Tourist is almost a dirty word these days. The definition…
Unless your first international trip happened within the last few years, the odds are good that you traveled with travelers’ checks at some point. I remember taking my first trip to Europe, while I was in high school, and being hugely excited to have my own pile of travelers’ checks to use. The novelty wore off about halfway through the trip, where I started having trouble finding places (and finding places that were open when I needed them to be ) to cash those checks. And yet, they were still easier than going to the bank to exchange money in advance, hoping that you were getting the amount you would need.
These days, we rely on our debit cards and credit cards, and always find an ATM shortly after landing to pick up some of the local currency. There are foreign transaction fees, but different banks (and different credit cards) handle these differently. We try to pull out relatively large amount of cash at a time to minimize the fees. This method has its problems, too, but it is easier than travelers checks.
Travel Ex is offering up a great new option for travelers: a multi-currency Cash Passport. The Cash Passport is a prepaid debit and credit card with some unique features. You load the card up in the currency (or currencies) of your choice – they currently offer Australian Dollars, Canadian Dollars, Euros, Japanese Yen and British Pounds – and lock in your exchange rate when you load the card. Then you can draw upon that currency from MasterCard ATMS and at locations where MasterCard is accepted. Since you are paying with the local currency already, you will not be charged a foreign exchange fee for the transaction (and those can add up!), although some ATMs might incur a regular transaction fee depending on the bank/location.
You can also get peace of mind from the fact that the card is not connected to your bank account or any of your personal information. It is also easily replaceable should it go missing or get stolen, and you can manage of all your transactions and reload online. If you’re in a country where one of these currencies is not accepted, you’ll pay in the currency loaded onto the card and the transaction will go through, but you will incur a foreign transaction fee for that exchange. Fortunately, they’re adding new currencies all the time and soon you should have most of your travel destinations covered in the near future, making this perhaps the best use of a prepaid debit card that we’ve seen to date.