Prepaid travel cards

Find out if a prepaid travel card is right for you before booking your trip abroad.

You don’t want your bank card to get in the way of spending while abroad, which is where a prepaid travel card could come in handy. Plus, if you play your (literal) cards right, there could be some savings to be made.

This guide will take you through the benefits of prepaid travel cards and help you compare some of the best options currently available. Here we focus on prepaid cards, but we have a separate guide on debit cards with low or no overseas transaction fees that are linked directly to your current account.

Latest reviews of prepaid cards you can use abroad

Revolut - Revolut Standard

Revolut Standard
Finder score
4.3 ★★★★★
Read review

£0

Min. opening balance

£0

Account fees

0% AER

Interest (AER)

Get a £20 welcome bonus when you spend your first £20 (T&Cs apply).

You can use the Revolut card to spend and withdraw cash abroad and no fees will be charged, provided you stay within your monthly limit and carry out transactions on a weekday. Monthly limits will depend on the plan you have chosen. You can also convert money in 36 currencies within the app, enabling you to convert some spending money into the local currency before you go on holiday - this could work to your advantage if exchange rates are favourable. If you don’t exchange currency before you go, Revolut will use its own variable exchange rate to carry out the conversion when you pay for something with your card.
  • Low overseas fees
  • Quick application
  • Earn cashback on spending
  • Set budgets for financial goals
  • Virtual cards for online purchases
  • Easy to transfer money internationally
  • Linked 'Junior' account available for one child
  • 1% currency conversion charge on weekend spending abroad
  • Free cash withdrawals in the UK and abroad both limited to £200 per month
  • Cannot deposit cash or cheques into the account
  • Charged a fee to receive your bank card
Minimum opening balance £0
Account fee £0
Overseas card transactions 0% Mon-Fri (max. £1,000 per month)
Overseas cash withdrawals 0% Mon-Fri (max. £1,000 per month)

Monese - Monese

Monese
Finder score
4 ★★★★★
Go to site Read review

£0

Min. opening balance

£0

Account fees

0% AER

Interest (AER)


You can use your Monese prepaid Mastercard instore, online or in ATMs worldwide and you’ll get Mastercard’s exchange rate. If you have the Simple plan, card spending in foreign currencies incurs a 2% fee, but there is no fee for the Classic and Premium plans. Similarly, there is a 2% fee for cash withdrawals with the Simple plan, while the Classic and Premium plans allow you to withdraw a set amount each month fee-free. Monese offers multilingual customer support and you can manage your account online or via the app.
  • UK current account that does all you can expect, including direct debits and standing orders.
  • Fast and easy set-up (no credit check or proof of local address needed).
  • Colourful app that is easy to use, allows you to categorise your transactions and freeze the card if you lose it.
  • Free card payments and ATM withdrawals abroad.
  • You can load cash into the account for free.
  • Can open both a UK and European account and switch instantly.
  • With a free plan, fee-free ATM withdrawals and cash loads are limited to £200 per month.
  • You can’t put your savings in a separate account or earn interest on them.
  • It doesn’t offer anything more than a current account.
  • No physical branches.
Minimum opening balance £0
Account fee £0

Monzo - Monzo

Monzo
Finder score
4.6 ★★★★★
Go to site Read review

£0

Min. opening balance

£0

Account fees

0% AER

Interest (AER)

Monzo Instant Access Savings Pot earns you 4.10% AER interest (variable), paid monthly into the Pot you create.

If you use Monzo as your main bank account, you’ll be able to make unlimited fee-free cash withdrawals in the European Economic Area (EEA) and up to £200 every 30 days for free outside the EEA. A 3% fee applies after that. No foreign transaction charges apply to spending you make on your card across the globe and you’ll benefit from Mastercard’s exchange rate every time you spend. For Monzo to be your main bank account, you need to meet certain conditions, such as having paid £500 into your account in the last 35 days and having at least one direct debit on the account.
Assumed arranged overdraft of £1,200. Annual interest rate 39.00% variable. Representative 39.0% APR.
  • Easy to set up
  • Good for budgeting and categorising spending
  • Automatic saving feature
  • Fee-free spending abroad
  • Slick app with face login
  • Overdrafts and loans available
  • Free ATM withdrawals outside the EEA limited to £200,
  • £1 fee for depositing cash at PayPoints,
  • Maximum cash deposit of £1,000 every 6 months
  • No rewards program
Minimum opening balance £0
Switch service guarantee Yes
Account fee £0
Overseas card transactions 0%
Overseas cash withdrawals 0%

