It can be expensive to use your credit card abroad, but fortunately prepaid currency cards such as those from CaxtonFX can reduce the cost of taking money on holiday, but how easy are they to use? Read this user review to find out.
It is a tricky decision about how to take sufficient money abroad to pay for all the goods and services that you need whilst on holiday.
Whilst “cash is king” we all realise that taking large wads of foreign currency with us is just not sensible. Travellers cheques are better than cash but can be very inconvenient to use and are not acceptable in a lot of places so you have to change them into local currency, often at poor conversion rates.
Using your credit card abroad is handy, of course, but can also be expensive, particularly if you use it to withdraw cash from an ATM whilst in a foreign country.
This is where the new breed of prepaid currency cards come into their own. They act like a credit card and a debit card combined as you can withdraw cash with them from an ATM without charge and you can pay at the checkout in just the same way as a credit card.
Where prepaid currency cards differ from a credit card is that they do not offer any credit facilities. You load up your card with foreign currency before you set off on your vacation, or during it, as we’ll discuss later.
So if currency cards offer such a good solution for taking and spending your holiday money, how good are they to actually use. We’ve used the CaxtonFX card so read on to find out.
CaxtonFX currency card charges
There are three types of CaxtonFX currency card: for Euros, US Dollars and a global card which handles multiple currencies.
All three types of card operate under Mastercard so can be used as credit cards (without the credit) wherever Mastercard is accepted. There are no charges to withdraw money from an ATM and no fees or commission to pay when making a transaction.
There are actually very few charges that Caxton do apply to the use of your card although there is a 2 Euro per transaction charge if you use the card in the UK and they do charge for phoning their customer support. To all intents and purposes, that is about it it for charges.
Caxton obviously make their money from the initial currency conversion rates and from holding your funds within their system.
Applying for a Caxton currency card
Although it is quite a simple process to apply for a CaxtonFX currency card online, we were surprised by how much information was required to complete our application. This is obviously to prevent fraud, which is OK by us.
You need your passport when applying as you have to enter your passport number into the application form. You also need three years of addresses plus your standard details such as date of birth etc.
Caxton will perform a credit check on you and in fact we received a message from them to say that they needed more proof of addresses so we had to fax over some more documentary evidence.
They are obviously take great care in vetting you so if you have a poor credit history or cannot provide the level of documentation then it is likely that your application will be rejected, although we have no idea what their criteria are – we were fine.
There is good e-mail communication throughout the application process and we received approval only a few hours after applying. The currency card then arrived in the post three days later making the whole process very quick and simple.
Loading the card with foreign currency
Before you load your card with foreign currency, you must first create an account on the CaxtonFX web site, which is very straightforward to do.
After activating your card, you then enter your UK bank account debit card details so that UK pounds can then be debited from your bank account, converted into your desired currency and then loaded onto your card.
We were happy with the Pound to Euro exchange rates offered – they didn’t seem uncompetitive, so it was quick and easy to use their account interface and end up with Euros loaded onto our card, available for spending.
Loading the card abroad
One thing that we particularly like about these prepaid currency cards is that as long as you have access to the Internet and you take your account logon details with you (but do not keep them with the card or make them too obvious) then you can load up your card from your UK bank account.
This is a great facility because it means that you can manage your money whilst on holiday and if you need more then you can load your card up from your UK based funds. You do need the money in your UK bank account first though!.
It is no surprise that prepaid currency cards are changing the way many travellers take and spend their money abroad. They are far safer than cash and just as easy to use as a credit card, but without the high charges that they incur.
So far, the CaxtonFX card seems a good choice, however we will report back when we have actually used it abroad. The FairFX prepaid currency card is also a good alternative to investigate.