Save heaps with a travel money card for Europe: why you should get one before you head off

Martijn

Martijn

Topics covered in this article (table of contents)

    Travellers to Europe, are you aware that you will be wasting lots of money on converting your home currency to Euros? Banks, credit card companies and local money exchanges are out to get a big piece of your hard-earned savings. But there is a solution: a travel money card for Europe. See how easy it is to get one and how much money you will save.

    Whether you are planning a backpacking trip through Europe or an Interrail train tour through Europe, you will need Euros to pay for your accommodation, food & drinks and all the fun stuff you want to do over there.

    Nowadays there is no need to get heaps of cash and walk around as the perfect target for muggers. You got your bank card or credit card to pay in Euros. Right? Yes and no. Nowadays it's bank and credit card companies you should be aware of. They charge ridiculous fees when paying in a currency that is different from your home currency. And they process payments in a different currency at a rate that is less favourable than the market rate. It’s daylight robbery.

    Disadvantages of using your credit card in Europe

    First of all, there are so many European countries where it is not common at all to use a credit card on a regular basis. Groceries, getting coffee or drinks in a bar, paying by credit card just isn’t common in a lot of European countries. Therefore a lot of supermarkets, coffee places and bars just don’t accept credit cards. Using a debit card (often Maestro or Visa) is what these Europeans are used to.

    Also, your credit card company or bank will “overcharge” you when paying overseas in a different currency by charging:

    • A foreign transaction fee. This is still common in countries like Australia, New Zealand and the USA. That is an extra fee charged when you use your debit or credit card to pay in a currency, like Euro, that isn’t your home currency.
    • A less-favourable exchange rate that isn’t the same as the mid-market rate. Exchange rates that banks and credit card companies use are rates they have made up, so these aren’t equal to what you see when you Google “convert 1 USD to EUR”. Google will show you the mid-market rate, but your bank or credit card company will charge you a less-favourable rate.

    So every time you are able to pay by credit card in Europe, you will lose money as your card issuer will charge too much for that transaction. Every time you insert or tap your foreign debit or credit card in Europe.

    Luckily, there is a way for you to stop these crazy fees and/or bank processes. An easy way to pay like a local and to save on fees. Get a debit card for travellers, also called a travel money card, for your trip to Europe and save on foreign payments.

    What is a travel money card or prepaid currency card for travellers?

    Nowadays, there are various fintech (Financial Tech) companies that approach banking in a different way. Making payments overseas shouldn’t be hard or expensive. We are all travellers that want to explore a lot of countries so will come across a lot of different currencies. These fintech companies understand that and have created products tailored to our travelling lifestyle.

    Wise Borderless Card for Travellers

    The Wise Borderless card for travellers is a debit card or prepaid currency card that can hold up to 54 different currencies, which means you can use this card in 200 countries. You’ll get a physical Visa debit card but you can also use a digital card that can be added to Apple Pay or Google Pay.

    Once you add money to your travel money card you can convert it to any currency that you have enabled on your card. It is all done via their easy to use yet very secure app. They exchange the amount you select at the mid-market rate (better than what your bank uses) and charge an extremely low fee. And it is converted instantly.

    That way you only have to convert money once and then use your travel money card to spend money in the local currency. You will pay in Euros in Europe. No more constantly exchanging money when a transaction takes place. Your debit card for travellers is loaded with Euros so you pay like a local, in Euros. Get started with Wise Borderless for free, see & test the advantages to see if they work for you as well. You will love it as it is so easy to use and will save you heaps of money.

    Travelling Europe with Wise and Revolut prepaid currency cards
    Travelling Europe with Wise and Revolut prepaid currency cards

    Revolut travel money card: another prepaid currency card

    The travel money card or prepaid currency card that Revolut offers is similar but also has some different features. The Revolut app powers it all. You can exchange money at a better rate than your bank uses, exchange it instantly and spend money locally in almost 140 currencies worldwide. You can use a physical debit card (Visa, MasterCard or Maestro) or add your digital card details to Google Pay or Apple Pay.

    But the Revolut app offers more geeky features that travellers will love. Here are some of my favourites.

