“ A pre-paid mastercard that functions like a debit card. „
Well my rating of one star is very generous, if I could have posted no stars then believe me I would have. I didn't encounter any problems with them until someone fraudulently gained access to my account and spent over $500! I was told at the time all I had to do was fill in a fraud claims report and I would get the money back. After I did this I rang back asking what was going on to which there response was that they couldn't do anything for 45 days because it was out of their hands which I thought was fair enough. Now well after the 45 day period they are telling me they are only just starting the investigation and that there is a very strong chance I won't get the money back! The worst part is I ring them at least 2-3 times a day with a promise of a call back and surprise surprise they never call back, or there systems are down! WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE EVER! WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT GET AN ACCOUNT WITH THEM!!!
My OH is Dutch so I'm always travelling to Europe and I was getting fed up of paying over the odds at the airport for Euro's or using my debit card and getting stung by not only the conversion rate but the charge the bank levied on me which is currently £1.50 per transaction at the ATM and also a 2.5% of the total fee. Now this obviously works out really expensive over just a few transactions and the only bank I could find that didn't levy these fees was just too far away from me to be practical.
I read about the Caxton card on moneysavingexpert.com the site from money saving Guru Martin Lewis and it immediately appealed to me. For a fee of £9.99 I could purchase a currency card that allowed me to top up in Euros based on that day's exchange rate. A nice surprise was that when I purchased the card there was no application fee.
Once id purchased my Euros at the rate set by Caxton on the day of purchase it was locked so if the exchange rate went down and the pound was worth less against the Euro then the money I had put on the card was safe at the original rate. Now since the exchange rates seemed to be falling daily this really appealed to me but obviously you have to be aware that they could also rise and you don't get that benefit on the money you have already put on the card.
The card itself is a MasterCard meaning its accepted everywhere that accepts credit cards and with the bonus that it doesn't incur the ridiculous ryanair charges since it's a prepay credit card. Even though it's a MasterCard it functions like a debit card meaning that you can only ever spend what you have put on it. The card is black with the Caxton logo on it and unlike nearly all other pre paid cards it looks like a proper credit card with embossed numbers so when using it no one should be able to guess it's not a real credit card.
The card is backed by the Newcastle building society so there is the security of knowing that a major UK building society is behind it so there is little chance of the firm going bust but remember with it being a pre paid card there is no protection when buying on the internet like with a proper credit card.
The fees are excellent with no fees for using in ATM's or shops throughout Europe and it is free to top up so basically its completely free to use within Europe but there is a fee if you use the card in a currency other than Euros.
When you want to top it up all you have to do it log onto the website and register your debit card and top up is instant so the funds you add to the card will be available right away. The only negative is that the minimum load is 150 Euro.
I have had absolutely no problems using this card and have been absolutely thrilled with it so far and within a couple of journeys I had already saved a small fortune in fees.
When we started planning our trip to Florida we obviously needed to sort out how much money we were taking. Now I have never used travellers cheques as they are just too fiddly and so they were completely out of the question. However, I had already seen something that I wanted to use which was a currency card and so with a decision already made on how I was going to be taking the money I just needed to decide which company to use and sort out putting money onto a card and also how much.
What is Caxton?
Caxton is a financial company who provide currency cards to travellers at home or abroad. They also provide a range of other services in the financial areas but, the purpose of this review is to review the actual currency card.
What is a currency card?
Before I go any further I should probably explain what a currency card actually is! Think of it as a credit/debit card in terms of what it looks like and what it does - as in it allows you to pay for goods over the counter. Now a currency card basically means you load the funds in the currency that you need. For example US dollars or Euros. It is a safer way of carrying around a large amount of cash without having to then cash in a travellers cheque to get funds. There is no rewards for using it as you would say a credit card that offers cahsback or points but, there are no charges unlike using your credit card abroad.
To actually purchase a card you need to go online to the site which is caxtoncard.com. The page is pretty easy on the eye in red and white and visitors can easily spot the 'apply now' button at the bottom left side. You need to click here to sign up for a new card and it will then go through everything step by step for you to 'purchase' a card.
I don't feel that going through every step is relevant as it is all very self explanatory but, generally overall the site is easy to use and there is a help section if you get stuck along with a contact number. Once applied for which is a very short process then if processed successfully you receive it wthin about 7 days and then just need to activate it online. I will go through some points though later that are important.
