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

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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 cards or a credit card like the Virgin Money Travel Card or Tandem – especially when the latter also earns 0.5% cashback on global purchases.

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.

(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. Lady London says:

    Have looked at this card on and off over the years. Somehow it always “just misses”. that’s if you get over the “fees over fees” which are truly horrendous!

    I can only see a use for it if someone is “unbanked”, or “unsmartphoned” these days. Oh, and I supposed for ML. Depending on the extent of your needs for that I suppose if you picked up a really good opportunity that yielded a chunk more than the fees, it would give you extra capacity.

    IIRC reading somewhere, though, that max is about 50K. So even that use … well not impossible, just gets fussy to do.

    It’s kind of a last resort card, isn’t it?

  2. I must be the only person who is actually happy using this card!
    Each year I travel to different countries including Turkey, Australia, Euro-zone, S Africa and USA and it suits me to have all those different currencies loaded as I use them all. I just top up when I need to using my mobile and find it quick and convenient.
    What I didn’t know is that if you don’t use the card for a year you get hit with fees but I’m guessing that means the card in general, not per currency as I’ve never been hit with fees.
    I also have a second card which my business partner in S Africa uses when she is on trips (like she came to Turkey for a month).
    I struggle to get my head around a lot of the options out there (due to an illness I have) so have gone with simplicity for me til now as I use so many currencies. I’m happy to be guided to something better 🙂

    • Lady London says:

      Wondering how would you compare this to Revolut for your uses, @Dawn

      • I’ve read the HfP posts about Revolut in the past but perhaps need to sit down and study it further. Some friends in Turkey have it, I’ll take another look. Thank you

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      Dawn, something like Revolut is far simpler than what you’re doing now! The key is that the exchange rates are close-as-dammit zero, so you can just convert any left over currency balance into
      the next useful currency, or back to GBP- basically only need to carry one balance and switch it round as needed rather than lots of different ones. It’s no harder to use than what you have now and will save you a lot of money given the rubbish 3.5% exchange rate margin on the BA card.

  3. The Urbanite says:

    There most definitely is – I finally found a way to get the Avios from it without being out of pocket!

    • Lady London says:

      Any hints?

      • The Urbanite says:

        Yes – disregard that comment :(. I trialled something late last week but a few days later it turns out it wasn’t worthwhile after all. Back to the drawing board (which I won’t actually be drawing on again I don’t think!)

  4. OT but people have mentioned Revolut – it has suddenly started refusing top ups from my IHG MC, is anyone else having the same problem?

    • guesswho2000 says:

      Still working for me on 4x different cards as of today. Remember the daily and weekly limits.

  5. Jill. (kinkell) says:

    I had this card , loaded with ZAR, USD and EUR. It was really useful… before I saw the light! Card had an expiry date , so I asked for a new one( April this year) to be told this type of card was being taken out of service and not being issued anymore. As a result, the remnants were cashed out at a good rate and no charge. I thought this type of card was no longer available

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