/ / Best Travel Money Card
Comparisons

Best Travel Money Card

Best for You?! (and Can You Trust Them?)

(for UK, USA, Europe, Australia and NZ)

Travel money cards have rapidly become one of the most important if not THE most important tools for paying for things while overseas.

Know you want one? – Skip down and compare the best using our handy table.

Best Card for TravelThey are great for several reasons:

  1. You can pre-load or switch to different currencies easily (and often inexpensively)
  2. Withdrawl cash at ATMs in local currencies (without expensive fees)
  3. Pay for anything where Mastercard (and sometime Visas) is accepted – pretty much everywhere.
  4. Apps and online access enables you to manage money on the road

The Problem

Every big bank, Dick and Harry has a “travel card” with all kinds of perks designed like to attract your business but like anything in the finance world it seems – very few are great and many are not.

For example, some have seemly generous loyalty travel points – but then more than make up for it through hidden fees – usually in the exchange rate.

The Solution

In recent years a new breed of card has emerged – they are app focused and put your needs first.

But there is still a bit of a problem.

Now instead of getting fleeced by big banks, there are a tonne of new services that all have some really great marketing and cool features.

Here is how to make it easy.

Focus on the important things you DO NEED in a travel card. Then check out the cool features.

Here are the things we think you will find most important (and use to evaluate the competition below):

  1. Lots of control over your money (In – Out and Between Currencies)
  2. Inexpensive currency exchange rates (In – Out and Between Currencies)
  3. Inexpensive ATM withdrawal fees
  4. Reasonable limits (usually daily or monthly) before higher fees occur
  5. Excellent user experience (using apps and online)
  6. Service (if things go wrong)

The good news is that this removes about 99% of the competition – mostly big bank operated cards that are very keen for your business and collecting the fees that go along with it.

Jump Links

If this travel money card idea is new to you, you will want to read the next sections!

How Do (good) Travel Money Cards Work?

Some travel money cards are a secure and convenient way to manage your banking and foreign currency needs. These are specially designed prepaid debit cards that can be used like credit cards.

Simply preload them with whatever currency you wish and manage expenses and currency transfers easily from an app or online.

You need to sign up with the company of your choice, and they will do some basic identity checks and approve your account.

Once it is done, they will issue you a card. The card is connected to the Mastercard or Visa network which means you can spend money pretty much anywhere.

Here is where is gets really good.

Apart from being able to use a helpful app on your phone to easily manage expenses in different currencies the fees to switch between different currencies are much cheaper than normal travel cards which usually unbeknownst often to many people have all kinds of fees attached.

You can use also use the card to withdraw cash from ATMs for free instead of the usual “Fee Notice”.

Does this remind you of any messages you may have seen?

You may be charged in a different currency. 
This bank will charge a fee for using the ATM.
This fee is in addition to any fees that may be charged by your financial institution.
Press to Continue – >
Press to Cancel – >

The fixed ATM fee is often only a small part of the total fees!

Your bank often also takes fees through giving you a poor exchange rate and other fees.

You can effectively eliminate the ATM fees and get a great exchange rate and they don’t try to make money elsewhere without telling you.

Here is how it works:

Before you travel overseas, you transfer your home currency from your bank account or debit/credit card to your prepaid travel card at the going exchange rate. You can then use this card overseas in the same way that you would use a regular debit or credit card. This card can be used in any country that uses the currency that you have loaded in your card.

Of course you can only spend the money you have loaded – these cards do not let you borrow money, but they sure do save you loads.

What You Need to Know

Using debit cards to withdraw money from ATMs may prove quite costly as they charge a Foreign ATM withdrawal fee (wikipedia) and a percentage fee (1%-3%) on the amount you are withdrawing.

On the top of it, you pay currency exchange fee as well. The actual costs you incur would depend on the card you are using. Some cards are more travel friendly than others.

Another factor that weighs against most cards issued is the Dynamic Currency Conversion (DDC) fee (wikipedia). This fee is levied when the bill amount in foreign currency is converted to your home currency and then charged from your bank debit card. You not only pay the current exchange rate (which could be quite uncompetitive), you also pay a mark-up that is usually added to this rate.

DCC allows the merchant, merchant's bank or ATM operator to charge a markup on the exchange rate used, sometimes by as much as 18%.

