The 5 Best Prepaid Debit Cards for International Travel

A prepaid debit card is a great tool to enable the serious international traveller. In this post we'll take a close look at the best cards out there and some must-know tips to help you decide.

I got an American Express gold card while travelling Europe and living in London. Given I was in my twenties (and thought I was a rock star) and now had a “no preset spending limit” what could possibly go wrong?

Well fortunately I realised the error of my ways early and didn’t loose my shirt (which funny enough cost more than my charity shop suit).

20 years later, a few countries, many cards later and many, many more trips abroad – I choose to use a debit card as my daily driver.

And I have found the best prepaid debit cards for international travel are way better than credit cards because:

  • Accepted just like the others (Visa / Mastercard)
  • Low exchange rate fees
  • Great control from mobile apps or computer
  • Low ATM fees worldwide (some merchants like cash!)
  • In-built safety (they are a debit card and the Apps give you a lot of control like temporarily suspending cards and creating virtual cards)
  • Optional advanced travel features (like travel insurance, travel lounges, rewards and even holding multiple currencies)

But they are all quite different in what they offer.

In this post, I have curated some of my absolute favourites and show you which ones might work best for you (regardless where you are in the world).

At the end of the article, I will also point to some important information to help you choose the right cards.

Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links (not all cards reviewed have affiliate programs). If you use these links they come at no extra cost to you and help to support this website. Thank you! For more information, see my disclosures here.



You might also like Wise Vs Revolut

Quick Comparison

CardWiseRevolutSableMonzoMonese
AvailabilityUK, US, most of the EEA, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Canada and BrazilUK, US, EEA, Australia, Switzerland, Japan and SingaporeUSThe UK and USThe UK and Eurozone
Trustpilot Ratings4.5/54.4/51.2/5 (4.8/5 on App Store4.4/54.1/5
Account Opening FeeFreeStandard (Free), Plus (£2.99/month), Premium (£6.99/month), Metal (£12.99/month)FreeMonzo (Free), Plus (£ 5 GBP/month), Premium (£15 GBP/month)Starter (Free), Essential (£1.95 GBP/month), Classic (£5.95/month), Premium (£14.95/month)
Free ATM withdrawal feeFree up to £200Free up to £200 / 30 days or 5x withdrawals on the Free planFreeFee-free in the EEA for paid users or those who deposit £500 every 35 days€1.5 / £1.5 / 5 lei per ATM withdrawal
Exchange rateMid-marketMid-marketMid-marketMastercard exchange rateMastercard exchange rate
Currency conversion fee0.35-1%, no mark up1% of the amount | 0.5-1.5% on the exchange rate on weekends2% of the amountNo mark up (on Mastercard exchange rate)2% of the amount
Spend in currencies in your accountFreeFreeFreeFreeFree
Why them?Easy, inexpensive, minimalist and powerfulStrong alternative to traditional banks with a great travel card which includes insurance and other travel goodnessAmericans and non-citizens can build credit and they also have strong travelStrong alternative to old school banking with travel built inEasy to set up direct debits for monthly expenses with travel built in
Why NOT?You want insurance and more bank like featuresComplex array of cards, fees and offerings (which could also be positive)Conversion fee of 2% is higher than Wise and RevolutMore focused on being a bank alternative than card.
See the latest prices/inclusions in your countrySee the latest prices/inclusions in your countrySableMonzoMonese

What to Look For in a Prepaid Debit Card for International Travel

Prepaid Credit Cards - Overseas

Paying for your travels with a bank-issued credit or debit card may seem like a fine idea until you actually dig deeper and see how much you’ve been charged in fees.

And these fees do add up.

Not to mention, banks can also decline transactions while you’re overseas if you don’t inform them that you’re travelling abroad!

The good news is travel debit cards are adapting to our evolving travel needs.

And, they make handling your money overseas more secure, easy, and seamless.

The Best Cards:

  • Give you lots of control over your money with respect to reloading your card, transferring money, holding money in multiple currencies, and withdrawing funds to your bank account.
  • Have a user-friendly app or online portal that doesn’t force you to read between the lines
  • Have reasonable daily or monthly usage limits before higher charges kick in (especially useful if you’re travelling for a long time during your gap year)
  • Inexpensive exchange rates
  • Low (or no) ATM withdrawal fees
  • Reasonable service charges (for example, subscription fees, card issuance fees, replacement fees, etc.)
  • Great customer service!

