A travel card is an excellent tool if you take travelling seriously. In this post we will show you what works and what doesn’t for Currensea.
I loved living in the UK. I think it is easily one of the best places in the world for serious travel.
But converting pounds was expensive.
A pet peeve of mine is when ATMs forewarn you about the daylight robbery that is just about to happen (often in a different language) while not telling you about the exorbitant currency conversion fees happening in the background. Don’t get me started. Anyway back to the positives for a bit anyway. 🤞
Fortunately in recent years a handful of great travel debit cards have popped onto the scene… and like other great cards Currensea promises big savings (85%) and a great app.
But I think the best bit might be what no other card does: Currensea connects to your existing high street bank account.
What this means is you can spend money you have in your existing current account with less worry about running out of money and the extra step. But that does not mean it is perfect.
In this Currensea review is the good, the bad, the ugly and the alternatives, so that you can decide.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
- Spend in 180 currencies worldwide
- Integrates with UK current bank account. (No need to re-charge)
- Fee-free ATM withdrawals abroad (limits applicable)
- Low fees on the exchange rate
- Limited money transfer capabilities
- No support for multiple currencies
- Can’t withdraw money from UK ATMs
On Trustpilot, Currensea is rated 4.8/5 with over 2,700 reviews, which is considered “Excellent.” According to the reviews, Currensea offers competitive exchange rates and is easy to use for traveling and online purchases.
|🏦 Established||2005 in the US|
|💁 Clients||Personal and Business (Worldwide)|
|💱 Currencies||180 global currencies|
|🏛️ Physical Offices||The UK (London and Berkhamstead)|
|💻 Availability||Online and mobile|
|⚖️ Regulation||Regulated in the UK|
|🔒 Security||Licensed service, Bank-level security, MasterCard chargeback protection|
|⭐ Reviews||“Excellent” – 4.8/5 on Trustpilot with 2,700+ reviews|
|💰 Fees||Transfer fees, ATM withdrawal fees over limit, Currency conversion fees|
|🌐 Official Website||Visit Currensea|
1. Quick Take
Every other popular card in the UK (Wise, Revolut, Monzo, Starling, Monese…) makes you transfer money to an account which is connected to the card they issue.
Currensea does something unique thanks to open banking regulations.
After the initial setup, Currensea is connects to most UK high street current accounts and therefore doesn’t need to be preloaded before you travel – you can simply use the balance you hold.
And using the card can save you a bundle on currency conversions, ATM fees and more.
But first things first – See if your bank is listed here.
To be fair, in some ways the card works well but in other ways – not so much.
2. When Currensea Works (and When It Doesn’t)
With high street banks often charging a 2-3% margin on currency spends abroad (along with a host of hidden fees no one sees coming), prepaid travel debit cards are a great low-cost alternative.
However, you need to preload these before using – which often begs the question – “Am I going to run out of money?”.
For some Currensea may be the perfect answer.
The Currensea travel debit card is issued by MasterCard, regulated by the FCA, and can be used for 180+ currencies.
The card is delivered pretty quickly (3-7 days) and can be easily controlled via the mobile app: set spending limits, get alerts for your purchases and withdrawals, and freeze or unfreeze your card as required.
But are they really easy and affordable to travel with?
2.1 When it Works
2.1.1 You’re a UK resident with a current account with selected banks
You have to be an 18+ UK resident with a current account with the following banks to use Currensea:
- Bank of Scotland
- First Direct
Note: Currensea doesn’t work with Basic current accounts.
2.1.2 You’re traveling for the short term
Currensea comes with usage limits – both for spending in shops as well as ATM withdrawals – which makes it ideal for short trips (a week to 10 days max).
These limits depend on how long and how frequently you’ve been using Currensea.
Check out our best prepaid debit cards for international travel.
2.1.3 You have a business that subscribes to many online SaaS tools
Currensea charges a low margin above the exchange rate for all card spends and helps businesses save on currency conversion fees when paying for business tools like accounting software, CRMs, project management apps, etc.
