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Travelex or prepaid credit card experience?

Travelex or prepaid credit card experience?

Old Jul 19th, 2011, 12:11 PM
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Travelex or prepaid credit card experience?

I have a credit card and am bringing it. But I heard about prepaid cards to avoid fees. Has anyone tried this? I'll be in Ireland, England and France. Any info would be helpful. Also, did you purchase yours online or at a change place? Thanks!
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Old Jul 19th, 2011, 12:13 PM
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There have been talk of these here and it has NOT been positive. When you look at the conditions and fees (the fine print) it is not a good deal.

Use ATM for cah withdrwawals and CC for larger purchases.
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Old Jul 19th, 2011, 12:15 PM
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The prepaid cards from Travelex do NOT avoid fees. Rather, they allow you to use a chip-and-pin card in automated machines throughout Europe when it may be difficult or impossible to use a regular U.S. credit card. The current-exchange rate on these prepaid cards is not very good at all (much higher than the 3% you normally lose on a regular credit-card purchase abroad). However, there are no fees to use the cards, and any money leftover can be changed back at the same rate without further penalty.

So get the card for the convenience, but not to save money. It really saves no money and costs much more than using a regular ATM or credit card, even one with the highest current foreign-transaction fees.
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Old Jul 19th, 2011, 12:32 PM
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So, I am assuming it is best to bring my credit card and cash? I don't have two different credit cards. I have a debit card but hesitate to use that abroad. Should I call that account and the credit card account and alert them with my travel plans?
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Old Jul 19th, 2011, 01:10 PM
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Do NOT get a prepaid card. The fees are exorbitant and the VERY few places you might find a chip and pin card useful can be avoided or other means of payment can be found.

And no, it does not mean you should bring cash. It means you should bring your regular credit card (for large purchases) and your ATM card to get cash with once you are there. There are no fees associated with using an ATM card in Europe other than the ones your own bank imposes. Yes, alert your credit card company as to where and when you'll be abroad.
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Old Jul 19th, 2011, 01:14 PM
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Not quite. No need to "bring...cash", except for perhaps a small amount of euros to get you from ariport to hotel.

Cash: ATM.
Hotel, gifts:CC.
Meals, incidentals:cash.

Good idea to let CC company know you are going to europe. No need for debit card.
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Old Jul 19th, 2011, 01:18 PM
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"So, I am assuming it is best to bring my credit card and cash? I don't have two different credit cards. I have a debit card but hesitate to use that abroad."

Why hesitate to bring your debit/ATM card?? It is by far the best way to get cash. So -- bring your cc and your debit card . . .
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Old Jul 19th, 2011, 01:25 PM
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I have a debit card but hesitate to use that abroad.>>

why? europeans use them all the time. i try to use them in ATMs only when the bank is open [so that I can get the card back if the machine swallows it] but apart from that, I can't see the problem.

what exactly are you worried about?

However, there are no fees to use the cards, and any money leftover can be changed back at the same rate without further penalty. >>

not true, doug. there was an item in the UK press about one of these cards a while ago where users who had not taken the money they hadn't spent off it straight away were then stung when the bank removed the card from service. they were offered the money back at very unfavourable exchange rates, and no interest.

the bank's answer when taken to task? because we can.
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Old Jul 19th, 2011, 02:45 PM
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Bring both if you bring anything and want to be able to pay for something when you want it.

I had both an American credit card and a Travelex prepaid cash passport for my trip to Northern Ireland and Ireland in May 2011. In some places, the credit card wouldn't go through - and in some, the Travelex wouldn't go through. There didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason, but as long as I had cash handy as well, I was never fully inconvenienced.

