Newest Review: ... and because I was travelling to Spain at the time I purchased the card, my card is loaded in Euros - although its important to realise t... more
Travelex Pre-paid Travel Card
Member Name: grahamt
Travelex Pre-paid Travel Card
Advantages: Travel money with safety but...
Disadvantages: ...flawed design, not always accepted
I always carry with me three different currencies, Sterling, Euros and Dollars. I reckon that with these I can get by anywhere in the World. However, it never does to carry too much loose money around, with the eternal possibilities if muggers or pickpockets. Nevertheless, I would not feel comfortable without a reasonable supply of the readies.
I also carry credit cards. Here especially, with the prevalence of forgery, especially in the Far East, using your credit card can be fraught with risk. OK, the introduction of the use of PIN numbers as authorisation in place of a signature has, according to recent reports, reduced fraud by 80%.
Nevertheless, there are still many places around the World where the machinery to process credit cards with PIN numbers has still not arrived. Here it is still commonplace to use the old fashioned imprinted vouchers where, if you donít ensure that you demand that the carbon papers between each sheet are totally destroyed, your signature can be easily faked.
One precaution that is always recommended is that you do not let your credit card out of your sight. Donít let anyone take it away to process your transaction. Always insist that they bring the machine to you or else go with them if it is not portable. That way your card cannot easily be cloned without your knowledge.
Still, the thief is always trying to find new ways of getting around the obstacles so using credit cards will always be a risk.
So what else? Well, there is always the Travellers Cheque (Travelers Check?). These are available in various currencies and you are recommended to buy them in the currency that is most useable in the country of your destination. In the Americas thatís the Dollar. In Europe the Euro reigns. In the ďBritish EmpireĒ, you can always use Sterling.
Now, Iíve used travellers cheques and I hate them. You never know in what denominations to buy them. Too large and you have problems getting change. Too small and you have to carry loads around. Whatís the right balance?
The other problem is that you have to record the numbers of each and every one and then check them off as you use them. However, you are not supposed to carry the numbers around with you so you have to keep a separate record when you spend them and then marry that up with your list latter.
So, whatís the perfect solution?
Well, I thought Iíd found it when I was passing the Travelex desk at Gatwick when waiting for our flight to the Dominican Republic. There, on the desk, was an advert for the Travelex Pre-Paid Travel Card.
The Travelex card is a Debit Card, a bit like Switch. When you use a debit card the money comes right off your account there and then. Normally your account is your bank current account. The problem with this is, of course, that you are just as vulnerable to card cloning and fraud as you are with your credit card, even when protected by a PIN number.
However, the Travelex card is different. It works more like the recent cards that have been trialled that work like an electronic purse. If your purse is stolen, all you can lose is whatís in the purse. The same is true of the Travelex card. Like travellers cheques they are issued in the three major currencies, Dollars, Euros and Sterling. Like the electronic purse, you pre-load them with a set amount of money.
As you buy things, the amount held on the card decreases. Eventually you have to re-fill it by arranging for funds to be transferred to it from your nominated account. The minimum amount you can add to the card is £100 or the approximate equivalent in other currencies. The maximum you can have on your card is £5,000 though who would ever want to have that amount on it I canít imagine.
The card can be used in any outlet that displays the Visa Electron logo and Travelex says thatís all Visa outlets. It can also be used to extract real currency from ATMs in the same way that you can with bank cards and credit cards.
So, it sounds like the perfect solution. If you have it stolen, the most you can lose is whatís on the card and you can have it blocked if it is, as soon as you discover it has been stolen. Itís not worth being cloned because if the card is empty transactions will be rejected, unlike with a credit card.
There is just one problem and a big one at that. Itís nothing to do with the way the card works. Itís to do with the actual physical design of the card. Take a look at any ordinary credit or debit card. The card number across the middle is embossed into the card and the numbers are prominently raised above the surface.
This is important in third world countries (like the Dominican Republic) where the use of the old-fashioned vouchers is still common. The voucher that comes out of the machine after the roller has been rolled across it imprints the card number and outlet details onto the vouchers as evidence of the transaction.
However, the card number on Travelex card barely protrudes above the surface of the card. It is certainly not prominent enough to leave an imprint on a voucher. If the outlet does not have an electronic card reader the transaction cannot be processed and they will refuse the card.
Out of the dozen or so times I tried to use the card in the Dominican Republic it was accepted only twice, once in a supermarket and once in the hotel. It was as good as useless.
When we got back to the UK I took it back to the Travelex desk and explained the problems that I had had in trying to use it on holiday. They were very good about it. They confirmed that the two times I had tried to use it had been processed so it was clear how much was left on the card. They refunded the entire amount plus compensation for the inconvenience I had endured with it.
I have to say that I have absolutely no complaints whatsoever about the way that I was dealt with by Travelex. Indeed, I have used them in the past for currency transactions and have found them honest, fair and competitive.
No, the problem is with the card itself. As it is currently designed I cannot recommend it in any way. This is a great pity because otherwise it should be the perfect answer to using money abroad. Letís hope that they realise the fault in the design and do something about it. If they do I would be prepared to try it again.
But not until then.
Summary: Flawed alternative to travellers cheques