2.1.4 The Currensea App
According to Currensea Reviews left in the App Store for iPhones a rating of 4.8/5 from over 7000 reviewers leaves us confident it works will for apple users.
Unfortunately at the time of writing the Play Store for Android did not provide any score for reviews likely due to a recent update to the App.
2.2 When It Doesn’t Work
2.2.1 International transfers
While you can spend money abroad in 180+ currencies, currently Currensea users can only send money from a UK bank account to EUR, PLN, HUF, or USD accounts abroad. If international money transfers are a focus for you we think it is better to use a provider best suited to your needs.
2.2.2 No multi-currency support
Most high-street UK current accounts can only hold GBP, which means you can technically only carry one currency when you’re traveling abroad.
This is great for short holidays, but if you’re a frequent traveler who is visiting multiple destinations, we recommend a service like Wise multi-currency account (review) if you need to deal with multiple currencies.
For example, Wise lets you hold, manage, and convert between 50+ currencies, get local receiving accounts in 10+ currencies (including USD, EUR, AUD, etc.), and pay for your travels with a MasterCard debit card. Wise also lets you send money to 70+ currencies.
2.2.3 No ATM withdrawals in the UK
While you can use your Currensea card to make purchases in the UK both offline and online, you can’t withdraw money from a UK ATM.
3. Real Fees (including Hidden Fees)
Currensea comes with three account options – a free account and two premium options. The savings you make and the perks you get increase significantly with the premium options.
Here’s a quick breakdown.
ATM withdrawal fees
Currency conversion fees for card payments
Card delivery fee
£500 GBP free per month | 2% mark up after that
0.5% margin above the exchange rate
Convert savings into miles (Singapore Airlines)
£500 GBP free per month | 1% mark up after that
No mark up
- Convert savings into miles (Singapore Airlines)
- Car hire benefits
- Complimentary stay in 700+ locations worldwide (when booking more than 4 days)
£750 GBP free per month | 1% mark up after that
No mark up
- Everything in Essential and Premium
- 24×7 travel concierge
- Lounge access worldwide
- Luxury hotel and resort perks
ATM withdrawal fees
- Apart from the currency conversion fee charged by Currensea, the ATM operator may charge some fees.
- Currensea uses the interbank or mid-market rate for conversion to currencies such as EUR, USD, and 16 other currencies. For all other currencies, they use the MasterCard exchange rate, which is higher.
Money transfer fees
Currensea charges a 0.5% flat fee + the same currency conversion fee outlined above for money transfers from GBP to EUR, PLN, HUF, or USD accounts abroad. The banks involved may also charge a fee.
Since the currency exchange rate varies, it can be difficult to say whether you’re saving 85-100% compared to high street banks – but it’s safe to say they do turn out to be a good deal cheaper.
Overall, Currensea’s fees are quite transparent and they always mention the exchange rate you get before a transfer.
You also get a breakdown of the fees you’ve paid on the app in GBP.
4. How to Use Currensea
4.1 Sign up for an account
Go to Currensea’s website and sign up for an account.
To make it easy, keep your mobile phone close by so you can access your email account and online banking portal easily.
Wondering which plan is right for you?
Currensea recommends their Premium and Elite plan for frequent travelers and high spenders or if you simply want peace of mind.
Their free account also provides bank beating rates – so if you’re not ready to upgrade, this is great too.
Note: You need to be 18+ and a UK resident to open an account. You also need to have a current account with the following banks:
- Bank of Scotland
- First Direct
4.2 Link your bank account and get verified
Each bank Currensea supports has a different process of linking – simply follow the prompts on the screen and you should be good to go. If you have trouble, Currensea has some guides here.
And you don’t have to upload any documentation to get verified. Usually, Currensea verifies your identity electronically after you link your bank account.
In the rare event there is a bottleneck, you’ll need to upload a photo of your passport, driving license or national ID card.
