Another Kind of Travel Plastic
Still confused about the best way to pay your expenses and get cash while you're traveling? Although conventional credit and debit cards get the most attention, they're not your only options. You can also use stored value cards both for cash access and to make purchases.
You probably know how stored-value cards work. You initially load the card with whatever value you think you need, then use up that value while you travel. Most currency cards are branded either
-- You never have more at risk than what you've loaded onto the card, so no thief can drain your bank account or run up a huge credit bill.
-- You can get one for a traveling teenager without worry that he/she will spend you into the poorhouse.
-- You are safe from identity theft; the card is not linked to any personal information.
-- You can get one regardless of your credit history.
Stored-value cards have been around for a long time. In general, beyond security features, I see no real advantages over conventional plastic -- other than for people who don't have conventional plastic. However, two cards warrant additional attention.
Domestic travel. If you aren't active in online buying, you may not be familiar with
Lots of other banks issue stored-value cards. Every time I've looked, the combination of buy-in fees, monthly fees, and replenishment fees makes them all relatively unattractive.
International travel. You can also use a
How about a stored-value card that is already in a foreign currency? The "Cash Passport" card from Travelex, issued in pounds or euros, entails no conversion fees at all when you use it. The catch, however -- and it's a big one -- is the really bad exchange rate Travelex assesses when you buy the card. As I'm writing this, Travelex charges
The conclusions seem fairly straightforward:
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(c) 2010 Ed Perkins
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