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4 Best Travel Money Cards in 2021 compared by Monito

Jul 16, 2021

Don’t Let Banks, Bureaux de Change and ATMs Eat Your Lunch 🍕!

Withdrawing cash at an ATM in the streets of Paris? Exchanging currencies at Gatwick airport? Paying for a pizza with your card during a holiday in Milano? Every time you exchange currencies, you could be losing between 2% to 20% of the money you’re exchanging in hidden fees. Read this guide to make sure you recognize and avoid them.

Currency Exchange Fees Eating My Lunch? What’s That?

You’re often charged a hidden fee in the form of a bad exchange rate. At any given time, there is a so-called “mid-market exchange rate” - this is the real exchange rate that you can see on Google.

However, the money transfer provider or bank you use to exchange currencies will rarely offer you this exchange rate. Instead, you will get a much worse exchange rate, including a hidden margin, which allows the bank or money transfer provider to make a profit on the currency exchange. 

In other words, you or your recipient will receive less foreign currency for each unit of currency you exchange. All the while, the provider will claim that they charge zero commission or zero fees.

So the question now is… how can you avoid them? Thankfully, the best travel money cards will help you save money on fees and enjoy your holidays with peace of mind and more money in your pocket.

Top Tips To Manage Your Travel Money

Read more about these tips in detail at the end of the travel money card comparison.

1. Avoid bureaux de change at all costs as they're taking a cut between 2.15% to 16.60% of the money exchanged

2. While withdrawing cash or paying with your card, always pay in the local currency (i.e. Euros in France) and never accept the dynamic currency conversion.

3. Don't use traditional debit/credit cards from your bank; they'll charge you between 1.75% to 4.25% to withdraw cash or pay in a foreign currency while you travel.
4. Order one or more of these new innovative travel money cards compared below:

4 Best Travel Money Cards in 2021 Compared

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Important Tips

  • You can also open an account with multiple providers in order to have backup cards and multiple limits (with 1x Monese card and 1x Revolut, you can withdraw 2x €200 for free at an ATM abroad for example). If you're not travelling alone, you can open multiple accounts with the same provider, so both you and your partner can have your own card for example.
  • Order your card in advance (at least two weeks) to make sure you receive it before your holidays. If you’re too late, some services offer a paid express delivery option (£19.99 for a Standard Revolut card for example).

Which Countries, Languages and Platforms Are Supported?

Available in 🌎

European Economic Area (EU + Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) except Croatia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Malta, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania & Romania.

Available in the European Economic Area (EU + Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway)

Available in the European Economic Area (EU + Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway), Switzerland, and Australia

Almost everywhere

Languages supported 🙊

EN, FR, ES, DE, IT

EN, FR, ES, DE, IT, PT, BG, RO, PL, CZ, TR, LT

EN, FR, GR, DE, IT, JA, LT, PL, PT, RO, ES, BG, CR, CZ, DN, DU, ET, FI, HU, LA, NO, SL, SO, SE

EN, FR, ES, DE, IT, PL, PT, RO, TR, RU, JA, HU

Available platform 📱

Web and Mobile App

Mobile app only

Mobile app only

Web and Mobile App

Go to N26Go to MoneseGo to RevolutGo to Wise

Last updated: 16/07/2021

Which Card Provider Is the Most Trustworthy?

Number of customers

3.5 million

1 million

3.9 million

4 million

Trustpilot Score

7.7 / 10

(5,300 reviews)

8.9 / 10

(11,500 reviews)

8.9 / 10

(20,000 reviews)

9.2 / 10

(67,000 reviews)

Go to N26Go to MoneseGo to RevolutGo to Wise

What Happens If I Have a Problem With My Travel Card?

What happens if the company go bust?

N26 is holding a banking license regulated by the German Financial Regulatory Authority and a member of the German deposit protection scheme, which insures all deposits up to €100.000 held in the member states of the European Union. Customers with an account in the UK are protected up to the equivalent amount in GBP.

Monese current accounts are not protected by the FSCS protection (which guarantees deposits up to £85,000). But Monese is an agent of PrePay technologies Limited licensed as an Electronic Money Institution (Number 900010). Customer accounts are kept segregated from Monese's own accounts and their customer would receive 100% of their balance back if Monese go bust.

Revolut's customer funds are not guaranteed by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in the UK. However, as an authorized Electronic Money Institution by the FCA in the UK, Revolut keeps its customers funds separated from its own and in case of insolvency, you would be able to claim a full refund. If Barclays/Lloyd's would become insolvent (where Revolut holds your funds), the money would not be guaranteed though.

Your balance on Wise's borderless account is not guaranteed by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in the UK. But as an Electronic Money Institution, Wise is required by law to keep your money safe and segregated from its own account. It means that if Wise go bust, your money will be unaffected and be refunded to you in full. However, if Barclays (where TransferWise stores its UK and European customers' funds) would go bust, the return of your money would not be guaranteed.

What happens if I lose my phone?

If you lose your Smartphone, you can keep managing your account with N26's web interface. You will first need to disconnect your old smartphone from your account by talking with the support, and then you'll be able to pair a new smartphone to your account.

You can only access your Monese account from one device at a time. In order to register a new smartphone to your account: Download the app on your new phone. Log In with your email adress. Confirm your new smartphone via the email you've just received.

If you lose your phone, your Revolut card will still work. However, you'll need to instal the app on a new smartphone, enter your phone numebr and select "I haven't received a code yet" to speak with a support agent (as you won't be able to receive the validation SMS). As Revolut customer accounts can't be managed on the web, it's the only way that you'll be able to manage your account if you loose your phone.