The increasing popularity of these cards has a downside – you are spoilt for choice.

Fortunately there are a few standouts!

1. Wise

Exchange Rate from Wise

The Wise debit card is attached to their multi-currency account, which is one of the best ways to manage your money while travelling overseas.

You can hold up 50+ currencies in your account, which are available for spending with your card without conversion fees. The card is powered by MasterCard and accepted in 200+ countries worldwide.

Wise is rated 4.5/5 on TrustPilot with over 170,000 reviews and available in the UK, US, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

See the latest prices/inclusions in your country.

Features

  • You’ll enjoy free ATM withdrawals (in over 2 million ATMs around the world) up to £200 / 30 days
  • Their app lets you top-up, check your balance and transactions, and convert currency in real time
  • Very low currency conversion fees
  • Load your card with 50+ currencies
  • Freeze your card in case of loss or theft
  • Users love their low exchange rates and customer service.

Fees at a Glance

Card Issue Fee£5 GBP (one-time fee), £17 GBP optional Express card delivery fee
ATM withdrawal feeFree up to £200 / 30 days or 2 withdrawals; 1.75% of amount over £200 GBP
Exchange rateMid-market
Currency conversion fees0.35 – 1%, no mark up
Spend in currencies in your multi-currency accountFree

2. Revolut

Review of Revolut

Revolut (review) takes travel debit cards to the next level by offering full service current accounts that are linked to a contactless debit card.

The current accounts are easily managed on their app and transferring money from your bank account to your Revolut account is safe and convenient. Once your Revolut account is loaded, transacting overseas is hassle-free and inexpensive.

Revolut is rated 4.4/5 on Trustpilot with over 115,000 reviews and their travel debit card is available in the UK, USA, Europe, Australia, and Singapore.

Here are the latest prices/inclusions in your country (open new tab).

Travelling for business? Revolut also offers a multi-currency account for businesses which let you hold and spend in 30+ currencies. Check out Revolut for business.

Features

  • Offers four plans with varying subscription costs (includes a free plan with lots of benefits too)
  • Travel anywhere in the world with a Revolut debit card and spend in over 150 currencies overseas at the mid-market rate and without any mark ups
  • For long-term travellers, the €200/month withdrawal limit for free (on the Free plan) is particularly attractive. But a flat 2% fee is applicable beyond the monthly limit.
  • They provide travel insurance for as little as £1.00 per day (medical and dental coverage)
  • Stay on budget while travelling with expense notifications in your home currency and advanced spending analytics
  • Get virtual cards for safe online shopping

Fees at a Glance

Card Issue FeeFree, Revolut Plus (£2.99/month), Revolut Premium (£6.99/month), Revolut Metal (£12.99/month)
ATM withdrawal feeFree up to £200 / 30 days or 5x withdrawals on the Free plan, 2% of the amount over the limit | Higher withdrawal limit on paid plans
Exchange rateMid-market
Currency conversion fees1% of the amount | 0.5-1.5% on the exchange rate on weekends
Spend in currencies in your accountFree

3. Sable

Sable Card (Review) is uniquely awesome for Americans and non-citizens in the US.

They allow you to get a credit card as well as a debit card and bank account without a Social Insurance Number or even citizenship.

Even Better…

For Americans or other residents of the US the card is s great way to build credit which in turn makes it easier to get rental properties and even things like cell phone plans.

Features

  • Get debit and secured credit card
  • The credit card acts like a prepaid debit card while building credit (no credit score needed to get one)
  • Low travel and international money transfer fees on exchange rates
  • Excellent app to help build your credit score

Fees at a Glance

Card Issue Fee$0 ($20 for expedited cards)
ATM withdrawal feeFree
Exchange rateMid-market
Currency conversion fees2% of the amount
Spend in currencies in your accountFree

4. Monzo

Review of Monzo Bank

Like N26, Monzo (review) is also a digital bank that issues a MasterCard travel debit card. You can pay for your travel expenses with your Monzo card anywhere in the world without worrying about extra fees being levied on the MasterCard exchange rate (which is pretty close to the mid-market rate).

Monzo is rated 4.4/5 on Trustpilot with over 23,000 reviews and is available in the UK and USA (with banking licence and deposit protection in both countries).