Note: If you’re trying to link a joint account, please make sure you have third party access enabled in your account.
4.3 Activate your card
After your account is verified, it usually takes 3-7 days for your card to arrive. Once you receive the card, you can activate it on the mobile app and set limits for spending.
Note: you can only get one physical card per account. However you also have access to a virtual card for safe online shopping.
5. What Customers Say (Including Negative Currensea Reviews)
Although Currensea is quite new, it has a good number of great reviews online. On Trustpilot they’re rated 4.8/5 with over 2700 reviews, which is considered “Excellent”. By grouping the negative reviews we found less than 3% of people left negative reviews and these mostly related to not being able to get the card or not fully understanding how the card worked.
Here are the positive and negative experiences shared by the real users of Currensea.
- Simple and cost-effective way to pay on holidays abroad
- Instant notifications in GBP
- Widely accepted
- Easy to use
“Using Currensea on my recent holiday, gave me an extremely simple and cost-effective way to make purchases and pay for services. I used the card for all my purchases from a simple coffee to bar, taxi and meal payments. All payments were recorded for me with an almost immediate email to me, showing the purchase price and its £ conversion, offering me re-assurance of the amount charged.”– Alan Brown on Trustpilot
“Easy to use whilst on holiday in Greece. Had no problem paying for food, drinks and items in restaurants, bars and shops. The savings made in exchange rates are made clear in the app. It’s only necessary to carry a relatively small amount of cash just as a backup or for minor purchases.”– Russel Bergman on Trustpilot
- Application declined
Some travelers were disappointed when their application to get a Currensea card was declined.
Currensea has specific eligibility criteria for who can sign up for their services. For example, you need to be an 18+ UK resident with current accounts at supported partner banks to get a personal account.
Check out Currensea’s eligibility criteria here.
- Card declined
Some users were also worried when their Currensea card was declined while traveling abroad.
This can be due to a number of reasons:
- Reaching the daily limit set by the user or Currensea
- Trying to withdraw cash at a UK ATM
- Attempting a contactless payment (which is currently not supported)
This is why we recommend carrying a backup card or some cash so you always have access to money while traveling abroad.
From the nature of the complaints, we can conclude that Currensea should be
6. Is Currensea Safe?
Short answer – yes in so far as is reasonable to tell.
In the UK Currensea is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) which gives us a reasonable amount of confidence that they are doing they right things to protect customers money. Also being on the register with the FCA means the Financial Ombudsman Service and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) may be able to help if something goes wrong.
Currensea is also a part of the regulated Open Banking network in the UK which mandates banks like HSBC, Barclays, RBS, Santander, etc. – which are supported by Currensea – to share data safely with a third party application like Currensea.
You also get MasterCard chargeback protection for all purchases made on your Currensea card as well as instant notifications for all transactions.
7. Currensea for Business
The Currensea card is available for both small businesses and freelancers in the UK.
It’s not as feature rich as alternatives like the Wise multi-currency account (review), but it can help you save money in the long run if you need to convert GBP into USD or other currencies for business tool subscriptions such as CRMs, schedulers, project management software etc.
The business account also lets you track your purchases and set up recurring payments for your SaaS products with their virtual debit card.
However, you can’t pay overseas suppliers, integrate with accounting software, or connect to payment gateways like Amazon or Ebay.
The Currensea travel debit card is great for short trips overseas from the UK especially if you like the idea of simply using the money you already have in your current account.
Personally I like the simple low cost fee structure and being able to connect with my British bank is a big benefit for me.
However, the lack of support for multiple currencies can be limiting for longer term trips or plans to visit multiple destinations.
Is Currensea the best card?
For some the unique feature Currensea has for using funds directly from eligible UK bank accounts will make them the best prospect. Other cards in our view are better in some situations.
Where can Currensea card be used?
You can make purchases just like any other card that accepts Mastercard overseas and in the UK. Currensea can also be used in overseas ATMs but not in UK based ATMs.