With a travel card, your exchange rate is locked in and you can decide the most favourable time to for currency exchange and loading your travel card. In addition to safeguards against any major currency volatility the additional costs associated with using most bank cards are dramatically reduced.

Here are the best by country where you reside: (Links are to summaries of the services below)

🇬🇧 UK

TransferWise, Revolut, Monzo, N26

🇺🇸 USA and Canada

TransferWise, Revolut, N26

🇦🇺 Australia and NZ

TransferWise, Revolut

🇪🇺 Europe

N26, Revolut

Best Travel Money Cards

TransferWise

Borderless Review
Click Image for Full Review

The TransferWise multi-currency debit Mastercard works with the TransferWise borderless account. It is a multi-currency account that lets you hold money in 50+ currencies and provides you international bank details in New Zealand, Australian, US dollars, as well as British Pounds and Euros.

TransferWise converts your money at the real mid-market rate and fees are kept to a minimum.

Visit the TransferWise Card Page Here

Features (UK)

  • Enjoy free ATM withdrawals up to £200 / 30 days
  • Low currency conversion fees
  • Receive payments in USD, GBP, EUR, AUD, NZD, PLN for free using your own local bank details
  • Hold money in 50+ currencies
  • The card is already available in the US, UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore
  • Can use anywhere in the world where MasterCard is accepted
  • Enjoys excellent reviews on TrustPilot with a score of 4.6

TransferWise costs

Card Issue FeeFree
ATM withdrawal feeFree up to £200 / 30 days
2% over £200 / 30 days
Exchange rateMid-market rate
Currency conversion fees0.35%-2.22%
Spend in currencies in
your account
Free

 

Revolut

Review of Revolut
Click Image for Full Review

Revolut is a digital bank and enjoys  over 7 million customers. It gives you access to a contactless debit card that lets you make free ATM withdrawals and exchange currency with 0% fee. It is connected to their app and is a great solution for international travellers. There are no hidden fees and they offer “real” exchange rate without any mark-ups.

Get the latest for your country here.

Or Revolut for business latest inclusions and plans.

Features

  • Lets you spend overseas in over 150 currencies at mid-market rates
  • For currency exchange amounts over and above the monthly limits, they charge a small 0.5% fee
  • ATM withdrawals for amounts higher than monthly limits attract a small 2% fee
  • For as little as £1.00 per day, they provide travel insurance
  • You have complete control over your card. You can turn on and off features like swipe payments, ATM withdrawals, contactless etc. all from within the app
  • It also offers location based security
  • Revolut is available in United Kingdom, European Economic Area (EEA), Australia and Singapore.
  • Revolut has a TrustPilot score of 4.5 with excellent customer reviews

Revolut costs

Card Issue FeeFree, Premium €6.99/m or Metal €12.99/m. Also business options and prices in GBP, USD, AUD, NZ (click for Business or your country)
ATM withdrawal feeFree up to €200 per month with free card, €400 per month with Premium and up to €600 per month with Metal. Flat fee of 2% for amounts above.
Exchange rateInterbank Rate (+0.5% to all major currencies)
Currency conversion feesFree up to €5,000 per month with standard card  (0.5% above that). No monthly limit on Premium and Metal cards.
Spend in currencies in
your account
Free

 

N26

Review of N26
Click Image for Full Review

N26 is a Berlin based online bank that started in 2013 and offers their service to the UK, Europe and the USA. The N26 bank works with a prepaid card system enabled by Mastercard.

Get the latest price for your country here.

Features (Eurozone)

  • Free ATM withdrawals in Euros
  • Free payments in any currency with no surcharge for paying abroad
  • N26 Black/Metal allows free withdrawals worldwide and provides comprehensive travel insurance
  • You get mid-market exchange rate
  • N26 is available in Germany, Austria, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Finland, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Estonia, Greece, Slovakia, the UK, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Switzerland and the USA.
  • You can combine N26 with Google Pay or Apple Pay to make payments
  • N26 has a TrustPilot score of 4, with some great reviews and some not-so great ones. The bad reviews are mostly related to customer service but as we point out in our review of N26 these can be mostly avoided.

