I think it says it's the same exchange rate as any other Visa card purchase in a foreign currency.

It says:

If your Walmart MoneyCard is used in a transaction that is submitted to the Visa or Interlink networks in a currency other than U.S. dollars, Visa will convert the transaction amount into U.S. dollars using its currency conversion procedure. Under the currency conversion procedure that Visa currently uses, the non-U.S. dollar transaction amount is converted into a U.S. dollar amount by multiplying the transaction amount in the non-U.S. dollar currency by a currency conversion rate. The currency conversion rate that Visa typically uses is either a government-mandated rate, or a wholesale rate provided to Visa.

Posted by
31055 posts

Patrick,

I had a brief look at the links you provided regarding the Wal-Mart Visa card. The card looks like a good alternative for someone that doesn't have a Bank account.

However, these can apparently only be re-loaded at "Green Dot" locations in the U.S. It would be a good idea for your brother to leave some funds with someone at home (perhaps you?) so that card could be "topped up" if he finds that he needs more money while travelling.

The fact that the card is pre-loaded is a good feature, as using cash advances on a credit card is NOT a good idea!

I'd normally suggest taking at least two debit cards in case there's a problem with one, but under the circumstances I suppose that's not possible.

Cheers!

Posted by
8715 posts

Two points....make sure he keeps the receipt of purchase of the card that states how much he put on it.

And, have him test the card at home. If it doesn't work at a U.S. ATM, it's not going to work overseas. This way, should it now work, he'll be able to go back to Wal-Mart, with the receipt, and get it fixed. Keep all subsequent receipts as well.

Of course, the obvious question is....is there a reason why he can't open up a checking account before he leaves. This would be much better.

Posted by
57 posts

My experience with preloaded VISA cards is with the ones already preloaded with $100. (There are smaller amounts you can get too.) You pay that amount (plus tax) for the card and are good to go. Because no PIN is necessary you can't use them in ATMs. I have seen cards that you can load with whatever amount you want but they say that anything above a certain amount ($500. was the amount if I remember) you have to do it at a bank. I do not know if you can get those with a PIN or not.

Is there a reason why he can't open a travel account to use for his travel? It would have an ATM/Debit card with a PIN. If he got an interest-baring checking account it would even get some (small amout to be sure) interest so it would have more in it. Then as he saves for his next trip he could put the money in it to grow while it collects. Just a thought.

Posted by
606 posts

Sharon R. said, "It would have an ATM/Debit card with a PIN."

The Wal-Mart preloaded Visa debit card DOES use a PIN, and their website says the card can be used at any ATM worldwide that accepts Visa debit cards.

While in places on their website they mention "Walmart Visa or Master Card", the cardholder agreement only mentions Visa, so I'm thinking my original question is answered by that!

Thanks everybody.

Posted by
1455 posts

Patrick
All Visa and Mc are not alike. The back of the Walmart preloaded one should have a symbol or symbols such as Cirrus, Plus, etc. That's the most important logo he'll need when withdrawing.

I've used my credit union ATM in a place that didnt' take that logo. After staring at the machine, I realized I had to find one that did that (whatever) logo my CU used.

Also Mastercard tends to charge a lower fee than Visa. But in your case, if you don't have a bank account and need cash, fees may be a moot point.

Posted by
2 posts

Patrick, you may be back from your trip by now. Anyway, here is the link to Travelex -http://www.cashpassport.com/. you can purchase a debit card and load it in Euros. I am going in August and plan on using one. If you tried another pre-paid card please post how it worked for you.

Posted by
2347 posts

A little info-often people who have badly screwed up their checking accounts and closed accounts still owing fees will be blacklisted from having an account at any bank for several years, even after they've gotten their act together. Or they may have judgements against them, an an active bank account will trigger those liens.

Patrick, how did the pre paid card work?

Posted by
606 posts

"Patrick, how did the pre paid card work?"

We didn't take one. When my brother went to get his card, a week before we left on the trip, they sold him the card then said, "your PIN will arrive by mail in a few weeks", which of course wouldn't work for him.

It took him days of pleading to get his money back, because Walmart policy is to never give money back on a "gift card". But the store manager finally had them give him his money and said they'd "deal with headquarters" later.

In the end, he just gave me his cash and I used my debit card to get him cash in Italy. Since I was always able to use a credit card to pay for lodging, it was no problem to take enough cash on the debit card to pay all our daily needs.

Posted by
103 posts

Frank, Visa has fees of 10-12%? I thought it was 3% + $5 or whatever the ATM charges for use?

Posted by
103 posts

Sorry, sorry... I see. I think you are talking about credit cards. I use a Visa debit card. For me, using the card at a European ATM should be 3% + $5 or something. Ok, phew...

Posted by
495 posts

Ben; the fees should be the same for credit and debit cards - somewhere between 0 and 3% depending on your bank.

