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. Andrew Howard says:

    As of 5mins ago.

    Multi Currency Passport
    £1 = 1.0758 EUR
    £1 = 1.2673 USD

    XE
    £1 = 1.2064 EUR
    £1 = 1.32323 USD

  2. the real harry1 says:

    must mention Halifax Clarity credit card! perfect exchange rates (no fees charged) plus has the agreeable feature that if you get cash with an ATM transaction abroad, you can fund your account back home same day and not pay any interest

    not that the interest rate is awful – my wife took out £300 @ ATM abroad this summer & I forgot to fund it though had DD in place – total interest was £3 over 2 months (most in month 1) so rate for cash advances must be something like 12-15% pa

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      Used to be 12.9%, now 18.9%.

    • With you on the Clarity card and 5* from me.

      Used it many times abroad for withdrawing cash but never bothered funding the same amount through the app as the interest is negligible.

    • The ‘you can fund your account back home same day and not pay any interest’ bit is the bit that puts me off. This for me makes it fiddly whilst you are on holiday trying to have a nice time but instead have to remember to transfer cash before end of day in your ‘home timezone’

      I prefer the Nationwide FlexPlus which gives you free withdrawals without FX fees on debit card, and no FX fees on the credit card so you cover both cash and card transactions! As the cash is withdrawn direct from your debit account, you don’t have to do any fiddly moving money around!

      • Don’t then, john. As I previously stated, the interest is negligible. Really, don’t kill yourself over one pound.

  3. Jason Scott-Taggart says:

    If you want a multi currency pre-load card, look at http://www.weswap.com/en/ . Crowd matching exchanges with a small commission and free cash withdrawals if you take out enough in one go.

    • I have weswap – need to jump through hoops to avoid various fees. Revolut or curve is much better.

      • Jason Scott-Taggart says:

        I have both. I charge up the WeSwap in advance of travelling so that I get cash at a great rate and then I use Curve for costs over and above the amount I pre-loaded on the WeSwap and also on quick/short/impromptu trips.

  4. Is the Curve card still “business” use only?

    • Mixed comments about this yesterday with people stating that it was and it was not. Hope that clears it up for you…

      • It does look like Curve has gone global as I had an update on iOS app this morning with ‘It will forever be remembered as the year Curve was made available to everyone’.

    • I’ve had an email asking for proof of business use and my account is blocked until they get it

      • Request your 50 quid back then, Sarah.

      • I had my account blocked a couple of months ago. I got my card on day one and said no to being employed or self employed. However, they asked me for,proof of earnings etc which I didn’t have so they blocked my card. They have agreed to unblock it when they launch the consumer card. Been emailing them today about launch date but they confirmed no date has been set yet. They are working on improving the Rewards.

        • Dr Positive says:

          I used the Curve Black card for a over a year now and its great. I said I was self employed and gave my company name and proof documents and had no problems and Curve have saved me a fortune so far 🙂

      • It’s a new card (see link I posted) – perhaps worth asking in support if they could move you across to the front of the queue for it?

  5. I’m still a big fan of the CaxtonFX Mastercard. Load via the app from your debit card. No fees and several currencies with good exchange rates.
    Trip to Prague last week- it doesn’t offer Czech crowns, but you load pounds and pay with the card or withdraw cash- I was extremely sceptical, as my first time not loading euros/dollars/Nordic crowns, but I double checked after using it and no extra charges or skewed exchange rate after my (wife’s) Czech crown spending!

    • Murtaza Iqbal says:

      I’ve been using CaxonFX for years now; best top up credit card on the market I reckon!

      • I have used Caxton FX for several years it’s realky excellent- all the family have one including the kids , Halifax look interesting – but Caxton is brilliant and fast sending money to loved ones abroad with no fees

    • the_real_a says:

      Erm Caxton is awful

      “When you use your card overseas we will use the MasterCard settlement rate and an FX mark up of 2.49% to exchange the funds.”

  6. Tim Millea says:

    You (again) fail to mention Revolut which is a card, an app and a bank account rolled into one. It has zero fees on the interbank exchange rate for both purchases and ATM withdrawals (except at weekends – 1.5% to cover risk). I have it. I am currently in Turkey. At an ATM, as soon as I confirm the amount requested, my phone buzzes with a notification from Revolut of the exact amount charged in Sterling before the notes pop out of the machine. No fees ever! I can also make SWIFT-like payments direct to foreign accounts in 16+ currencies without any fee, whatsoever. This has been transformational for me with accounts in several countries. My Revolut account has a UK sort code and account number to receive payments (as well as a Euro IBAN no. ) and it can make regular standing-order payments. Rob, what is your problem with Revolut?

    • IIRC – I’m guessing Rob thinks topping up the prepaid card is childish.

      • the real harry1 says:

        it’s a points site 🙂

        HFP only mentions-in-passing other cards (in general)

        there are tons of other interesting cards, eg my favourite the Tesco Purchase Credit Card – no interest payable on purchases for up to 30 months – but they are not important to a points site

      • He’s got a point. Topping up is just a drag. Much easier to have a dedicated f/x card.