N26 costs

Card Issue FeeFree, You €9.90/mo, Metal €16.90. (click for UK and USA prices)
ATM withdrawal feeForeign currency ATM withdrawals include fees. With the N26 account, there’s a fee of 1.7% of the withdrawal amount. There is no fee for N26 You or N26 Metal members. A €2 fee applies to additional withdrawals beyond their Fair Use Policy.
Exchange rateMid-market rate
Currency conversion feesN26 doesn’t charge exchange mark-ups or conversion fees.
Spend in currencies in
your account
Free

We also looked into the five best alternatives to N26 here.

Monzo

Review of Monzo Bank
Click Image for Full Review

Monzo came into being in 2015 and became regulated by the FCA in 2016. Today, 3 million people use Monzo to spend money overseas. This digital bank issues a debit Mastercard for purchases and cash withdrawals. Monzo is currently only available to UK residents.

Get the latest price for your country here.

Features

  • Lets you pay in restaurants, shops and online, in any currency, anywhere in the world and with no fee
  • Allows cash withdrawals of up to £200 every 30 days for free
  • Monzo travel reports are really helpful. Keep you informed of the current exchange rate, provides tips on travelling
  • Lets you automatically categorise transactions
  • You can exchange currency directly at the Mastercard exchange rate without an additional fee
  • Monzo Plus comes with additional perks such as higher free ATM withdrawal limits and worldwide travel insurance
  • Monzo enjoys excellent customer reviews with a TrustPilot score of 4.4/5

Monzo costs

Card Issue FeeMonzo is free, Monzo Plus Supporter comes at £4.95 a month for minimum 6 months and, Monzo Plus Traveller comes at £9 for minimum 6 months.
ATM withdrawal feeFirst £200 in 30 day period is free and 3% fee thereafter. Monzo Plus Traveller has an upper limit of £400.
Exchange rateMastercard exchange rate
Currency conversion feesMonzo doesn’t charge exchange mark-ups or conversion fees.
Spend in currencies in
your account
Free

Monese

Review of Monese
Click Image for Full Review

Monese lets you open a European or British current account in minutes without a traditional proof of address. This makes Monese particularly attractive to expats, travellers and digital nomads who need get up and running quickly running without jumping through hoops.

Features

  • Can open a Euro or GBP account and then another currency account (GBP or EUR) for no additional cost
  • Signup does not require an address

Monese costs

Card Issue FeeMonese Simple is free, Classic at £4.95/€4.95 per month, Premium Plan at 14.95/€14.95 per month
ATM withdrawal feeFor Simple £200/€200 per month is free and 2% fee thereafter. Monese Classic has an upper limit of £800 and 2% fee thereafter. Premium is unlimited.
Exchange rateMid-market rate
Currency conversion feesMonese Simple and Classic is 0.5%, Premium is free
Spend in currencies in
your account
Free

Here is our review of Monese.

In Comparison

Each service has its own strengths and all have a potentially serious weaknesses we uncover in our verdict below..

This table is a great place to start.

From here refer to the individual services above.

CardRevolutTransferWiseN26MonzoMonese
AvailabilityUK, Europe, Australia, Singapore and SwitzerlandUK, Europe, USA, Australia, NZ, SingaporeUK, Eurozone, USAUKUK and Eurozone
OffersRevolut offers in your country OR For business TransferWise offers in your country N26 offers in your country Monzo latest prices and services in your country Monese latest prices and services in your country for mobile and desktop
Account opening feeFree, Premium €7.99/m or Metal €13.99/m. Also business options and prices in GBP, USD, AUD, NZ (click for Business or your country)FreeFree, You €9.90/mo, Metal €16.90. (click for UK and USA prices)Free, Plus Supporter £4.95/m (min 6 months), Monzo Plus £9/m (min 6 months)Free for the Simple Plan; £4.95/month for Monese Classic; and £14.95/month for Monese Premium
ATM withdrawal feeFree up to £/€200 per month with Free card, £/€400 per month with Premium and up to £/€600 per month with Metal. Flat fee of 2% for amounts above.Free up to £200 / 30 days
2% over £200 / 30 days
Free card attracts 1.7% fee. "You" and "Metal" options have free ATM withdrawls up to five/month then €2 fee applies.Free card up to £200 / 30 days period is free and 3% fee thereafter. Plus Traveller has an upper limit of £400.£200/30 days on the Simple plan; £800/30 days on the Monese Classic plan, a flat 2% fee is applicable thereafter beyond these limits; no ATM withdrawal fees on the Premium plan.
Exchange rateInterbank Rate (+0.5% to all major currencies)Interbank Rate (same as mid-market rate)Interbank RateMastercard exchange rate
Interbank Rate
Currency conversion feesFree up to £5,000/€6,000 per month with standard card. No monthly limit on Premium and Metal cards. 0.5% fair usage fee0.35%-2.2%N26 doesn’t charge exchange mark-ups or conversion fees.Monzo doesn’t charge exchange mark-ups or conversion fees.2% on the Simple Plan (€2/£2 minimum); 0.5% on the Classic plan; and no fee for the Monese Premium plan
Spend in currencies in
your account
FreeFreeFreeFreeFree
Deal maker?Option to avail travel insurance at a low costWide availability and true multi-currency card with over 50+ options. Top Choice.Full service current accounts that can be managed via their mobile appFully authorized and regulated digital bankEasy to set up direct debits for monthly expenses