Had no problem whatsoever getting my cash back at the end (I had about E15 left on it) at the airport. Took all of 5 minutes.
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Old Jul 19th, 2011, 02:53 PM
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lenlu, if you are worried about your ATM card being cloned and having fraudulent activity on your account you should be advised that can happen anywhere in the world, including your home country. There is no good reason not to use your card overseas.
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Old Jul 19th, 2011, 05:02 PM
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I guess what I'm afraid of is someone wiping out my checking/savings while I'm away. I was skimmed a year ago and it took a couple days to get a new card and the bank called us. Otherwise, we may not have known for a while. I don't want that happening while I'm abroad. I suppose I feel safer using my credit card or cash. Maybe that is foolish. I don't understand why in some places your credit card wouldn't work. Hmmmm. But I ask because I've heard this before. I'll be at Ashford Castle for a few nights and will not be carrying on my person, enough cash for that visit. I'd be lugging cash around for a week in that case and a decent chunk of it. Ugh. Okay, thanks you guys.
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Old Jul 19th, 2011, 07:51 PM
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If you are looking into pre-paid cards you should check out if your bank offers them aswell. I have one issued by my bank they were much more compeditive on fee's then travelex. The main advantage in the pre paid card is you usually get issued a back up card so if you loose it you can just switch the the back up. You really should just do a few sums and see what option is cheapest.
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Old Jul 19th, 2011, 08:39 PM
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One simple way to manage the risks is putting firewalls between your assets. In this case, use multiple checking account so that even if one account gets compromised, you have other accounts to rely on. Same for credit cards. While there are those comfortable traveling with one CC and one debit cards, I have too many instances where I had to rely on backup CC and debit cards to be comfortable with one card strategy. I don't have overdraft protection on my checkings account, so the debit card cannot punch through into my savings account. I also requested my banks to disable savings account access using my debit card. If I want more money in my checkings account, I transfer fund online.

In addition to putting firewalls by accounts, you can also put firewalls by time. Suppose you expect to use $2000 cash from your checkings account. If you don't need all $2000 at the beginning of the trip, you can program scheduled transfers to move fund to your checkings account. For example, put only $500 into your checkings account at the beginning of the trip. Schedule transfer $500 1/4 way into the trip, another $500 at half way, etc. If you lose your card on arrival, the maximum amount at risk is $500, not $2000. Use online access to cancel remaining transfers.

Someone cloned my CC and my bank immediately put my card out of commission. The backup CC from a different bank saved the day.
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Old Jul 20th, 2011, 05:17 AM
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lenlu, since you've been skimmed before I can understand your concerns so why don't you try this. Take some cash and/or traveller's checks (TC's in US$, not €) as a back-up, but use your ATM card for withdrawals. Then if your card gets munched you will be prepared. Traveler's checks are not easy to cash these days and there will be fees to cash them, but it can be done in a pinch. Odds are you will not need your back-up cash/TC's but at least it will be there if you do need it.
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Old Jul 20th, 2011, 05:43 AM
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What is your definition of "bringing cash"? USD? Euros?
For one thing, bringing a pile of cash has some risk.

If USD, you will need to spend time out of being a tourist with bureaucracy...find a bank, be there during opening hours, line up...and then pay whatever exchange rate they charge.

If euro, you've already overpaid. And will pay again when you get home to reconvert.

Not sure about why you feel your accounts will be compromised. I would suggest that there is no more risk than when you go to Florida, NYC,etc. You can get skiimed anywhere. There is no need to change your good habits, or assume there is higher risk, just because you are in Europe.
Their banking systems are as modern if not more so than USA.

Go to bank ATMs in Europe, not standalone terminals if you want extra level of comfort. Your CC can be a backup and can be used fior cash (last resort). And, as mentioned above USD Traveler's Cheques hidden away.

As an aside, CCs with chips are coomon over there, which US cards do not yet support. So, you will need a human to prcess the card (for example, might not work on automoated ticket machines). Not a problem, just something to remember.

I have a couple of bank accounts, so I bring multiple cards. There is a network(s) that the cards work on (look at back of card), so all you need to do is match it up with whatever bank you use. I went to one bank in London with my main ATM, not right network, went two doors down, no prob.