On to the important bit! So you want a currency card to take abroad - why would you actually want to have one of these over actual cash to carry or travellers cheques in the first place? Well let me advise as these cards really are in my opinion the best thing since sliced bread!
The card is NOT a credit card in terms of you having the money on credit and paying back later which means there is no credit check to get hold of one - you simply purchase one and load the amount of money you want onto the card from your own bank account. You can top up more if you need to which means you don't have to put all your spending money on in the first instance should you wish not to. The card comes with a PIN just as a credit or debit card would so therefore means only you and anyone who knows the PIN or has the card has access to the money.
A plus to the cards is that if you are travelling to a country using the Euro or US dollar you can load in that currency so therefore meaning you can see exactly how much you are spending. You can also draw cash out from a machine in case you need cash for certain things so this is a plus for places where you might not want or even be able to pay with a card. The card is supplied as a MasterCard so you will find it is accepted at millions upon millions of places around the world.
Every company who supplies a currency card is different and so these are the important notes to remember for Caxton:
Upon signing up for a card, only the person who's name it is in can load funds onto it - for example I signed up for the Caxton card so when putting funds on they had to come from my bank account in the same name as my Caxton card.
Caxton allow you to pick your own PIN - this is ideal if you are quite forgetful and don't want to have to use a number they send. It is also has an another advantage in that when we signed up we did leave it quite late and that meant we only had to wait for the card itself to arrive and not the PIN as well as we already knew what it was!
Caxton charge a £10 processing fee but, once you load the card for the first time the £10 is given back to you in the currency you have the card in.
A negative with this card for me is that there is a minimum load for it of $200 or the equivalent in Euros. This means if you just wanted to maybe put an extra £100 for a last day or something like that you would have to load more than you wanted.
You can load the card either online, over the phone or by SMS. This means the card is easier to load as you don't need to be restricted to online only. There is also a contact number for emergencies whilst you are away.
Caxton do not charge any commission for using the card so literally any transaction in a store, as long as in the currency the card is for will be just at the cost of whatever you are buying. If you do decided to maybe draw out money after you return home then you are charged a set amount for this but, this fee depends on up to date charges and which country you are withdrawing the money from. Last time I checked it was one set fee of £1.50 to withdraw the funds back from the card to my bank account which is not really that expensive so if you have a large sum of money left over then it is worth paying to get the rest of your money back.
The card stays active for two years so it is ideal if you are going on more than one holiday to a country using the same currency within that time frame as you can then just load funds back on the card. However if you don't withdraw any remaining funds from it before it expires you will lose that money so be careful of the cards expiry date! You can also add a second card for a fee of £5 which may come in useful if there was maybe a large group of you travelling and you might be splitting up into groups.
You do get charged a fee for withdrawing money from a machine which again depends on which currency you have - we had a dollar card and it charged us about $4.50. This was $3 from the card company and then the machine charging us the extra $1.50. However we mainly used the card over the counter and only withdrew a small sum so that we hand some notes to hand. Obviously not idea to get charged but, it you only do it once or twice during your holiday then it is not an overly large figure to pay out.
There is a maximum daily withdrawal limit if you are going to draw out and that is $750 or 500 Euros. You can check your balance online and at a cash machine but, we found that none seemed to be able to show us although we had an idea how much we had left anyway so not a problem for us personally.
A HUGE tip is to not use your currency card as your deposit card when picking up things like car hire as even though sometimes they will not take an actual fee, they 'shadow' the funds meaning it is frozen in case they need to charge you when the car is dropped back off. Therefore that amount whatever it may be will not be able to be used so use another card for this or even cash if you can.
Try to keep your eye on the exchange rate as when you load funds you load at whatever the exchange rate is the same as if you were actually buying currency on a day when it is higher than normal you get the better exchange rate.
The card was a huge success for us and we now plan to get one for our Venice trip at the end of this year only in Euros'. It just feel so much safer rather than carrying money around and of course it is better than having to go and cash your travellers cheques in especially as some places abroad will not accept a photocopy of your passport and this then means carrying that around too!
The card was accepted at every place we used and to make it even easier we could even get the waiters in restaurants to take the tip off the card which again saved us carrying cash around. If your card is lost or stolen you can have it replaced and the old one cancelled so it works in that senses the same as a normal credit/debit card. Remember all the funds are pre loaded by you to spend so there is no credit check to get one and Caxton is one of the approved currency cards by Martin Lewis along with the Fairfx card which we also got (another review!).
I most certainly recommend a currency card and Caxton is definitely one of the best out there!