Revolut Versus N26
Click Image for the Winner

Revolut VS N26

With Revolut and N26 there is a lot to consider between the two. In our full comparison we found that there is more to consider than just the basics we have shown. Revolut for example seem more targeted towards the traveler and focuses on perks like access to airport lounges, travel insurance and even buying cryptocurrencies. Meanwhile N26 is a real bank based out of Europe (Germany) which does offer a little extra comfort for all Eurozone users.

 

TransferWise VS Revolut
Click image for the Winner

Revolut VS TransferWise

With Revolut and TransferWise we found you can often make your decision easier if you look closely at the our Costs and Fees section for our full comparison. In it we found Revolut beats TransferWise for UK and European payments. However if you need to transfer money or live outside of the UK or Europe, TransferWise is most often going to be a better option so long as you are OK without the Cool Features having a Revolut card provides.

Monzo VS Revolut

Review of Monzo Versus Revolut
Click image for the Winner

Monzo VS Revolut is fairly easy to to decide between. Both are great but for quite different reasons. Revolut is clearly better when it comes to travel and additional perks like insurance, a booking service (concierge) and travel lounges but to access these perks you have to get the Premium or Metal offering. Monzo on the other hand being a bank (UK only) enables it to offer interest on its accounts, personal loans, and bill-pay services which in addition to occasional short term travel benefits makes it a great choice if you want some banking and travel more limited travel features rolled into one.

And the Winner Is…

You (tacky old bad joke – yes – but true).

Travel money cards are a great alternative to regular bank debit cards. They help save a lot of money on currency exchange, ATM withdrawals and overseas spending. The cards listed above are among the best available. You can choose the one that best suits your needs and offers the best value.

However, there is some things you should know… most importantly;

  • Frozen Accounts
  • Money Transfers
  • Receiving Bank Accounts

In our in-depth analysis of the reviews for each service we looked at the most recent one star reviews and collated the data. One of the most common and most concerning complaints was about the possibility of your account getting frozen. For some people who were relying on the card this can be more than frustrating, leaving travellers in awkward situations or alternately without access to their funds often for weeks.

The trouble here is not really the companies who run these cards but the regulations and security measures which are aimed to prevent money laundering, terrorism and theft. Unfortunately this can have some unwanted side effects.

The solution is simple. Given that the cards can save you a lot of money and become really great ways to manage your money – we think it best to have one of these cards and have a backup option where you keep the majority of your funds.

Money transfers are another story. In many cases we found that for large or essential transfers it might be better to use a specialist money transfer company that can do bank-to-bank transfers. The reason is that many of these travel cards use 3rd party companies which introduces additional potential for the funds to be delayed.

For those what want to accept payments in different currencies, the services differ reasonably significantly. For example, some give you the ability to effectively have bank accounts in several countries which can be a big bonus when asking for payments. Others ask they you use their money transfer services to accept payments in the senders currency and they you can exchange to for the currency you choose which may not be suitable if you are invoicing but would be fine if someone from home was sending funds.

Overall, we expect many more cards to surface and more people to use them.

Happy Travels!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply