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Prepaid Debit Cards from AAA - OK to use in Italy?

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Aug 26th, 2003, 11:15 AM
  #1
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Prepaid Debit Cards from AAA - OK to use in Italy?

I am a simpleton when it comes to ATMs. I have never used one and do not own a debit card. I have always carried travelers checks however I am considering entering the 21st century. I know that there are interest charges on cash advances from ATMs using my credit card but wondering if anyone has used the prepaid debit cards that supposedly are available at AAA. Do they in fact exist and can they be readily used to get cash at ATMs in Italy?
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Aug 26th, 2003, 11:28 AM
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I have never heard of a prepaid Debit Card from AAA. Debit cards are essentially 'prepaid', as they use funds available in your checking and/or savings account. I would suggest going to your bank and getting a regular debit card and using that at bank ATMs in Europe. Please do not take cash advances off your credit cards! Good luck.
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Aug 26th, 2003, 11:33 AM
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Just keep in mind:

You will most likely be charged a foreign currency or conversion fee (I forget what the term is....I'm gettin' old) when you use your Stateside debit card in an ATM overseas. But living over here in England, I use my Bank of America debit card all the time and it works just fine.
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Aug 26th, 2003, 11:38 AM
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There is something called a Cash Passport available from AAA, specifically for international travel.
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Aug 26th, 2003, 11:39 AM
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I agree with Erin re obtaining a regular debit card from your financial institution which will withdraw funds directly from your savings or checking account. I would no consider getting any cash advances through a credit card because those, as you already know, come with substantial interest charges which begin immediately upon withdrawal.
In terms of any charges for "currency conversion" or using your debit card in ATMs controlled by banks or institutions other than your own, those charges, if any, will be set by your own card issuer and I would ask them what those charges are when, and if, you apply for the debit card.
I think you'll find using a regular debit card to get money out of ATMs is much more convenient than using traveler's checks and probably less expsensive, too.
 
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Aug 26th, 2003, 11:43 AM
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Sorry, meant to add this to my previous post. It's a AAA website talking about Cash Passports and other options when traveling:

http://www.aaa-mountainwest.com/aaa-travel-money.htm


Also, an About.com article you might want to read:

http://goeurope.about.com/library/weekly/aa091802a.htm
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Aug 26th, 2003, 12:06 PM
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http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34438884

Here's a recent thread with great advice to an ATM "virgin" which may convince you to give them a try (at home before your travel) so that you can take advantage of their ease of use and favorable exchange rates.
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Aug 26th, 2003, 12:29 PM
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I purchased the Passport Travel Cash card from AAA. If it works as it is supposed to it should be great. I don't have a bank debit card and was leary of taking my ATM card. The theory is that it works just like your ATM card. You prepay a certain amount--it takes 5 to 7 days to activate so get it ahead. They do charge you the ATM fee of $1.50 and it gives you the cash back. As I've said I haven't tried it yet in Europe. I gave it a try here to be sure it works. You select a 4 digit pin number to use with the card. You can do that over the phone. There are phone numbers of call if you lose it. Hope this helps.
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Aug 26th, 2003, 12:39 PM
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Thanks - I was thinking about getting one since I don't have a debit card either. Seems like a good way to go though I am always leery of trying something new. I will probably bring some travelers checks in dollars as a backup - can always cash them in at home if we don't use them. As a last resort can always get cash advance on credit card.
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Aug 26th, 2003, 01:17 PM
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We used the AAA Cash Passport on our recent trip to Sicily. It works just like an ATM card at banks. It was accepted in every bank ATM we tried. But you can't use it as a true debit card in most restaurants or businesses because they need some type of authorization number in order to get paid. The good thing about these cards (or any ATM card overseas) is that you get the up to the minute best currency exchange rate. I had to buy a traveler's check in Euro's and the rate was ridiculous. I didn't see anyone using traveler's checks on my past trip.
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Aug 26th, 2003, 01:25 PM
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I guess I just don't really understand why you would use a pre-paid AAA card at an ATM machine, rather than simply getting an ATM card from your bank.

The exchange rate and the procedure you go through to actually withdraw money from the machine will be the same, but you have to arrange for the card. Can anyone explain the perceived advantage?
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Aug 26th, 2003, 01:39 PM
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The only advantage I can think of is that by putting a limited amount of money into the AAA card, you're protecting your regular bank account from fradulent withdrawals.

BUT a big disadvantage is that there's probably a cost, hidden or overt, to using AA's service; I doubt they're doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. I expect that they're affiliated with a bank that's actually issuing these cards, and that customers are hit with double fees, possibly camouflaged in the exchange rate.
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Aug 26th, 2003, 02:11 PM
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They are simply prepaid ATM cards. I can't think of any advantage for someone who has an ATM card -- I think they would be great for someone who doesn't have one or for folks to buy kids without bank accts, etc. They are not really bank cards, it's a VISA product. I think it's the same thing as VISA Travelmoney which you can find out about on their site. AAA switched to VISA from AMEX for travelers checks and then this product was added to the line.

It's a prepaid card so you wouldn't have to worry about losing your own ATM card, would be another reason. Also, it could be a backup to carry in addition to your ATM card in case one stopped working, etc. I think there are no ATM charge fees at all with the card (unless you go beyond a limit, which is pretty adequate), so that's a good reason to get it.

For AAA customers, they are free as I understand it, just like the travelers checks. I get TCs from them for free a lot and was going to get one just to see how it worked, but never got around to it on last trip. (I never get TCs in euros, think that's a bad idea). I wanted to try it out because I was suspicious there had to be a catch, probably in the exchange rate. They did a writeup in the Wash Post travel section once on this card and as a followup posted info from AAA who swore there was no exchange rate difference from interbank rate. I still don't quite believe it as then AAA would be offering you something for nothing (VISA does make money on them as they charge you to buy them)--maybe it's just a membership perk, but I doubt it.

I still think it's a good idea if you don't have an ATM card.
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Aug 26th, 2003, 02:30 PM
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AAA makes it's money on these the same way they make money on the free $ travelers checks they offer to members.

There is a lag time between the time you give them the money and when it is spent. so they make money by collecting interest on you money until you use it. Just like Dept store gift certificates - they have your money for a while.

This is the same reason credit unions and AAA can afford to "sell" fee-free travelers checks.

For anyone reluctant to get an ATM card linked to their bank account, these AAA cards are wonderful. I was considering getting one because my ATM card has a Visa logo and I was getting nervous about having a "visa", therfore not needing a PIN, directly linked to my checking account. But my bank issued me a new ATM w/o a visa logo so that is the one I use overseas now.
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Aug 26th, 2003, 04:19 PM
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I just purchased one as a gift for my partnts to use in Italy next week. They are usable at any bank with the STAR ensignia system. I like it because they are replacable if lost or stolen.
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