MoneyMagpie

Dec 14

Clever pre-paid cards

What do you do if you can’t get a credit card but you want to be able to make payments online? You get a pre-paid card. These clever things have all kinds of uses – they’re good for teenagers, people with poor credit, budgeting and using on holiday. They can be a little complicated though, and there are downsides so read on for a comprehensive guide.

There are several cards like these on the market which can be confusing, so we’ve put together a simple guide to choosing and using a pre-paid card.

What are they?

pre-paid cards are payment cards that you can use in retail outlets and on the internet that you pre-load with money.

The upside…

It’s just like a pay-as-you-go mobile, once you’ve talked away all your credit, you simply can’t phone any more. It’s the same with these cards. You load them up with as much as you can afford. Then once you’ve spent it all, that’s it, you can’t spend any more.

The downside…

However, the downside to these cards is that unlike a pay-as-you-go phone, pre-paid credit cards will often charge you a fee every time you top up, buy things in a shop or take out cash with them.

What they’re best for…

  • Because of these charges, pre-paid cards are best used for online transactions and spending abroad.
  • They’re also really useful if you can’t get approved for another card or if you don’t have a bank account.
  • In fact, if you don’t have a bank account they’re essential as you can often get your salary paid into them.

Where can you use them?

It depends on the card, and this is something you should definitely take note of when choosing which pre-paid card you want. Most of the cards are Mastercard, Maestro, Visa Electron or Amex which are all widely accepted, just like any normal credit or debit card.

You can make cash withdrawals at an ATM (although there is a small charge for the majority of cards so try not to). You can also shop online or get your wages paid into your pre-paid card account. Some pre-paid cards offer a standing order service, too.

What are the benefits of using a pre-paid card?

There are lots of benefits to using a pre-paid card (though we can’t stress enough that you should read the terms and conditions of any card that you are considering signing up for, to check that it is compatible with your needs). Here are some of the benefits of using pre-paid cards:

Accessibility

Anyone can get one. If you have been refused for other credit cards because of a bad credit rating you should be able to get a pre-paid card. The only thing that might stop you being approved for one is the lack of a stable address or an inability to prove who you are.

Safety

If you have the money to spend, it’s much better to carry around a card than lots of cash. It makes you less vulnerable. If you carry a lot of cash and you lose it or it’s stolen from you, you can’t get it back. But a pre-paid credit card has a minimum level of insurance that will protect your balance if it gets lost or stolen. You can also put a stop on the card as soon as you realise it’s gone and if you do it quickly enough your money will be safe.

Like any other card, you will have a chip and pin system for it which will also protect your balance. If you do lose your card or it’s stolen, getting a replacement is fairly easy and should only cost a little.

Budgeting

pre-paid credit cards are a great way of controlling how much you and your family spend. All you have to do is set up a monthly standing order to your pre-paid card account and do not top up any more in between.

This way you will have a certain amount to spend each month, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. By sticking with your card, you physically won’t be able to spend more as the card will not let you complete a transaction if you don’t have enough money. If you’re trying to get out of debt this is like magic!

If you have children there are some pre-paid cards they can use.  You can send them off with their pocket money on their card and they can only spend as much as they have. You can also be assured that they won’t lose the money, even if they lose the card

Travel money

A pre-paid credit card is extremely useful when you’re travelling or on holiday. Firstly this is because a large proportion of credit card fraud happens abroad. If you are using your normal credit card or debit card you stand to lose a lot of money. Fraudsters can empty your accounts or rack up huge credit card bills in your name.

However a pre-paid card is not linked to your bank account so you are protected. If you use a pre-paid card the maximum you can lose is the remaining balance on your card. This is also true if your card gets stolen.

There are several pre-paid cards that are specifically for use abroad and allow you to spend abroad without foreign currency commission or transaction charges. These are great money-savers.

A pre-paid card will save money as it will limit your spending abroad. With exchange rates it’s sometimes difficult to know exactly how much you’re spending, however the card will only let you spend as much as you have budgeted. Using a pre-paid card on holiday will therefore help you keep tabs on your spending and you won’t have to come home to a horrible bill.

Transfer money abroad

A pre-paid credit card is also a great way of transferring money abroad to relations or friends. Transferring money through your bank or a money transfer organisation can be costly, however with a pre-paid credit card, the funds don’t actually have to move. You can have several cards that all debit from one account which other people can then use with their own individual pin.

