Travel money – who to bank on?


Brits are travelling more than ever before. We’re also spending more than ever – £3.5bn more was spent abroad in 2014 than in 2015 according to ONS. The savvy traveller, however, may be interested in finding ways to frugality. Or at least avoiding unnecessary fees abroad.

Before I left the UK last year I spent hours researching the best way to spend money abroad. I wanted to avoid Barclays’ generous offering of a 2.99% + ATM fee + £1.50 fee every withdrawal. Thanks, but no thanks.I was also in search of something easy to use and accessible across our beloved planet.Thanks to specialists like Money Saving Expert, I whittled it down to a prepaid travel card.

After careful consideration I banked on Revolut, a London start-up – with a similar concept to WeSwap – travellers swapping money with other travellers to avoid hidden fees and hikes on exchange rates. In addition, Revolut is user-friendly for the mobile nomad.

Plain and simple, Revolut meant:

  • Ease of use: able to upload money after just a few taps
  • Cost effective: no fees on top of the standard ATM fees
  • Global: works with pretty much every currency from what I can glean
  • Online: purchases for things like hostels can be made online

Until about three months ago, when my security got compromised, I had been using Revolut. Without going in to too much detail, there are some serious downsides to this nifty little app that I feel is my duty to highlight to fellow travellers.

  • Customer service: call centre only available on London time. And even during these hours, it took two hours to reach a representative about money illegitimately going out of my account *tears out hair* – needing to reach Revolut call centre during office hours and failing happened more than once
  • Technology: in-app IM system isn’t effective either. If you send a message outside of office hours, it’s more likely to get lost in the ether than trigger a response
  • Security: once in the app there is a clear screenshot of your card details – including CVV. Even hackers with little sophistication could easily obtain this information

It’s important to note that whilst my security was compromised, this is likely as a result of getting my phone fixed in a two-bob shop in Battambang, Cambodia (see earlier post). Therefore, Revolut is absolutely not responsible for this. I am. However, once your security is compromised, you need to be able to rely on good customer service so that you can notify your travel card company to avoid money escaping your wallet. In addition, and in hindsight, having the CVV with your card number in the app is probably a silly security decision – even if it initially seems like a convenience brucey bonus.

Every start-up will have creases that over time they hope to iron out. Despite my issues with Revolut, I still believe they have the opportunity to champion the travel money market once they overcome these glitches.

Since this happened, I’ve probably spent £100+ in fees using my debit card. So, it is definitely worth investigating prepaid travel cards. During my desk research AA and WeSwap seemed the most likely candidates to rival Revolut. But it depends what you’re looking for. Do you want 24/7 assurance? Or do you want to skip fees? There’s a card out there for all types of traveller. If you have any gems please let me know!



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