Remember traveller’s cheques? Ever since they stopped being quite so popular (and harder to find) I’ve been looking for a simple way to carry holiday money when I’m travelling abroad. Credit cards are convenient but of course they’re also a temptation for a shopaholic like me (and can leave you open to identity theft); and, like the Queen, I don’t like travelling with lots of cash.
So on my recent trip to the US I decided to try out a prepaid payment card. You’ve probably seen these advertised. The idea is you load up the card with however much you want to spend while you’re away and then you can use them just like a credit card. The one I tried out was the Kalixa prepaid payment card, which costs £6.95, but that’s the only fee. You simply register online (there are no credit checks) and put on how much you want to and then they send you a smart black card which you can use wherever you see the Mastercard symbol (and you can also use it for contactless payment).
The first time I used it was when I checked into my first hotel in Seattle (all US hotels seem to do that annoying thing now where they ask for a credit card to guarantee you’ll pay for any ‘incidentals’) and it worked perfectly. I then tried it at a cashpoint and there was no problem there. I used it to pay for some shopping in Nordstrom, and I also used it to buy some candy at duty free. I kept a running total in my head of how much I was spending so that I didn’t go over the amount I’d loaded it with; the only issue was that I had to keep converting what I was spending from dollars to pounds in my head, because you can’t actually check the balance at a cashpoint – you have to do it online, and we were on the road a lot. But apart from that I thought it was absolutely brilliant – I got back to the UK confident in the knowledge that I hadn’t (for once) gone over my spending budget, so there would be no nasty bills from my credit card company, no one would be able to clone my details and it was completely stress-free. If you want to manage your spending I’d definitely recommend taking a payment card on a holiday or work trip to the US – or, indeed, anywhere else.