So if you have a child who is away from home and needs money, all you have to do is put more money into your card account and they can spend it directly with their card. This also works for giving presents to relations abroad. All you have to do is send them the card in the post and once they have received it you put the money in the account. This way the only charges you have to pay are the foreign exchange transaction fees.

Who are pre-paid cards particularly useful for?

Holidaymakers

As we mentioned above, pre-paid cards are ideal for holiday spending. These have no credit facility so you cannot lose hundreds of pounds as you might if someone stole your credit card. They can also help you to stick to a budget – only preload the card with the amount you’re willing to spend, then take a credit card or debit card for emergencies. Many pre-paid cards designed specifically for travellers will also be free to use abroad so you could save a considerable amount by using one in place of your debit/credit card.

Teenagers

Under 18s can’t get a credit card and child accounts rarely offer cash or debit cards that are as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard but some pre-paid cards are available to anyone over the age of 13. A pre-paid credit card allows your child access to these services without them being able to run up huge debts, or put your bank accounts at risk. They can also help them to start learning about managing money, or can even just be used as a card for emergencies.  See our picks here.

Online shoppers

The best bargains are to be had online but if you have a poor credit rating and can’t get a credit or debit card, you won’t be able to pay for them. If you have a pre-paid card, however, you can use this instead as most online retailers accept these.

People new to the country

It can be difficult to get a bank account or credit card without a number of proofs of identification. The requirements for pre-paid cards tend to be less onerous. For people who have just arrived to work, a pre-paid card may offer a short term alternative. Some cards allow your wages to be paid in (with no fee) and can operate like a bank account with a standing order facility.

What are the charges?

Naturally, the pre-paid card companies aren’t letting you use their cards out of the goodness of their hearts. Charges will apply. But the charges vary hugely from provider to provider and you should always read up to make sure you’re getting what you pay for. Here are a few potential charges you should look out for and consider:

  • Card application fee – most companies charge this but try to find one with a low fee, or free application such as the FairFX.com Mastercard.
  • Monthly service charge – check if the company asks for one and find out how much it is. Also find out what you get for this charge e.g. a helpline or added security, or internet services.
  • Top-up charges – the majority of companies will charge you for loading money onto a card in certain ways, like via Paypoint or at the Post Office. Check to see if they charge for cash loading or bank transfers.
  • ATM withdrawals ­– there are usually charges for making cash withdrawals so beware. Always check whether or not it costs more to withdraw money abroad.
  • Transaction charges – make a note of whether or not the provider charges your account for store and online purchases, and if the costs are higher if you purchase abroad.
  • Card renewal – ask the company if they charge you a fee to renew the card once it has expired, or if they charge for replacement cards in the case of it being lost or stolen.
  • Minimum top-up – this isn’t a charge, but if you have to put on £100 each time you renew but you don’t intend to spend that much, then choose another card.
  • Inactivity charges: If you leave your card unused, you could be charged for inactivity so make sure you use it fairly regularly or cancel it if you don’t want it anymore.
  • Customer helpline – is it a premium rate number or is it charged at local rates?

Which card should I choose?

Frankly, the pre-paid market is baffling. There are so many cards with different charges for transactions, cash withdrawals, top-ups and purchase and monthly fees; this makes it very difficult to compare them.

As is often the case, it is quite difficult to say which is best because whilst one card may come out on top in terms of transaction fees, it can then let itself down with monthly fees or a high initial charge – but to give you a hand and point you in the right direction here are the Moneymagpie picks.

Essentially the first thing to do is think about what you want to use the card for and then pick one that meets your needs. We’ve had a go at sorting some of the cards that are currently on the market into different categories, according to what they are good for.

For all the following links, if you get a screen asking you to enter your details, all you have to do is untick the box in the bottom left hand corner and then press the ‘continue’ tab in the bottom right hand corner. This will take you through to the information about the card without you having to give out any personal details.

Alternatively, go straight to our table here for a direct comparison of some of the best known pre-paid cards around.

Some important things to consider

Is my money protected?

