One of the newest financial tools for travellers is the prepaid Visa travel card, called TravelMoney. This is essentially a loaded debit card, but specifically designed for travellers, using the widely accepted Visa name. It is meant as a replacement for unwieldy travellers cheques, which are becoming increasingly difficult to have cashed in many places.
The prepaid visa travel card can be loaded with anywhere from $250 to $10,000, and can be reloaded anytime from a bank account or credit card by telephone or at a financial institution. It is a better choice for travellers than a regular prepaid debit card because it carries the Visa name, and because the protection against loss or theft is higher. It is important to keep the card number elsewhere, so that you can call to immediately have a new card issued and a stop placed on the stolen or lost card. The card is not connected to your bank accounts, so only the amount on the card is at risk, and with reloading so convenient to do, there is no need to carry a large amount on the card itself.
The prepaid visa travel card can be used to get local currency, simply by using an ATM in the place you are visiting. Local funds can be withdrawn, and the adjusted amount is removed from the card. The card can be used for online purchases, as well as for car rentals, hotel reservations, movies, dinners, and travel tickets.
For budget conscious travellers, this card is a great option versus a regular credit card. Due to the unwieldy way in which transactions are recorded, particularly when travelling, it is often difficult to gauge how much has been charged to a card. This is especially true when dealing with foreign currency transactions. Often, after returning from a trip, there can be a nasty shock when the credit card bills arrive.
With the prepaid visa travel card, only the amount that is placed on the card can be used, so there are no surprises at the end of the trip. If you do require additional funds, you can always load more onto the card. Keeping track of your balance is as simple as making a phone call, or checking on the internet.
The prepaid travel card can also be used for partial purchases, for instance if you have some cash you want to use up but require more to cover the whole amount of the purchase. The merchant need only charge the amount you wish to use on the card, the rest you can pay in cash, or by credit card.
The prepaid visa travel card only costs $9.95, no matter how much you load on. Re-loading the card costs about $2.50, and there is a re-load limit of 3 times before you need to purchase a new card. Also, there are the usual ATM withdrawal fees, plus a 3% foreign transaction fee, $2.50 dormant account fee, and a $10 charge for overdraft. So initially the card is cheaper than paper travellers cheques, however if you use the card at ATM’s a lot for cash withdrawals, you could easily end up spending a lot more.
Overall, the prepaid visa travel card is a convenient, safe way to carry cash when travelling. It is much easier to use than travellers cheques, and more widely accepted. There is sometimes a stigma attached to paper travellers cheques, even with trusted brands, and many merchants still refuse to accept them. Also, converting travellers cheques to cash requires lining up in the bank, or paying exorbitant fees at a hotel or money exchanger. The prepaid travel card is a much better system.