I've used ATM card in Paris, London, all over Tanzania, and all over Turkey.
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Old Jul 20th, 2011, 07:01 AM
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I don't see any real "problems" with the pre-loaded cards other than really bad exchange rates, but if you wait over 12 months to change your money back, the company will put a hold on the card. So I'll stand by my statement that they are a convenience, particularly for smaller purchases and to use in automated machines.

Regardless of the risks (small I think), it's always safer and cheaper to use your ATM card to get cash abroad. The chance of getting skimmed is not that great anywhere in the world; the chance of getting robbed is not that great either, but if you get robbed for cash, the money is gone. With an ATM card, it's just an inconvenience, albeit a substantial one if you lose a large amount.

What I would recommend is that you use your ATM card only in bank ATM machines, not to make purchases. That's where you have the greatest danger of skimming.

U.S. credit cards will work in Europe anywhere credit cards are accepted, but merchants don't always want to bother. I don't believe that they cannot or don't know how to process the transactions but that they don't want to process the transactions; it may even be a question of liability because I suspect it's easier for them to get paid if a chip-and-pin card is used.

However, you CANNOT use a U.S. credit card in any automated ticketing machine, at an automated gas pump, or at an automated motorway toll booth. If you aren't driving in Europe and are willing to stand in line to buy train tickets, then you don't "need" a Travelex card; it just makes a convenient back-up if you run into a difficult merchant or a situation where a regular U.S. credit card is not accepted.
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Old Jul 20th, 2011, 07:54 AM
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The comments on here about prepaid cards do not correctly reflect the situation. Just to qualify i do work as a consultant in the european prepaid sector.

There are plenty of reputable prepaid cards that are designed for travelling. In terms of fees, there is a one time registration fee normallly of up to £10 / €10 though this is regularly waived if you load the card at purchase with an agreed amount i.e. €500.

The reputable cards do not make any charge when you make a purchase with them such as at a restaurant or store.

They regularly have a free method to load money onto the card, such as a bank transfer.

The exchange rates on the travel cards will tend to be the best available.

The cards are all chip & PIN and will either be a Visa or MasterCard issued, and hence available anywhere you see the sign displayed. Your money is protected if the card is lost or stolen (provided you report it) and some offer a service to issue you a replacement card immediately. Obvisouly the fact that it is not connected to your checking account is indeed a great firewall.

You may get charged at an ATM to withdraw cash, but this will depend on the card you chose.

If you want to find the best cards, there are some good UK comparison sites, such as:
www.moneysupermarket.com/prepaidcards/
www.prepaid365.com
http://www.compareprepaid.co.uk/

The best travel brands i would recommend will be CaxtonFX, Kalixa, Travelex - these are all well established products with good reptuations.

The primary issue you have is that for the cards with higher limits i.e. £9,000 you will need to provide ID, and they will take time to process. You can buy some of these at the airport though, but they have a lower limit.
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Old Jul 20th, 2011, 12:55 PM
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I am paying a nominal fee to get a couple thousand in euros. I don't mind that. I had been avoiding online baking (no reason why) but Greg makes a good point. You've all provided a lot of recommendations and info for me to consider. Phil, thank you for the insight and links and I'll check it out. Perhaps I'm making a bigger deal out of this than I should have! At any rate, I'm better off today than I was yesterday due to all the feedback and I thank you!
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Old Jul 20th, 2011, 01:28 PM
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It boils down to convenience. You have an ATM card that works as well in Europe as the machine down the street from your house, and it gives as good as or better exchange rate as any other way of acquiring 'local cash.

I will put my negativity partially on hold in regards to prepaid cards until I can research more...but others here, in the recent past, have researched VISA prepaid and found all of the 'bugs under the rock'.
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Old Jul 20th, 2011, 01:32 PM
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What FD_Phil posted doesn't apply to US-issued pre-paid cards IME
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