Starling Bank - Current Account - Age 18 and over

Current Account - Age 18 and over
Finder score
4.7 ★★★★★
Read review

£0

Min. opening balance

£0

Account fees

3.24% AER

Interest (AER)


Open a Starling bank account and the debit card that comes with it can be used anywhere in the world fee-free. There are no foreign transaction charges for spending on your card or for withdrawing cash abroad. You’ll benefit from Mastercard’s exchange rate, with nothing added on top. The account can be managed online or via the app and there's no monthly account fee to worry about either. You’ll also earn interest on your balance and have the option of applying for an overdraft. Plus you can send money internationally with no hidden fees.
Representative example: If you use an arranged overdraft of £1,200, you'll be charged interest at 15% EAR variable .
  • No monthly-fees
  • 100% digital sign-up
  • 24/7 UK customer support
  • 'Settle up' feature to split joint bills
  • Pays interest on current account balance
  • Overdrafts available (only on personal accounts)
  • Lower ATM withdrawal limit than some other digital challengers
  • No group savings feature
  • Doesn't have a specific monthly budgeting tool
  • No rewards program
Minimum opening balance £0
Minimum operating balance £0.01
Switch service guarantee Yes
Account fee £0
Overseas card transactions £0
Overseas cash withdrawals £0

What is a prepaid travel card?

A prepaid travel card works like a debit card which you use to spend or withdraw cash while abroad. Many prepaid cards don’t charge foreign transaction fees which can make them a cost-effective option while travelling.

Alongside the card, you often get an online account to load money and swap pounds sterling for other currencies. The exchange rate is either set by the payment provider – such as Visa or Mastercard – or some providers use the “interbank” rate (which is what the banks pay when they trade currencies).

The different types of prepaid travel cards

There are 2 main types: a simple prepaid card or a multi-currency one.

The simpler type doesn’t let you exchange currency in advance. Instead, you simply load pounds sterling onto the card and when you spend, it converts the pounds into the currency using the exchange rate at the time. This makes the account very similar to a debit card.

Meanwhile, multi-currency cards have the added bonus of letting you lock in an exchange rate before you travel, while also holding multiple currencies within your account at once

How do they work?

Once the account is open, you’re sent a physical card to use in the same way you would a debit card. Most providers have a website and app to load money on the go.

For some banks, you have to load money in pounds sterling first before you’re able to swap for another currency. If you can exchange in advance, each currency is held in a virtual wallet within the account. It sometimes can be worth exchanging in advance to secure a competitive rate on your chosen currency. However, keep in mind that currency values fluctuate, so it may not always work in your favour.

When you spend using a prepaid card, money is automatically deducted from the wallet containing the currency you’re spending in. The good news is that you can’t spend more than what’s in the account. Which could help you budget while abroad.

Are there cards that under 18s can use abroad?

There are several prepaid debit cards designed for young people. These look to give parents some degree of control over their kids’ money and some don’t charge foreign transaction fees.

Here are a few to consider:

  • GoHenry. A prepaid debit card for 6-18 year olds, GoHenry doesn’t charge commission or cash withdrawal fees when your child pays/withdraws money in the local currency. However, it does have a monthly fee.
  • Revolut .18> A card for 6-17 year olds, the currency conversion is similar to the adult version of the account, except kids can’t hold foreign currency in their own account. If you have an adult Revolut account, depending on which plan you are on, you’ll have access to a set number linked Revolut
  • Starling Kite. Designed for 6-15 year olds (Starling has its own teen account), Starling Kite doesn’t charge fees for foreign transactions or cash withdrawals and is also free.
  • Nationwide FlexOne. A free account for 11-17 year olds, this account allows your child to have a debit card or a cash card. Additionally, the account has no fees for using the card abroad or for withdrawing cash outside the UK.
  • 18>

What are the benefits of using a travel card?

  • Safer than carrying cash. This is the main advantage of a travel card. You don’t have to worry about losing loads of money, or getting pick pocketed on the beach.
  • Save on fees. Unlike many regular bank cards, you might be able to save on foreign transaction fees when you spend while abroad.
  • Works like a debit card. Unlike a credit card, you won’t be able to run up debts on a prepaid travel card. There are however a range of credit cards designed for travellers with benefits attached.
  • Choice of currencies. Most travel card providers offer a range of currencies for you travel card. We have a separate guide on accounts where you can hold multiple currencies.
  • Good for budgeting. One of the best things about a travel card is that once it’s loaded it is loaded. You can’t run up debts, and it helps you to keep on top of how much you’re spending.
  • Good to give to youngsters going on their first holiday. For the same reason, travel cards are good to give to first time holidayers. It’s a good way to teach kids how to spend responsibly, but without much risk. We have a separate guide on prepaid cards for children under 18 that can be used abroad.
  • Better rates than banks. Most prepaid card companies offer a more competitive rate than banks, and certainly better than a Bureau de Change in airports or in foreign countries.

