Photo credit: Rebecca Feng
Whether you’re a third-year study abroad student, an international student, or just a travel addict, you’ll need a supply of foreign currency to cover your costs. However, it can be dangerous to carry around large sums of cash while travelling. Light-fingered pickpockets are always ready. While the use of a standard credit or debit card might solve the issue of loose bills, it will incur fees for regularly converting currency with an ATM or paying in your native currency. So, before you leave for spring break or a spontaneous jaunt abroad, consider Travelex, a prepaid debit card.
The idea behind Travelex is a relatively simple one. It is a secure prepaid debit card, partnered with MasterCard, which can hold up to six different currencies. The benefit to this is that it eliminates conversion fees and exchange rate fluctuations because when you have the card, you’ve already prepaid a set amount of foreign currency. While similar in practice to Visa gift cards, which can be used in any store like a debit card, Travelex cards are localised only to the country in which they are purchased.
These prepaid currency cards are ideal for JSAs who might have more free time to take a cheap flight over a long weekend or a break in the semester. Without the extra currency exchange with every purchase, you’ll be saving a ton from unnecessary spending (and, quite frankly, unfair charging). Furthermore, if you carry around a Travelex card, you won’t be relying upon stacks of cash, which is almost always a bad idea for tourists.
Personally, I usually prefer using cash instead of debit cards because it gives me a sense of how much I am spending. However, I’m more comfortable with Travelex cards when I am travelling and here’s why:
First, you can check the balance of currencies on the go with Travelex’s free mobile app. With most debit and credit cards it can be sometimes a bit of work to check the balance of your card through a bank’s online log. While Travelex does have an online checking site, it is aware that while you’re on the move travelling abroad you might not have easy access to a computer, while most people today, especially those of a younger generation who’d be more inclined to use this card, carry a phone with them at all times.
Second, Travelex cards protect their users’ personal, financial and credit information. Since Travelex is a prepaid debit card, it holds no sensitive personal or financial credit information about you. Checking your balance with Travelex would be the equivalent to checking a gift card balance. Although these cards aren’t personalised with your information, there are a few security benefits to having the card, rather than carrying cash. First, like all other credit and debit cards, it is secured by a four-digit pin, and needs to be signed on the back to be considered valid. As Travelex is partnered with MasterCard, it allows you to make online payments in your currency of choice. While banking apps on your phone might be unsafe, especially if one were to lose one’s phone, the Travelex app doesn’t hold any sensitive information pertaining to your name, banking, or ID number. It also doesn’t allow one to make wire transfers or use it directly to purchase things.
Third, every Travelex card comes equipped with both a chip reader and a ‘touch payment’ feature, both of which are new features on credit and debit cards, but extremely useful when making payments abroad.
An added benefit, especially for JSAs, is that if you buy Euros for a brief trip to the EU without planning to return to the EU in the immediate future, you can transfer the foreign currency back to your home currency, or even sell your remaining credit funds back to Travelex to discontinue the card and redeem the balance.
Lastly, you don’t need to inform your bank ahead of time that you will be out of the country, as its designed to be used for travelers.
So, what happens if you want to be conservative with how much money you might want to put on the card and have run low on your preferred currency?
There are two options. If you have remaining funds in another currency, you can convert those funds into your desired currency. If you need to replenish, it offers the option to securely top up your card balance online with pin information given to you in an envelope when your first received the Travelex card.
So where can these prepaid debit cards be found? Travelex is a large international currency exchange business with kiosk locations in 28 countries. These kiosk locations can be found in most international airports and near major tourist sites.
As Travelex keeps growing as a business, it has put out an ‘Online Price Promise’ wherein, should you purchase foreign currency and discover that a competitor offers a lower exchange rate, Travelex will price match the deal.
Designed to make travelling easier, Travelex is designed for those on the go. It doesn’t require a long-term commitment and you can empty your account when your trip is done. So, before you leave to soak up the sun and explore outside this coming break, plan your finances to fit your needs and consider Travelex card – I know I would.