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Review: Is there still a place for the Avios Multi-Currency Cash Passport?

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This is our review of the Avios Multi-Currency Cash Passport.

With fintech start-ups such as Curve, Revolut, Starling Bank and Monzo targetting the travelling public with cards offering 0% foreign exchange fees and multi-currency wallets, is there any future for increasingly ‘old school’ products such as the Avios Multi-Currency Cash Passport?  I thought it was worth taking another look.

Our recent review of Starling Bank is here if you want to compare their 0% FX fees product.

The Avios Multi-Currency Cash Passport card is a more complex version of a standard pre-loaded currency card.  It 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 even a standard credit card with a 3% FX fee.  In particular, I strongly fail to see the attraction over a ‘no FX fees’ payment card such as the Curve card.

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.  Looking at the comments below, the exchange rate is the same as it always was – around 3.5% away from the spot rate.

In itself, a 3.5% 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?  And, of course, why not use a 0% FX card in the first place?

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?  3.5% (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 3.5% 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.

Is the Avios Multi-Currency Cash Passport worth it?

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 – Curve (free), Halifax Clarity (free), Tandem (free, with 0.5% cashback).

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.


how to earn avios from credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (June 2021)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

There are two official British Airways American Express cards:

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

We also recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card:

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

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

Comments (63)

  • guesswho2000 says:

    How is Tandem still offering 0.5% cb on a free card? Loss leader? Or am I missing something?

    • Lumma says:

      They’ve maybe got a large percentage of customers who don’t pay the balance each month

      • Yawn says:

        They don’t give out large limits. I only got 1,200 pounds. Customer service said that was fairly typical. You can’t apply for a credit increase either. It’s manageable, of course, but inconvenient especially when renting a car…

        • Doug M says:

          My problem too. Got £1500 which is not really enough. Not sure what their attitude to paying mid month is, whether that frees up more limit or not. I already had to pay one statement immediately rather than on DD date to buy a € airline ticket. I really miss the old Lloyds Avios card. Switching between Tandem and Curve is a pain, and had led me to using Amex Gold on foreign spend which I know doesn’t make real sense.

          • rams1981 says:

            I got a £11.5k limit which seems very generous then. My last SPG Amex limit was £4.5k so not as good as previously.

      • Rob says:

        Tandem is morphing into a Revolut / Monzo now. The card was just a loss leader. It is not even on the Tandem home page any longer.

        • Lady London says:

          Anyone know what profile Tandem is looking for? Can any one earn too much (or too little) for them? I keep looking at the 0.5% and thinking do I need it.

        • Yawn says:

          Interesting. So the claims of their service team that the ability to request a credit increase is in the pipeline probably aren’t true then. I like the card, and the app, though I’ve been mostly using Virgin since the demise of Lloyds Avios…

  • Anna says:

    I’ve had the Cash Passport for a few years but am running down the balance since they stopped accepting top ups via Mastercard debit! Just looking at the app, the exchange rate is currently $1.197 and €1.0875. Going forward I will be using Curve and Revolut for foreign spending though also considering the Amex dollar card for a big trip next year.

  • Tariq says:

    I’m sure there are plenty of people in the general populous that have been ripped off by cards such as these at least once.

    The theory is good, it’s spoiled by the obscure fees and the usage is made unnecessarily complex solely for the purposes of providing an opportunity to layer fees on top of fees.

  • Simon says:

    No mention of Revolut which I think effectively allows 0% conversions for spend abroad.

  • Genghis says:

    The card did have its use. RIP.

  • Yawn says:

    I really like the Transferwise account. You can hold balances in all these currencies and transfer money either through them or any FX provider whatever works best. Friends and family have paid me in EUR and USD without any fees.

  • Nathan says:

    There’s a niche use still perhaps; I have one for a child that lives abroad and load small amounts of pocket money onto it periodically, the rate differentials aren’t marked vs. tourist rates and the stop loss potential vs. Curve, which I use, is an upside (note the assumption that I’m more responsible looking after my cards than a teenage boy 🤔)

    • memesweeper says:

      I have a similar product for similar reasons: gave it to my daughter to take away in case of emergencies. However, she managed to loose it during the emergency it was supposed to be a safety net for!

  • Shoestring says:

    Always useful to have a prepaid card you can leave inside a pair of shoes on the beach whilst you go swimming, knowing that if it gets stolen your downside is limited

    • Alex M says:

      Your downside is 0 if you use a card that can be locked /unlocked in the app – revolut, curve, starling… If only there was an option to block contactless feature.

      • Chrisasaurus says:

        Well no because then you need to have your phone with you too, defeating the point of the loss limiting approach with your card.

        • Alex M says:

          Then the solution is to have a swimming suit with a pocket with a zip and go swim with the card! Why not?

    • the_real_a says:

      I have 2 revolut cards on the same account for this purpose. One is deactivated in the app, should i ever need to re-activate it i just need to hit a button. This sits in the hotel safe or hidden in the lining of my luggage.

      Should the worst happen and my phone AND wallet is lost – then a call to revolut will all it to be activated after the security checks.

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