With Wise, you'll still be able to use your card and manage your account online. However, if you have an SMS validation activated to access your account, you'll need to call the support in order to change your phone number.

What if my card is lost or stolen?

You can block/unblock the card at anytime in the N26 mobile app. If you've definitely lost your card, you can reorder a new one in your N26 Account settings.

Immediately go in to the Monese app and report your card as Lost/Stolen. A new card will be sent to your address and the card will be blocked. If you don't have access to your mobile app neither, call Monese Support as soon as possible. If you're not sure where you card is, you can lock your card and unlock it later if you found it.

You can block your card from the app at any time and reorder a new card. If you're not sure where you card is, you can freeze your card and unlock it later if you found it.

You can freeze your card from the app at any time and order a replacement within the Wise mobile app or web interface.

Go to N26Go to MoneseGo to RevolutGo to Wise

Last updated: 16/07/2021

Tip #1: While Traveling, Avoid Bureaux de Change At All Costs

Have you ever wondered how bureaux de change and currency exchange desks are able to secure prime real estate in touristic locations like the Champs-Élysées in Paris or Covent Carden in London while claiming to take no commission? It’s easy: they make (plenty of) money through hidden fees on the exchange rates they’re giving you. 

Our study shows that Bureaux de Change in Paris charges a margin ranging from 2.15% at CEN Change Dollar Boulevard de Strasbourg to 16.6% (!!) at Travelex Champs-Élysées when exchanging 500 US dollars into Euros for example. 

If you really want cash and can’t wait to withdraw it with a card at an ATM at your destination, ordering currencies online before your trip is usually cheaper than exchanging currencies at a bureau de change, but it’s still a very expensive way to get foreign currency which we, therefore, would not recommend.

Moneycorp exchange rate at the Gatwick Airport

Tip #2: Don’t fall for the Dynamic Currency Conversion trap

When using your card abroad to pay at a terminal or withdraw cash at an ATM, you’ve probably been asked whether you’d prefer to pay in your home currency instead of the local currency of the foreign country. This little trick is called dynamic currency conversion, and the right answer to this sneaky question will help you save big on currency exchange fees.

As a general rule, you always want to pay in the local currency (Euros in Europe, GBP in the UK, DKK in Denmark, THB in Thailand, etc.) when using your card abroad, instead of accepting the currency exchange and paying in your home currency. 

This seems like a trick question - why not opt to pay in your home currency? On the plus side, you would know exactly what amount you would be paying in your home currency instead of accepting the unknown exchange rate determined by your card issuer a few days later. 

However, when choosing to pay in your home currency instead of the local one, you will carry out what’s called a “dynamic currency conversion”. This is just a complicated way of saying that you’re exchanging between the foreign currency and your home currency at the exact time you use your card to pay or withdraw cash in a foreign currency, and not a few days later. For this privilege, the local payment terminal or ATM will apply an exchange rate that is often significantly worse than even a traditional bank’s exchange rate (we’ve seen margins of up to 8%!), and of course, much worse than the exchange rate you would get by using an innovative multi-currency card (see tip #3). 

In the vast majority of times, knowing with complete certainty what amount you will pay in your home currency is not worth the additional steep cost of the dynamic currency conversion, hence why we recommend always choosing to pay in the local currency. 

Tip #3: Don't Use a Traditional Card To Pay in Foreign Currency/Withdraw Cash Abroad

Bank

Barclays Debit Card

HSBC Debit Card

La Banque Postale

Deutsche Bank Credit Card

UBS Credit Card

Foreign currency conversion fee

2.75%

2.75%

2.30%

1.75% (min €1.50)

2% + markup on exchange rate (1-2%)

Foreign currency conversion fee

2.75% + £1.50*

2.75% + £1.75

2.30% + €3.30

4.25% (min €7.25)*

4%

Cost of paying/withdrawing $500 with your card

$13.75 / $15.65

$13.75 / $15.95

$11.50 / $15.20

$12.5 / $21.25

$15 / $20

Last updated: 16/07/2021

* Barclays and Deutsche Bank are members of the Global ATM Alliance, which allows you to withdraw cash abroad at the ATMs of selected partner banks with zero fees. 

These fees can very quickly add up. For example, take a couple and a child travelling to the US on a two-week mid-range holiday. According to this study, the total cost of their holiday would amount to around $4200. If you withdraw $200 in cash four times and spend the rest with your card, you would pay $123 in hidden currency exchange and ATM withdrawal fees with HSBC, or $110 with La Banque Postale. With this money, our travelers could pay for a nice dinner, the entrance fee to Yosemite Park, or many other priceless memories. 

Thankfully, new innovative multi-currency cards will help you save a lot of money while travelling. Opening an N26 Classic account and using the N26 card during the same US holidays would only cost $13.60.

Frequently Asked Questions about Travel Cards

Why Trust Monito?

You’re probably all too familiar with the often outrageous cost of sending money abroad. After facing this frustration themselves back in 2013, co-founders François, Laurent, and Pascal launched a real-time comparison engine to compare the best money transfer services across the globe. Today, Monito’s award-winning comparisons, reviews, and guides are trusted by around 8 million people each year and our recommendations are backed by millions of pricing data points and dozens of expert tests — all allowing you to make the savviest decisions with confidence.

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  • Our recommendations are always unbiased and independent.

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