Prepaid cards for all currencies

If you’re planning an overseas trip or travel abroad regularly, a prepaid travel card in multiple currencies could help you save on costly foreign exchange fees.

If you’re planning an overseas trip or travel abroad regularly, a prepaid travel card in multiple currencies could help you save on costly foreign exchange fees.

Rob Silvey
Finances expert
6
minute read
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Posted 23 MAY 2022

All currency prepaid cards 

If you’re looking to save money on costly foreign exchange fees, then a prepaid card in multiple currencies might work well for you.

A prepaid multi-currency card lets you spend in other currencies abroad and you can use it just like you would a debit card at home.

While you can’t compare prepaid multi-currency cards with us, our simple guide can help you decide if it’s worth getting one.

What is an all-currency prepaid card? 

You can’t get a prepaid card in every single currency under the sun, but there’s a number of cards available in multiple currencies.

A prepaid multi-currency card isn’t a debit or credit card. It’s a pre-loadable card, a bit like a gift card. Simply load it up in the currency of your choice, then use it for spending or cash withdrawals abroad. Once you’ve spent all the money on the card, you’ll need to reload to continue using it in the same way you would a pay-as-you go mobile phone.

It’s a bit like having foreign cash in your pocket, but in the form of a plastic card.

How do multi-currency prepaid cards work? 

When you take out a multi-currency prepaid card, you’ll be provided with a PIN, expiry date, card number and verification code on the back (CVV). Most prepaid cards also have a ‘tap or wave’ contactless payment feature.

Multi-currency prepaid cards are typically accepted in all the same places as Mastercard or Visa. So, you should be able to use it abroad wherever you see the Mastercard or Visa symbol.

Simply load money onto the card using your debit card, bank transfer or online using your card provider’s app. You can usually link your prepaid card account, via the app, to your current account, then instantly move money across when you need it.

Some card providers let you hold a separate balance in each currency – for example, sterling, euros and American dollars – then move your money between them once it’s been loaded onto the card. So, for example, you could load £200 onto your card, then move it to your euros balance, locking in the exchange rate before you leave for a European trip.

Top tip
Never use a credit card to top-up your prepaid card. It’s counted as a cash withdrawal, so you’d face the same fees as you would if you used your credit card at an ATM. Use your debit card to top up your prepaid card. The money comes straight out of your bank account and your bank won’t charge you a fee.

What exchange rate will I get? 

Some card providers offer ‘interbank’ rates – the rate the banks use – which is a fair, mid-market exchange rate. Others might charge a small fee, often between 1% and 2.5%.

If your card holds your money in pounds sterling and lets you spend in multiple currencies, you’ll get the current exchange rate each time you use your card.

If your card is in multiple currencies, you’ll get the set exchange rate when you load money onto your card or move your balance from one currency to another.

What currencies can you get a prepaid card for? 

There are two main types of multi-currency prepaid cards:

  • Sterling cards hold your money in pounds sterling, then let you spend in different currencies. Your money will be converted to the selected currency each time you use your card.
  • Multi-currency cards let you hold your balance in different currencies – for example, sterling, euros, dollars – and move your money between them.

The supported currencies depend on the card you choose.

Did you know?
Although you can usually use multi-currency prepaid cards wherever you see the Mastercard or Visa symbol, there are some exceptions. Many car hire companies, petrol stations and toll booths abroad won’t accept prepaid cards.

What are the advantages of a multi-currency prepaid card? 

  • Cheaper to use abroad – some cards don’t charge a fee for spending or cash withdrawals up to a certain limit.
  • Many cards offer the interbank exchange rate.
  •  Less risk of overspending – you can only spend what’s on the card.
  • Easy to top up.
  • Safer than carrying cash around.
  • Can be used the same way as a debit card.
  • You can’t borrow, so you won’t risk interest charges or overdraft fees.
  • Quick and easy to convert into different currencies.
  • As you’re not borrowing money you won’t need a credit check.
Top tip
If you hold a multi-currency card and are offered the choice of paying in GBP or the local currency, always choose the local currency. If you pay in GBP, the foreign retailer’s bank or ATM withdrawal bank will do the currency conversion for you – not your card provider. This is called ‘dynamic currency conversion’ and the exchange rates can be horrendous.

What are the disadvantages of a multi-currency card? 

It’s important to read all the terms and conditions when you look at multi-currency prepaid cards. They’re all different and some can hit you with a number of fees. Watch out for: 

  • a fee for buying the card
  • a free card, then a ‘sneaky’ replacement fee for a new card
  • fees for putting money on your card
  • fees for spending and cash withdrawals
  • a fee for not using your card
  • a charge for closing your account. 

Other downsides to multi-currency prepaid cards: 

  • Unlike credit cards, they don’t have Section 75 protection.
  • Unlike your bank account, money on your prepaid card isn’t protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).
  • Unlike a 0% credit card,  you can’t borrow money then spread your repayments over a period of time.
  • Some prepaid cards limit how much you can load, withdraw or spend during a certain period; for example, per day or per month.
  • Some places, like petrol stations and toll booths, might not accept prepaid cards.

How to choose a multi-currency prepaid card 

Before you choose a prepaid card, you might want to consider:

  • the fees involved
  • whether the card provider charges an exchange rate fee
  • what the limits are for spending and cash withdrawals
  • if your chosen currencies are supported.

While a prepaid card can be a cheaper way to store and spend your money in different currencies, check the terms and conditions carefully for any unexpected fees.

Please note: Compare the Market doesn’t offer a comparison service for prepaid cards.

What are the alternatives to a multi-currency prepaid card? 

If you still prefer the option of ‘buy now, pay later’, then you might want to consider a travel credit card instead of a prepaid card.

Travel credit cards offer low, or sometimes no, fees when you use them abroad. And like prepaid cards, they often offer better exchange rates than a standard credit or debit card.

But unlike prepaid travel cards, a travel credit card gives you Section 75 protection for purchases between £100 and £30,000.

Frequently asked questions

Can you have more than one multi-currency prepaid card?

Most prepaid card providers let you take out an additional card linked to the same account – for example, if you want a spare card or an extra card for your partner or child. You might have to pay extra for it though.

Can I get a multi-currency prepaid card with a bad credit rating?

You can’t borrow on a prepaid card and you can only spend what’s there, so there’s no need for a credit check. This means that you should be able to get one even if you have a bad credit rating.

Will a multi-currency prepaid card affect my credit score?

Prepaid cards don’t usually show up on your credit file, so they shouldn’t affect your credit rating. This means that using a prepaid card won’t improve your credit score, but it shouldn’t damage it either.

Is my money protected?

As long as your card provider is ring-fenced by a licensed bank, your money should be protected if they go bust. Ring fencing means that the card provider is required to ‘safeguard’ your cash by holding it in a separate bank account from their own funds.

Just be aware, though, that prepaid cards aren’t protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). So, if the ring-fencing bank went out of business, you might not get back the money on your card.

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