I think Frank was talking about pre-loaded debit cards - the type that aren't connected to an account. Some of these have higher than usual fees, either usage fees or buried in the exchange rate. On the other hand some just have the usual network fees so it is worth reading the small print and making sure you know how much you are paying for what.

Posted by
7737 posts

I'll repeat my oft-stated advice here: Check out Capital One's money market accounts where you can get an ATM card with NO FEES at all. You even make some interest. Why anyone would do anything else is beyond me, unless you just have more money than you know what to do with.

It needs to be a money market account, so you'll have to have liquid funds ready to deposit into it.

Posted by
20718 posts

I was referencing the PRE-LOADED cards. These cards are NOT subject to the same banking rules as debit and credit cards. Years ago it was common practice for debit and credit cards to bury their fees in the exchange rate. A class action law suit forced the card issuers to clearly show the fees that they are accessing to card holders. This does not apply to the network fee which is buried in the exchange rate since it is a "cost of doing business" for the card issuers. The pre-load cards are considered gift cards and are out side of these regulations. The key to understanding these cards is the exchange rate used. Without knowing that you cannot judge anything.

Posted by
1 posts

The Wal-Mart pre-paid Visa is the way to go. U can reload it at ANY Wal-mart as well as receive cash back at ANY Wal-mart at no fee. Now I don't know if there are any Wal-Marts where you are traveling, but I used mine in Mexico(at Wal-Mart)with no issues!

Posted by
35 posts

I have to thank so many people on this site for sharing such useful information.I learned so much today by reading this post. Last year I went to Italy. Before we left the U.S. we exchanged money at the airport. I thought this was a smart thing to do. Today I called a local credit union. I will be able to use my NEW debit card in Italy without foreign transaction fees. It will cost $1.25 per withdrawal. my only question is will the bank in Italy charge a fee to use their ATM?
Thanks
Judy

Posted by
20718 posts

There is NEVER a fee charged for using an ATM in Europe. If a fee is charged it is charged by the card issuer. In 300+ days of travel in Europe have never seen a Wal-Mart. I don't think I would want to depend on Wal-Mart for my cash in Europe.

Posted by
606 posts

"In 300+ days of travel in Europe have never seen a Wal-Mart."

Same here (but not the 300+ part, unfortunately). But I've been to Europe a bunch of times and never seen one. In fact, we generally make a joke of saying our daily quest is to find one, but we have to settle for roman ruins, vineyards, great restaurants, and quaint villages. Oh darn!

Posted by
2347 posts

If there are no Wal-Marts in Europe, what do people do when they've forgotten to pack their underwear?

Posted by
8906 posts

WalMart In Europe (and a lot other parts of the world) is pronounced "Carrefour". Most Americans have never heard of it, but it's the second biggest retailer in the world. They invented the supercenter format which WalMart copied. In the UK, Walmart is pronounced "ASDA".

Posted by
445 posts

Walmart is in Europe. In England the chain ASDA is owned by Walmart.I have never seen one of their stores however.

Posted by
495 posts

Walmart used to have a presence in Germany but I think they've since pulled out of that market.

In England the chain ASDA is owned by Walmart.I have never seen one of their stores however.

As a customr ASDA doesn't look or feel too different now than before the buy-out. They (surprisingly subtly) incorporated the "Smiley Face" into the signage but other than that they don't really feel like a Walmart to me.

The most Walmart-y feeling store in the UK, to me, is Tesco. They also copied Walmart's aggressive market strategy and have expanded throughput Europe (especially the east.) To follow Michael's post I believe they are the third biggest retail chain in the world behind Walmart and Carrefour.

Posted by
5 posts

I have carried traveler's cheques. Nothing wrong with that. To get the best exchange rate, I bring my cash or traveler's cheques to the Italian Bank. I pay everything cash and will only use my credit card for big purchases which doesn't happen often since I travel light. When we lived in italy, our Mastercard was not accepted everywhere. we switched to Visa.

Posted by
36 posts

I wish I'd seen your post a couple of months ago! When we went to Paris a few years back, we used AAA pre-loaded cards. We were worried about relying solely on our debit cards in case someone charged something unexpectedly (I own a business and pay for lots of stuff with them). And we had no credit card at the time. So we got the AAA card from our local office and used it for the hotel- the biggest expense- so we were sure that the money was available for the security deposit, and in case the exchange rate went up while we were there. It was great except that the service number they give you never was available when we tried to call it. Supposedly you can check your balance out online but we had no computer with us to do that. We have never used it since but will do so the next time we go to Europe, for a backup card. The rates were minimal at the time. They should have the info about them online or by calling customer service. It used a pin that you receive at the time of purchase, so you can use it at ATM's or wherever.

Anyway it was great for peace of mind- we didn't want to arrive in Paris and realize we had nothing in the bank account! I would highly recommend the card or something like it to students or others traveling who don't have lots of backup credit otherwise.

Hope someone will be able to use this info.