This is a complicated area. The money held by pre-paid card companies is classified as e-money, therefore it is not subject to the same regulations as when you deposit money in a bank or building society. The FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Fund) exists to pay out compensation in the event of your bank or building society going out of business. This means your money is safe. It is a bit different with pre-paid cards: some are covered by separate e-money regulations that mean your money is safeguarded in case of bankruptcy.  This provides for pre-paid card holders’ monies to be re-paid as a priority over all other people owed money.

Strangely, banks and building societies issued pre-paids card are not covered by these regulations, nor by the FSCS compensation scheme. So this leaves you in a tricky position if the bank or building society backing your pre-paid card goes bust. You will have no way of getting your money back.

This is something you may want to consider when choosing a card. The comparison table below will tell you which cards are issued by organisations who are required to protect your money. Many of the cards are offered by another financial organisation but, when you read the small print, are actually issued by a bank or building society. You may decide that the chance of a large bank or building society going into liquidation is slim and you’ll risk it.

What can’t I buy with a pre-paid card?

pre-paid cards may advertise that they are accepted wherever credit cards of the same brand (Visa or Mastercard usually) are but the truth is a little different. There are certain situations where you can’t use a pre-paid card or using one may cause you difficulties.

Pay-at-pump petrol stations/ road tolls

At pay-at-pump petrol stations and most road tolls your card will not be accepted as they don’t have the facility to check the balance.

Hotel reservations/ car hire

Using your pre-paid card to guarantee a hotel reservation or car hire may also not be a good idea. The company may take an initial authorisation amount which will hold this money and prevent you from spending it until you return the car/ pay the hotel bill. Even once they refund it a few days may have to pass before that money is available to spend.  These factors are important to keep in mind, especially if you intend to use the card for holidays.

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Best cards for spending in the UK

MAGPIE PICK: Kalixa Card

This is a great card for shopping and it’s completely free to use – there’s no monthly fee. All you need to pay is a one-off application fee (£6.95). There is also (as with almost all pre-paid cards) a charge if you use it to withdraw cash from an ATM (£1.75 in the UK, £2.25 abroad). But the lack of other fees makes it great for online purchases.  It is also one of the few cards to offer protection for your money.

  • £6.95 purchase fee
  • No monthly fee
  • No loading fee for bank transfer or cash loading (1.75% fee for credit or debit card)
  • Minimum top up: £10
  • UK transaction fee: Free
  • ATM withdrawal: £1.75
  • Cards issued by Vincento Payment Solutions Limited.

Travelex Cash Passport

This is one of the cheapest pre-paid cards out there and is available as Visa or Mastercard. Make sure you buy it from Travelex online to avoid extra costs.

  • No purchase fee
  • No monthly fee (£2 per month following 12 months of inactivity)
  • Charges a 2% fee to top up online or via phone (and don’t forget you need to top up in sterling each time)
  • Minimum top up: £50
  • UK transaction fee: Free
  • ATM withdrawal: Free
  • Cards issued by R Raphael and Sons plc (a bank)

Blue Sky pre-paid Mastercard

This is not the cheapest of cards but it has some interesting features. There are two options: pay-as-you-go (PAYG) and pay monthly.  Blue Sky are promoting it as a general purpose card, particularly useful for sending money abroad, people new to the UK, and as an alternative bank account. The basic card is available without any proof of id whatsoever, making this card an option for people new to the UK. Wages can be paid into it so it’s a useful alternative to a basic bank account. Other benefits include cashback and free payment protection insurance for the first three months.

  • Purchase fee: £9.99
  • Pay monthly fee: £4.45
  • UK transaction fee: free (pay monthly), 66p (PAYG)
  • UK ATM withdrawal: 99p (pay monthly), 1.50% (minimum 99p, maximum £1.50 – PAYG)
  • International ATM withdrawal: £2
  • Loading by bank transfer (free for pay monthly, 99p for PAYG), via Paypoint:3%, and Post Office: £1.99.
  • Card issued by Transact Network Ltd, a Gibraltar registered company

Pockit pre-paid Mastercard

This card has a snazzy website and offers cashback and exclusive discounts. It also comes in pay monthly and pay-as-you-go (PAYG) formats. Most of the fees are lower than the Blue Sky card.

