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

With new overseas payment products such as Curve and Revolut 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.

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 (minimum £50 load).

The fee schedule does not make clear is how generous (or not) their exchange rate is.  You cannot tell, without applying for a card and setting it up, how bad the exchange rates are.  This seems unfair.

As you now need an active card to look up the exchange rates, I couldn’t do a test.  However, when I last looked at this card 18 months ago, the exchange rate was 3.55% away from the spot rate.  I am guessing that this is still the same, although if anyone has one of these cards and can do a quick check (comparing with xe.com/icc) I’d be grateful.

In itself, a 3.55% fee does not make the card substantially worse – although it clearly is worse – than a standard credit card with its 2.99% foreign exchange fee.  Why bother though?  Why not just use a rewards credit card, pay 2.99%, earn some points and get up to 56 days interest free credit to settle the bill?

Extra fees start to kick in later:

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, because of the fat margins, 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 Visa or MasterCard card you own.  The rewards generated should cover most the fee.

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.  It doesn’t even begin to compete with 0% fee credit or debit cards.

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.

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Comments

  1. Revolut has to be the way forward. It is easy to use as a MasterCard and wonderfully competitive with no fees other than getting your plastic prepay cards. This is really a must have.

    • Londonbus says:

      Agree. I’m paid in US dollars to a London account (work in Saudi Arabia).

      I can fund Revolut direct in USD as well as topping up in pounds.

      The only annoyance is the £200 a month limit on comission free cash.

  2. This card isn’t all bad:

    If you top up via the mobile app in GBP, you won’t get charged a loading fee.

    It can be used to top up Monzo, and Revolut, as well as payoff certain CC bills…

  3. Worth mentioning that Curve are currently not supporting Amex.

    • Haven’t been since a few weeks into beta testing with a limited number of cards in circulation.

      Doubling transactions, failing to delete duplicates, etc. an utter shambles.

      Doesn’t even work with Marriott Mastercar due to API issues where it treats it as a cash withdrawal.

      Half baked idea which should never have been brought to market.

      • I’ve only been using a few months now (don’t have iOS so couldn’t get in at the start when they had Amex support) – must say it’s worked flawlessly for me across all my cards. Have my Lloyds MC on it as a EUR card too so I get a few Avios on ATM withdrawals in Europe too!

      • Curve are no longer beta and are launching internationally
        I have been using them for over a year now and have seen them get better and better at what they do – the app is brilliant, you can go back in time and move transactions from one card to another if you charge the wrong card by mistake etc… their support has become second to none, really quick responses and very communicative about any downtime they have

  4. the real harry1 says:

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

    no, it’s rubbish