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What happens when your prepaid card doesn’t support the local currency

Know your options when you need to spend in an unavailable currency.

Updated

When looking at prepaid travel money cards, you’ll notice that the currencies that can be loaded on to the card may be limited. If you want to use a prepaid travel money card and the currency of your destination isn’t supported, no worries, here are some ways you can get around that.

What if my prepaid card doesn’t support the local currency?

Most prepaid travel cards, like the Travelex Money Card, support about six currencies that have their own currency wallet. When you load funds onto your card, you’ll have to choose which currency you’d like to top up and then you can use those funds in that country without having to pay a currency conversion fee.

If you don’t have the funds loaded in that particular currency wallet, or if your card doesn’t support that local currency, you will be charged a currency conversion fee whenever you use your travel card in that country.

Your card provider will draws funds from your account according to the default currency order at their existing exchange rate and charges you a fee on top of that for converting currencies.

What are currency conversion fees?

One of the perks of using a prepaid travel card is the ability to avoid high currency conversion fees that credit and debit cards often charge. But, when you make purchases in a currency that isn’t loaded or supported by your travel card, you may be charged a currency conversion fee of about 3%.

Do you know about dynamic currency conversion?

Dynamic currency conversion is a service provided by international retailers that allows you to make purchases using your home currency. The dynamic currency conversion rate consists of the foreign exchange rate charged by the credit card company, as well as a fee to the merchant. You may also get charged a foreign transaction fee for the purchase. It’s typically best to decline this service.

What is the default currency order?

Currency order matters when you withdraw or spend money in a currency that isn’t preloaded or supported by your card. When this happens, your purchase amount is taken from the available currency highest on the default currency order list. The default order is usually determined by your card provider.

For instance, a typical currency could be:

  1. United States dollars (USD)
  2. Great British pounds (GBP)
  3. Euros (EUR)
  4. Canadian dollars (CAD)
  5. Australian dollars (AUD)
  6. Japanese yen (JPY)
  7. Mexican pesos (MXY)

If you have preloaded USD, EUR and AUD on your card, and you are spending Thai baht in Bangkok, the card will convert whatever USD you have into baht for your purchase.

If you have insufficient USD preloaded on your card, it will convert the remaining USD you have into baht, and then withdraw the difference from your EUR wallet. A currency conversion fee will generally apply in these instances.

What are your other options?

It is important to know and understand the fees of your card. Develop a strategy using some of these tips:

  • Do your research beforehand.
    Know your options and choose the prepaid travel money card that best suits your needs. If you have no luck with that, look at travel friendly credit cards.
  • No currency conversion debit card.
    You may find that it makes more sense to take your debit card to a country where local currency isn’t supported by your card. Some debit cards are designed for overseas use and don’t charge currency conversion and international ATM fees.
  • Don’t let your currency wallet run out of funds.
    To avoid unnecessary fees and unfavorable exchange rates, make sure your specific currency wallet doesn’t run out of local currency. Keep in mind that some reload options can take up to three business days to appear in your account, so you give yourself time when loading the card.

Finally, finding your best travel money option is a process of thorough research that will match your personal needs and preferences. Start comparing today and spend with peace of mind tomorrow.

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Foreign transaction fee Welcome offer Rewards Filter values
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
None
80,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $1,000 through Chase Ultimate Rewards
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
Earn a huge signup bonus worth $$1,000 with this popular travel card. Combine with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards for even greater value.
American Express® Gold Card
None
35,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
3x points on directly-booked flights; 4x at restaurants; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points)
Earn up to 4x points on select purchases, a bevy of travel perks, and a welcome offer worth up to $350 with this upper-mid tier travel card. Rates & fees
Petal® Visa® Credit Card
None
N/A
Up to 10% cash back from select merchants, on other purchases earn 1% back, 1.25% after six on-time payments and 1.5% after 12 on-time payments
Build your credit with rewards and no fees: Apply if you're new to credit or have a fair to good score.
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
None
N/A
4% at gas stations on up to $7,000 annually (then 1%), 3% at restaurants and on travel, 2% at Costco and 1% on all other purchases
An impressive cashback card that offers up to 4% back on everyday purchases like gas, travel and dining all for the cost of a Costco membership.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
None
50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
Get a generous $300 in annual travel credits, 3x points on travel and dining, and a 50% bonus on point redemptions with Chase's premier card.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Our pick for a prepaid travel card
Travelex Money Card

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