Is the Avios Multi-Currency Cash Passport worth a look?

With new overseas payment products such as Curve and Supercard targetting the travelling public, is there any future for increasingly ‘old school’ products such as the Avios Multi-Currency Cash Passport?  I thought it was worth taking a look.

The Avios Multi-Currency Cash Passport card is a more complex version of a standard pre-loaded currency card.  This one, however, can carry simultaneous balances in ten different currencies – £, €, $, Australian Dollars, New Zealand Dollars, Canadian Dollars, South African Rand, Turkish Lira, Swiss Franc and Emirati Dirham.

You can use it to withdraw money from cash machines as well as buying goods anywhere that accepts MasterCard.

The fees on this card are bordering on reasonable but I still fail to see the attraction over using a credit card.  In particular, I strongly fail to see the attraction over a ‘no FX fees’ credit card such as the Post Office (no annual fee) or Lloyds Avios Rewards cards – especially when the latter also earns Avios, albeit with a £24 annual fee – or payments products like Curve or Supercard.

Cash Passport

Here is the fee schedule for the Avios Multi-Currency Cash Passport card.

Loading the card is FREE, as long as you load in a currency other than £ and you earn 1 Avios point per £1 equivalent loaded.   What the fee schedule does not make clear is how generous (or not) their exchange rate is.  I did a ‘dummy’ transaction and the exchange rate was 3.55% away from the spot rate.

In itself, this does not make the card substantially worse – although it clearly is worse – than a standard credit card with its 2.99% foreign exchange fee.

The fees start to kick in later though:

Load your card in £ – 2% loading fee

Come back from holiday with a balance in one currency and want to convert to another?  3.55% (presumably) built into the margin.

Forget to convert your balance into a different currency before you travel again?  There is a 5.75% FX fee per transaction.

Don’t use your card for a year?  £2 per month will be deducted from the balance.

There are other fees, such as cash machine fees, but these do seem to be ‘industry standard’.

The real problem with the card is that it is fiddly.  Let’s imagine that you are heading to Dubai and you load £500 in Dirham onto your card, paying the 3.55% fee.

You only spend £350.  This leaves £150 in Dirham.  If your next trip is to France, you need to go online and move the Dirham into Euro – incurring another FX fee.  If you don’t spend the entire £150 of Euro in France and then head to the US, you will be paying another fee to convert the remaining funds in $.

You need to know the balance of the card at all times to avoid rejection.  You also cannot use it at a hotel or car hire company where an authorisation is taken at check-in, although you can use it to settle a final balance.

It is both time consuming and expensive.  And, to my mind, pointless.

My view

I’m not sure that there was ever a market for cards like this.  A lot of companies wished there was, but it never materialised.

The cheapest way to spend abroad is a 0% FX fee credit card – Post Office (free), Halifax Clarity (free), Lloyds Avios Rewards (£24 fee but earns Avios).

Alternatively, the Curve card has a 1% FX fee but recharges your purchases to any other card you own.  It can even recharge MasterCard and Visa purchases to an American Express.  The rewards generated should outweigh the 1% fee.

When it comes out of beta this year, Supercard will have no fees and will recharge any Visa or MasterCard (but not an Amex) with your overseas purchase.  This turns any Visa or MasterCard into an ‘FX fee free’ Visa or MasterCard.

With the Multi-Currency Cash Passport, whilst you earn 1 Avios per £1, this is entirely offset by the poorer foreign exchange rate you will be getting compared to using a standard 3% FX fee credit card.

To be honest, I thought that this card and its ilk would have been withdrawn by now due to lack of interest.  In some ways, it is a little worrying that they still exist.  There is no sensible reason for any HFP reader to take one out as far as I can tell.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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  1. OT. Received email notification late last night that my Curve card has been dispatched. Pity it was not a few days earlier as would have come in handy whilst away this week.

  2. The worst thing about these cards are that you might have loaded it in a foreign currency paying 3.5%, but then you get scammed with DCC and end up paying in pounds with an additional 4% (and some of them have additional fees for paying in home currency like supercard)

    This card may be useful for people who can’t get a credit card, or aren’t UK residents, but Revolut is probably better

  3. Genghis says:

    These kind of cards are probably still around as some people don’t know any better.

  4. Also O/T have just received a letter from Lloyds saying if I use my Avios rewards card in any Casino even for lodging and food no gambling they are going to charge me 3% interest on all transactions, from the 6th June, as we go to Vegas twice a year seems like I will have to ditch this card as I can use my BAPP for the same fee and get moe Avios.

