A few weeks’ ago, I went to Paris for the weekend for the first time in 15 years. I got a Post Office pre-paid currency card because I had no idea how much I would spend and didn’t want to keep going to an ATM because the fees rack up if taking relatively modest amounts out at a time.
I was pretty disappointed with the Post Office cards, on a number of fronts. The app took days (two – three) to show transactions, so it was difficult to keep track of what I was spending. Worse still, living in the UK, where contactless payment is everywhere, I was stunned by how many shops, cafés and even restaurants refused to take cards of any kind (forget contactless!) and still operated cash only. This meant that I had to keep nipping to the ATM. Sadly, the Post Office charges for taking cash out just like banks do and quite a hefty fee per ATM visit at that.
A couple of weeks’ ago, I was gearing up for a long weekend in Stockholm. I didn’t want to buy Swedish Krona cash, as I didn’t know how much I would want (or need) to spend. Equally, I didn’t want to rack up bank or credit card charges for transactions and cash withdrawals.
Thanks to moneysavingexpert.com (where I was looking for Monzo, highly recommended on the site but not going to arrive in time), I found Revolut, an app-driven pre-paid Mastercard that allows you to withdraw up to £200 equivalent with no fee, charges no fees on transactions, and uses live international FX rates for changing from your native currency* into a foreign one.
I paid £12 to get it delivered in a hurry, as I wasn’t organised in time. Normally it would be £5 but this is the only charge you pay.
It was amazing. I rarely rave about a company or product, as I’m naturally cynical, but as an experienced and frequent traveller, I like to share ground-breaking tips. This app and card are amazing. Seriously, get one!
Topping up is fast and instant (apart from in Heathrow, where the internet seemed to block doing a secure transaction and where my 4G signal was bad). When it’s time to exchange your GBP* into foreign currency, you see the Interbank rate changing in real time, so you can decide when to hit the ‘exchange’ button to get the best rate. As the Revolut blurb explains, the Interbank exchange rate is the “top-level foreign exchange market where banks exchange currencies. It’s a wholesale market through which most currency transactions are channelled and therefore offers the best exchange rate available.”
The number one advantage of the card was that as soon as I hit ‘enter’ on a card machine, a notification bounced through to my phone immediately – and I really do mean immediately. My fingers would still be hovering above the pinpad when I heard the ping!
This makes it easy and accurate to track money spent and money left. I particularly like the fact that each currency on the card is a held as a separate ‘account’, with transactions recorded in each one rather than in one lump.
As far as I’m concerned, unless I’m going to a cash-driven country, I’ll be using Revolut for every trip from now on. I’m going to the States with my closest friend in a few weeks’ time and it’s going to be great. I will need cash there, as tips are important and best paid in dollar bills, but as there is no withdrawal fee up to £200, I can take out relatively small amounts for each days’ tip needs.
Another advantage for those of us who aren’t brilliant at separately saving up our holiday spending money – top up each money when you get paid. You can see your holiday fund grow but it’s still in £££s in case you do need access to it before the holiday (thanks to Sarah Barlow of Scrumptious Catering for that one!).
*By ‘native’ currency, I mean the one you top up in – this is limited, so do check first whether yours is one of them but it definitely includes GBP, USD and Euros.