Features

  • Three subscription options with varying features (including free tier)
  • The card lets you make free ATM withdrawals up to £200/30 days
  • You can pay with a Monzo travel debit card in the UK, online, or anywhere in the world in a foreign currency without any hidden fees levied on the MasterCard exchange rate
  • Travelling with a partner? Open a Monzo joint account for better control over your travel funds
  • Stay on budget while travelling with easy categorization of transactions and detailed travel expense reports
  • Virtual debit cards for safe online shopping (paid accounts)
  • Lounge access (Monzo Premium)

Fees at a Glance

Card Issue FeeFree
ATM withdrawal feeFee-free in the EEA for paid users or those who deposit £500 every 35 days into their Monzo account, 3% for all withdrawals over £250 EUR/30 days
Exchange rateMastercard exchange rate
Currency conversion feesNo mark up
Spend in currencies in your accountFree

5. Monese

Review of Monese

The Monese (review) travel debit card (linked to a current account) and is known for providing real-time, wholesale exchange rates on foreign currency transactions globally with low exchange fees.

Monese is rated 4.0/5 on Trustpilot with over 30,000 reviews and is available in the UK and Eurozone.

Here are the latest prices/inclusions in your country (open new tab).

Features

  • Three tiers to sign up and use the card (includes free tier)
  • You can open accounts in EUR, GBP, or RON
  • Manage your travel budget better with real-time visual representation of spending habits in the Monese app
  • Easily set up and stop direct debits for monthly expenses
  • Virtual cards for safe online shopping

Fees at a Glance

Card Issue FeeFree card, £4.95 delivery
ATM withdrawal fee€1.5 / £1.5 / 5 lei per ATM withdrawal
Exchange rateMaster-card exchange rate
Currency conversion fees2% of the amount
Spend in currencies in your accountFree

FAQs

The cards we have discussed above are all attached to either a multi-currency account or a digital bank account. You can easily spend the money in these accounts with your debit card while travelling abroad.

You can also easily top up the balances you hold in different currencies using linked bank accounts, other cards and other methods.

If you are in the UK the Currensea card (review) does not need to be topped up at all – they can be directly connected to a current account.

Yes!

All the cards we’ve mentioned are either issued by regulated financial institutions or licensed banks.

For example, Revolut, Monzo and Monese have banking licences and even have deposit protection in some countries.

Now, while Wise is not a real bank, they’re a regulated financial institution.

Wise is regulated by authorities such as the UK Financial Conduct Authority (UK), the UK Financial Conduct Authority (UK), National Bank of Belgium (Europe) as an Authorised Payment Institution, the Australia Securities and Investments Commission (Australia), Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (Canada) and Financial Customs and Excise Department (Hong Kong). It is also regulated in India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the UAE.

This means they have to do things like keep your money separated from their own.

The spend limit of your card depends on the bank or e-money institution that issues it.

There can be limits on how much you can spend in a day or how much you can withdraw from an ATM for free (some fees applicable over the limit).

While we don’t recommend using the card issued by your high street bank for all your travels, we suggest carrying a back up.

You can save a bunch if you’re spending in the local currency.

Look for cards (like the one issued with the Wise Multi-currency account) that let you load up the account in a specific currency so you can spend like a local while travelling abroad.

Some cards like the one issued by N26 also help you save if you’re exclusively travelling in the EEA.

Bottom Line

The best travel debit cards make paying for things in different currencies super easy, safe and inexpensive.

I like to choose a travel debit card that offers the best value in terms of exchange rate, low ATM withdrawal fees, and low card reloading fees.

Also user friendly in-app money management and customer service is also critical while on the go. For example, the Wise card I like using at the moment sends messages to my phone with each purchase. The message help me keep track and then when I want to re-load the card it takes just a few clicks from my phone to pull in funds from my connected bank accounts.

Other bonuses like travel insurance may be attractive for you and some have some pretty damn good looking cards… for a price.

Finally, don’t forget to activate your card in your home country to avoid any surprises .

Happy travelling!

What are the main fees for debit cards when travelling?

When traveling watch out for fees built into the exchange rate and other hidden fees that 3rd parties like ATMs and banks charge.

How can debit cards for travelling save you money?

A debit card is an excellent way to safely manage spending in different currencies. Moreover there are now cards offered by digital (neobanks) banks which slash fees of traditional banks and also offer a superior user friendly experience.

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