What should I look out for when comparing travel cards?

  • Topping up. Most prepaid card companies allow you to do this while you’re abroad, but make sure you check out how to do it. There’s nothing worse than being out of money while on holiday, and being forced to withdraw money at a terrible rate. A lot of companies have apps, or will let you top up over text. Also, be sure to check how much this might cost you.
  • Fees. This is where travel card companies make a lot of their money so make sure you wrap your head around all the costs before you sign up.
  • Rates. Similar to fees, you should also keep on eye on exchange rates and make sure you’re getting a fair deal. Many travel card companies will match a better exchange rate from a rival company so this is something to be aware of.
  • Protection. This might go without saying, but it’s important for you to be aware of where you stand if things go wrong. Check the company’s policies regarding lost, stolen, or undelivered cards.

What’s the alternative to using a travel card?

It could be worth looking at some of the challenger banks, many of which don’t charge foreign transaction fees. They also tend to have slick banking apps so you can also manage the whole process on your phone, saving you a visit to your local bank branch or post office. Apps like Starling, Chase and Revolut have favourable fees when spending abroad.

Pros and cons of a prepaid travel card

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fees for spending cash
  • Lock in favourable exchange rates
  • You can’t spend more than you’ve got in the account

Cons

  • There might be limits on how much cash you can withdraw
  • Some providers charge fees for withdrawing cash
  • No Section 75 protection

If you’re not fussed about swapping currency before you travel, it could be worth comparing debit cards too because some don’t charge fees to spend abroad.”

Katherine Denham, award-winning personal finance expert

Frequently asked questions

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25 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    NhadSeptember 3, 2019

    Hi,

    I’m traveling to Zambia in October which prepaid travel card would be the best to be able to withdraw local currency at an ATM, or to be able to pay for things at shops or restaurants etc. I’m guessing I would load the card in GBP as I can’t load local Zambia currency.

    Thanks in advance.

      AvatarFinder
      JeniSeptember 4, 2019Finder

      Hi Nhad,

      Thank you for getting in touch with Finder.

      You may apply for prepaid travel cards with either MasterCard or Visa logo since they are accepted in most places and ATMs in the said country. There are few places in Zambia accept Amex and Diners.

      I hope this helps.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

    Default Gravatar
    KathieAugust 1, 2019

    Hi, going to Sweden soon for holiday.
    Are prepaid money travel cards accepted in most major department stores, restaurants and hotels in Sweden?
    Are these cards accepted in ATM machines in Sweden?

      AvatarFinder
      BellaAugust 3, 2019Finder

      Hi Kathie,

      Thanks for contacting Finder.

      As I checked, yes! Mastercard and Visa prepaid travel cards are widely accepted in Sweden.

      I hope this helps.

      Kind regards,
      Bella

    Default Gravatar
    CharlotteJuly 25, 2019

    I am going to Paris in November. Can i take out a card now, and then every month add more money to it to use, rather than have to load all the money in one go?

      AvatarFinder
      fayemanuelJuly 25, 2019Finder

      Hi Charlotte,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      Yes. You may purchase the card now and put more cash on the card than you think you’ll need until your trip.

      I hope this information has helped.

      Kind Regards,

      Faye

    Default Gravatar
    LouiseMay 5, 2019

    Can I use a pre loaded card when travelling through lots of countries with different currency?

      AvatarFinder
      JhezMay 6, 2019Finder

      Hello Louise,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Yes, you can use the pre-loaded prepaid cards which offer the same convenience as a debit or credit card. These cards are specifically designed for overseas use. Please ensure you have enough currencies loaded on the card when traveling overseas.

      Regards,
      Jhezelyn

    Default Gravatar
    JanetApril 13, 2019

    Hi! if I use my card for a one-off holiday, not knowing when my next one will be will I be charged not using my card? If so, can I cancel card on my return with no penalties?

      AvatarFinder
      JoshuaApril 14, 2019Finder

      Hi Janet,

      Thanks for getting in touch with Finder. I hope all is well with you. 😃

      If you still have money on your travel card, it would be a good idea to withdraw and close the account if you’re not traveling anytime soon. Most travel cards come with inactivity fees. If you wish to cancel your card on your return, you can do so. Fees would depend on your provider. So, best is to directly get in touch with your provider or read the terms and condition of your car.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

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