    • Save your pennies (round-up savings). This is the easiest and fastest way to add money to your savings account (“vault”). When you turn this feature on, the system will round up your card payments and deposit the rounded up amount – your cents and pennies) – in your savings account. So, if you pay €12.65 in a shop, the system deducts €13 from your account and deposits €0.35 in your savings account. These cents add up quickly, so before you know it you have a nice amount saved to spend on the fun stuff.
    • Access to airport lounges when your flight is delayed. Add your flight numbers to the app and the system will track your flights. When it detects a delay of more than an hour, it’ll send you free airport lounge access passes for you and your travel companion. Want to have access to an airport lounge straight away? You can purchase them at a discounted rate via the Revolut app as well.
    • Instant payments to other Revolut users. By using their unique Revolut name or phone number you can transfer money instantly to other Revolut users. Especially in some Southern European countries, small shops have their Revolut details posted at check-out. That way you can pay digitally even though they don’t have an EFTPOS system. Easy as.
    • Split a bill between friends. The easiest way to pay as a group and still get the money from each of your travelling friends.

    Open your free Revolut account today and pay like a local on your next trip to Europe. You'll save heaps when you don't have to deal with foreign transaction fees and banks that use an unfavourable exchange rate.

    Revolut Maestro card
    Ready to start using your new Revolut Maestro card

    Wise vs Revolut: which is the best prepaid currency card?

    Good question. But also a personal one as it is different for each and every one of you. Everyone has a different set of wishes and demands. For me, both are equally good therefore I use both on all my travels.

    Even though both Wise and Revolut are excellent in paying in the local currency of the country you are in, each offers slightly different added benefits.

    • Wise offers more local bank accounts so you can receive payments from local parties in the local currency into a local bank account. Wise offers a free bank account in for example Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Great Britain, the United States and Canada. To name a few. See the full list here.
    • Revolut offers extras like saving via rounding up, travel insurance and airport lounge access. You can also purchase and manage shares or crypto via their app. It is more a full-service financial system instead of just being a money transfer or payment system. Compare all Revolut plans and see the advantages of each one.

    For me, they complement each other perfectly. Sometimes I use Wise more and other times Revolut, but both get used a lot on all my trips. No regular (and expensive) credit card or banking card for me. Also, I like to have some redundancy, so it is good two have two cards in case one gets lost or stolen.

    Oh, and if one of your cards gets lost or stolen, you can block/freeze the cards instantly via the app. This is a security measure that both Wise and Revolut have built into their app. And unblocking/unfreezing is just as easy, in case you temporarily lost your card and have found it again.

    Pay for coffee with travel card
    No matter how big or small the amount, you can pay in the local currency with these debit cards for travellers

    Can I use my overseas debit card in Europe?

    That depends. As explained in this article about using debit cards in Europe you will see that not all debit cards can be used in Europe, especially in some countries and/or smaller shops. Lots of overseas debit cards are either seen as a credit card by the European Point of Sale (POS or EFTPOS) systems or aren't supported at all as in Europe a different payment system is being used (Maestro).

    If you are able to use your local debit card in Europe, then you still have that issue of extra fees being charged by your bank and an unfavourable exchange rate being used. It has the same disadvantages as using a credit card in an overseas country.

    Check out Wise Borderless Travel Card or compare the Revolut prepaid cards and see the full list of advantages. For both, it is free to open & set up an account so why not give it a go. As a traveller, you will soon see the benefits of being able to pay in the local currency. It really is a money saver.

    Should I get a travel money card for my trip to Europe?

    You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. No worries. If you are happy with your own bank or credit card and don’t mind overseas transaction fees and getting an unfavourable exchange rate, then stick to it. But keep in mind, you don’t have to get away from your bank. You just temporarily use a different payment card on your travels. Then when back home, you can switch back to using your regular debit or credit card. A lot of travellers, only use Wise or Revolut when leaving their home country. You can mix and match. It is easy to do.

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    Martijn

    He is the digital geek that started it all. First as DIY-OE, then as Travel.Geek.NZ. Dutch roots, Kiwi heart. His favourite countries to travel in can be found in Australasia, Europe & USA.

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