    • +1

      I have been using my Revolut mainly for cash withdrawals abroad plus the odd online transaction. I love having the ability to control certain security aspects of the card on the app. I usually have it locked when I’m not travelling and then enable cash withdrawals, magnetic strip, etc. when needed.

      Having a Euro IBAN has also helped.

    • Not to mention Monzo, which I think is a better solution than Revolut.

      • @MARCELO what are the advantages of Monzo over Revolut?

      • Monzo have just announced a £200 monthly cap on free overseas ATM withdrawals (3% after that) making it considerably less attractive to me. If I have to carry an alternative for the rare occasions I withdraw more than that I may as well use the alternative all of the time

    • There was a whole article on it earlier in the year I think?

      Found it – http://www.headforpoints.com/2017/07/23/revolut-card-reviewed-no-foreign-exchange-fees/

  7. andrew plumb says:

    I use the https://www.revolut.com card which gives me inter bank exchange rates with no fees (during business hours) slightly less favorable at weekends. £200 worth of cash withdrawals each calendar month FOC and an easy to use app to top up and check balances on the move. The only fee is £5 or £10 to get the card delivered.
    I still need to carry a credit card for security deposits but other than that, as it is a Marstercard, it works almost everywhere I’ve been.

  8. If you want a prepaid card (perhaps for your kids) then I can’t see why you’d pick this over something like Revolut that has near-spot exchange rates and is much easier to use?!

    • I’m looking for a card, for my son, and have just received a revolut card yesterday.
      Do revolut have an age limit?

  9. Some people can’t get a credit card.

    Some people prefer to allocate a maximum amount of funds for their holiday before leaving.

    Some people shouldn’t have a credit card.

  10. Anyone have any experience of Starling for ATM use abroad?

    • I’ve had a Starling account for a few months now. Abroad I’ve only used it for withdrawals in Italy where it worked absolutely flawlessly. Perfect exchange rate and no fees. It was very satisfying to turn down the ATM’s offer of a dynamic currency conversion to then immediately get a notification in the Starling app indicating that you’ve saved £30 by doing so.

    • I used mine extensively on a trip to Chicago in September. It was a great card to use. I mainly used it for purchases and would receive a notification on my phone with spend in USD and in GBP and the location literally a few seconds after payment was made.

      I used it at an ATM once, to withdraw $40 for lunch, The ATM had a sticker on it saying you may be charged a fee, I wasn’t. It worked as any regular card would.

      I didn’t try it anywhere with tipping as I’m not sure how that would work, if $20 would be debited then a few minutes later $25 would be debited when they re-run the card accounting for the tip, and how long that would take to self correct.

      Only issue I had was CTA ticket machines wouldn’t accept it, had to use my Clarity for that.

      • Thanks guys. I may start using mine a lot more.

        • Definitely a thumbs up for Starling, After opening the account they even gave me a pre-approved overdraft offer of £750, comes in handy for withdrawing cash abroad as you can withdraw the money as and when you need it then transfer over from a different account when you get the chance without the need to hold any positive balance in the account. I’d actually be happy to use it as my main account if I ever found a reason to leave First Direct, the app works really well too.

    • the_real_a says:

      Yes – no limits currently. Works as expected with mastercard wholesale rates without loading or fees.

  11. Any regulars on here recommend best FX places for buying your foreign currency? I’ve got some Icelandic Krona (ISK) sitting unused awaiting a good home…

  12. I guess these type of cash cards must be making a fortune from small amounts left over. I had two old cards, T Cook and Moneycorp, (must have been some sort of offer on at the time i got them.)
    Both had a balance left over of 3/4 euros each. So i decided in Lisbon airport last week to try and finish them up……”Two flat whites please”, “Can i use both of these cards towards payment?” No problem except she had to do three seperate bills , one for each card and a bit of cash for the balance. No way were these cards having my money !

  13. Lewis Watson says:

    Think they have a use because the force you into it. Went to travel ex to change money and they didn’t have enough. So basically got choice cash passport card or come back in 3 hours.

  14. If you’ve ever had your card cloned whilst abroad you’d understand why these cards exist

  15. RussellH says:

    I cannot see the attraction of these cards to the vast majority of those who are interested in this site; after all, they are really the modern incarnation of the travellers cheque, albeit often with additional charges sneaked in.

    Curve etc. is, I guess, fine if you already have an iOS or Android phone, but if you do not, it cannot make financial sense to get one just to operate the card!

    My partner tried a pre-paid card earlier this year, but was not impressed with the fees and the exchange rates, even though much of the motivation was to lock in less bad exchange rates. She was determined to empty the USD card during our trip last summer, and the EUR card during the autumn, both with success, and she has no intention of trying this sort of thing ever again.

    We are lucky living in Cumbria – the Cumberland Building Soc current a/c debit card allows shop and cash machine access free of charge anywhere in the world; the exchange rates applied appear to be the day’s Visa rate – I have often been surprised at how good the rates are. You do have to notify the BS through their website which countries you intend to use the card in, but I do not think we have ever had the card rejected. Our travel is mainly in Europe, though there have been trips to the USA recently.

    And before anyone asks, no, you cannot open an a/c with the Cumberland unless you live within their operating are – roughly Preston to Lockerbie. Sorry.
    🙂