    • Genghis says:

      Or use Halifax clarity or Curve when it comes? Effectively buying avios at 2p (even to hit spend targets) is not good value IMO

      • I think Halifax Clarity may just have introduced similar (part of Lloyds group, so would make sense.) I received notification in the past few days of changes to T&Cs – only had a quick scan as most not relevant to me, but one of the items referred to gambling.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          it said gambling and listed Casinos, lottery, horses but didn’t say anything about food and lodgings unless I read it far too fast!

          Adding 3% on for all spend in these places is ridiculous what about using your card at the races to buy drinks/food?

          • AndyGWP says:

            The website says this, but I can’t find any other T&C’s on the Lloyds site in relation to it all… annoyingly, I can’t recall if I’ve had the Lloyds letter or not :( if any of you manage to clarify, could you provide an update :)

            You will not collect Avios for: cash withdrawals, interest, fees or charges, transactions at casinos, betting outlets or bookmakers, payments to offline or online current accounts, savings, share-trading, spread-betting, gambling, any other similar account or fraudulent transacti

    • Wow – I wish I had read that letter properly!!! Thanks for the heads-up! :)

      (Likewise, I regularly use the card on visits to Vegas – more for food than lodgings admittedly!!)

      • Sussex bantam says:

        Oh gosh – missed that completely. If anyone has any further info on the impact on Clarity please post !!!

  5. Tilly71 says:

    Slightly OT – can you use the Tesco MC to purchase Tesco foreign currency and not be charged cash withdrawl fees.
    I thought I read somewhere an exclusion of the fees when using their CC to purchase their travel currency?

    • I don’t know about Tesco Bank, I can tell you that using a Post Office Money credit card you won’t pay a cash fee when buying foreign currency at Post Office.

    • That’s what I’ve seen too.

      Never been able to get it to work via their online currency delivery, only in store.

  6. Metatone says:

    Wasn’t the original purpose of cards like this to replace traveller’s cheques?
    i.e. A safer way of carrying a pile of cash.

    Taxis, small shops, market stalls, cafes are all places you might need or want to use cash. If it’s a short trip, you can just carry the cash. But for a longer one, you might wish to have some of the cash in a safer format?

    Of course, a debit card has usually been a better deal (fees + FX) than these cards, so many people didn’t bother. But there are some big potential downsides to having your debit card stolen abroad, so some people look for an alternative.

    • As well as security from your bank account being drained, they also allow you to lock in a favourable foreign exchange rate months in advance of your trip, which can be helpful for those on a tighter budget. Especially if planning to pay for hotels locally.

    • And there are much better alternatives to this.

      • Wouldn’t disagree to that. Don’t know whether there would be merit from another article from raffles covering some of these, though perhaps not keeping with aspirational or points collecting nature of this piece. That said perhaps curve or supercard could be used for loading one of these cards?

  7. I’m a Nationwide customer and their Select Credit Card also has no non-sterling transaction fee and excellent exchange rates, but I don’t use it (nor their debit card) for cash from ATM’s – prefer FairFX and take out as many euros as I can (usually 600 at a time) for just the €1.50 flat fee.

  8. With this card and Supercard, Curve does anyone know what the position is with regard to Section75 protection?

  9. Slightly off topic but I have a 20 year old daughter off to study in. South Carolina for a year. In the UK she is happy to give me her student loan then get her money weekly. I’m wondering how will be the best way to fund her in the States? Tempted to get her a supplementary card on one of our Amex that I keep then a curve in her name to access it. Obviously this brings a risk of over spending but I could monitor the Amex. Otherwise could Hifx a terms worth of money to her god mother in New Jersey and get her to set up a weekly standing order to fund Beth’s US account ( as yet unopened) . Very open to better ideas

    • Sounds like Revolut would be a good choice here. Daughter can withdraw in cash at atm, or use the mastercard card in shops. She can top the card up weekly/as needed using the Revolut app from her/your UK bank account.

      Probably almost fee free and almost perfect FX rate (according to the propaganda)

      Just need to make sure it is loaded with funds being a pre-pay card.

  10. Now that the Amex travel money is no more, can I load this card (or any other) with foreign currency and count it as a purchase on my Amex card?

  11. It feels like I’ve been waiting for my Curve card for an eternity. Has anyone received theirs yet?

  12. People use cards like this when they can’t get approved for a great credit card, not everyone is fortunate enough.

    Parents also use it to give as gifts to kids on gap years, etc. You’re probably not they’re target demographic : P