My 15 year-old son is going to Germany on a school exchange this summer. I have some euros for him already but want the majority of his money to be on a card. I have read a bit about Visa Buxx and other prepaid cards but honestly am confused about which is more accepted and which have higher total fees. Or maybe there is a better option? Any advice on what to send with him would be greatly appreciated.
Open a joint account with your son such that he has ATM access. You can add funds as necessary and he will be able to withdraw funds in local currency via an ATM cash machine.
Edgar is right - a regular debit card attached to a checking account is the best way to go. Prepaid cards can be iffy, and most charge a lot of fees. A regular debit card from a credit union can be as low as 0% in foreign conversion fees. Your son would just need to withdraw cash from an ATM once he is there, and generally speaking, a bank-owned ATM will not charge an ATM fee, either. You could also add funds for him, if necessary, just by making a deposit to his account. You would just need to notify the bank or credit union where he will be traveling and when.
An added advantage to having a joint account with ATM access -- you can see where he is withdrawing cash using online reporting. So even if he doesn't check in with you, there's a way to know where he is every few days. And it's a good learning experience for him.
You'll need that joint checking account in a few years anyway when he's at college and needs money. ;)
My daughter went to France for 6 weeks at age 17. We talked about how much she had, how much she wanted for the days in Paris at the end of the trip, and what the exchange rate was. That gave her a weekly budget. I think maybe 60 euro a week. I saw later on her statement that she had drawn that amount out on the same day each week. So she stuck to her budget. If she'd needed more for an emergency I could have added to it. It was a good learning experience.
Technically he doesn't have to be on the bank account. Just give him your debit card with the password. The pre-paid cards tend to be expensive. While I looked at these cards a couple of years, the Walmart card was the cheapest. I would also give him a credit card but he does need to be on that account.
Thanks so much, everyone, for your very helpful information. I live in a rural area and my local bank has significant fees for foreign ATM use. Can anyone recommend a bank/card with low fees (I am willing to have an online account) and do you have an opinion on Visa/MC for better international acceptance?
And teach him to always request euros if the ATM gives a choice. I had a machine offer dollars recently- which could be tempting for an American--but a costly process.
Open an account with Schwab. Free. Easy. The required brokerage account (no minimum), checking account (no minimum) and the VISA debit/ATM card are great and all no fees to establish, maintain or use. No surcharges on ATM withdrawals worldwide and any fees charged by the issuing bank are rebated. Check deposits can be accomplished swiftly and easily using a smartphone application.
if you are a veteran, open an account with USAA and they have great service and low fees. We've been happy with them for years of travel.
hope he has a great trip!
Wells Fargo charges $5 per ATM transaction outside the U.S. and 3% discount.
My credit union charges no transaction charges and 100% of the funds.
Needless to say I use the credit union when out of the country.
ATM's are readily available everywhere in Europe. There's even talk in some places (Norway) to do away with currency.
CapitalOne 360. I use this bank account only for foreign travel. No fees. I easily transfer from my regular checking account .
Ally (www.ally.com) charges 1%, no per-use fee. You also don't have to use certain ATMs - they reimburse "foreign" ATM fees in the US. They only charge the 1% conversion fee for foreign ATMs abroad (ATMs abroad generally don't charge fees themselves).
My son is 18 and was just in Europe for a year. We use USAA (my father was a member, so now we all are) and my son has a checking and savings account linked to my accounts. This was very simple and I just transferred a monthly allowance. He also had a credit card in his name on my account for emergencies - or by permission use in case something came up that I wanted to pay for outside of allowance. I did like being able to see what he was doing with his money. I would suggest not keeping too much money at a time in the linked checking account. My son got his account cleaned out once while he was there - we suspect a compromised ATM in a train station. Suggest he only use ATMs that are at a bank, and preferably during banking hours. USAA closed the account and promptly sent him a new card in Europe.
We take high school students to Europe every year. The only kids who ever have problems withdrawing money are the ones who carry those silly prepaid preloaded travel cards. No matter what company issues them - they're just a pain in the rear for both the students AND the chaperones.
Yes, my local bank charges a ridiculous fee for foreign withdrawals - my credit union charges ZERO.
Withdrawing money is not a big deal. Yes, do be knowledgeable to request every bill be charged in the local currency (not US Dollars).
Capital One 360 is the way to go. You get a basic checking account with a MasterCard Debit card that can be used anywhere in the world to get cash out of ATMs to start. You open the account online, fund it through online transfers, there is no minimum balance to maintain, no minimum amount required to open it. And best of all, there are ZERO fees -- no mark up on the exchange rate you see on Google, no additional international fees, no account maintenance fees, no fees to transfer money in (when initiated from the Cap One online account access portal). See the trend with their fees? None!
IF you want him to use a card to make purchases rather than use cash, any of the Capital One credit cards will work as they also have zero international fees. But I think he will find that cash is still the number one payment method over most of Europe.
The other suggested bank options should work fine as well. But I have been using Capital One 360 for 12 years now and have never had a transaction denied or not been able to get cash out of an ATM.
Avoid any type of pre paid card option. The fees can be outrageous and I have never seen anyone I have traveled with to Europe have any success in getting cash off of one no matter what the seller of the card claimed.
I also recommend Schwab. No transaction fees. My son used it for his semester abroad in Budapest (and the 12 other countries he visited that term), last summer in Israel, and currently in Moscow. His ATM card and Visa card from a local bank (outside of Boston) are backups but so far he hasn't had to use them.
Capital One 360 is the parent account. You'd link that to a Capital One Money account for your son. The Money account has no foreign transaction fees and no ATM fees. I opened one for my 15 year old daughter this past spring for her to use on a school trip to Japan.
Some of the other advice sounds great, but you need to do some thorough checking about accounts for minors. Ally, for example, does not have accounts for minors.