  • Purchase fee: free for pay monthly, £5 for pay-as-you-go
  • Pay monthly fee: £3
  • Transaction fees: free for pay monthly, 45p for PAYG
  • UK ATM: £1/ £1.50 (pay monthly/ PAYG)
  • International ATM: £2.25
  • Loading by bank transfer and debit card free, credit card 3.5% fee, Post Office loading: 70p (pay monthly)/ £1 (PAYG), Paypoint £1.50/3%

Cashplus pre-paid Gold Mastercard

This card offers a number of different packages, including pay-as-you-go, two pay monthly options and a pay monthly card. They offer a direct debit facility for no extra charge with some of the cards, allowing you to save money on paying bills if this is your main bank account. It also has the major advantage of offering protection for your money. Cashback and free payment protection are available for all customers. The information on the website about the different options and there associated costs is unclear, so we would definitely recommend checking the terms and conditions extra carefully before you sign up.

  • Purchase fee: up to £9.95
  • Monthly fee: free to £4.95 per month/ £29.99 annually
  • Transaction fees: free for pay monthly, up to 99p for PAYG
  • Loading: free at the Post Office, at Cashplus retail outlets or by bank/ wage transfer.
  • ATM withdrawals: up to £2, international: up to £3
  • Card issued by APS Financial Services.

Net+ pre-paid Mastercard

This one of the cheapest cards on the market; there are no application or monthly fees. It has high ATM withdrawals charge though, so a card to avoid using for withdrawing cash. It comes in a choice of eight currencies.

  • Purchase fee: free
  • Monthly fee: free
  • Transaction fees: free (in a different currency than the card: 2.95% foreign exchange fee)
  • ATM withdrawal: £3
  • You have to apply for a NETELLER account online to be able to apply for this card.  This is free.
  • Loading: free by debit card, credit card 1.75%, bank transfer free
  • Money deposited with Neteller UK Ltd

 

Best cards for using abroad

Cards for international travel differ slightly from standard pre-paid cards. You often need to choose which currency you want your card to function in – usually you can only choose from euros, sterling or US dollars. You can then pay for free in the currency you choose, avoiding exchange rate commission and hefty fees imposed by other card companies.

You still load the card in sterling and then your balance is exchanged at the current rate. These cards are great if you are going away, but they are not as suitable for domestic use as others (unless you choose a sterling card) because you can incur heavy fees.

Moneycorp Explorer Card

This card is great as it allows you to load it with up to £10,000 in as many as 14 different currencies, so it’s ideal for multi-trip holidays. It’s PIN protected and valid wherever Visa is accepted.  We love the option to ‘lock’ exchange rates so you don’t get caught out by negative currency movements.  This information refers to the enhanced option and application has to be online.

If you’re running out of time before your holiday, you can pick up a basic card in one currency from any Moneycorp bureau de change branch. This can be loaded with up to £1,600 and used only once. The fees are the same as the enhanced card and you have the option to upgrade later.

  • No purchase fee
  • No monthly fee (£2 per month following 12 months of inactivity)
  • No loading fees
  • Minimum top-up: £200
  • Transaction fee: free unless used outside denominated currency.  3% in UK.
  • ATM withdrawal: free, but may be subject to ATM operator charges.
  • Your money is held with Clydesdale Bank.

FairFX.com Mastercard – ‘Anywhere Card’

This card is a really good deal. It has the most competitive transaction fees and offers business exchange rates which means you get more foreign currency for your pound.

  • Purchase fee: £9.95
  • No monthly fee
  • No loading fees online via debit or bank transfer
  • Minimum top up: £50
  • There is a charge of 1.4% on international usage and international ATM usage will incur the 1.4% charge plus £1. Using the card in a domestic ATM machine will incur a flat £1.50 charge.
  • Cards issued by Newcastle Building Society.
  • Also available in US dollars or euros.

Fairpay from FairFX

FairFX now offer a fantastic FREE international money transfer service! Fairpay is ideal if you’re transferring a large chunk of cash abroad – exchange rates are very competitive and there are absolutely no hidden fees. Take a look at Fairpay now!

Click to find out more!

Caxton FX pre-paid Currency Card

Ideal for travel and there are three cards, the global, dollars and euro, loaded with sterling, US dollars and euros respectively. Exchange rates are good and are fixed when you load the card. This means you could get more for your money if the currency is gaining against the pound.

  • No purchase fee
  • No monthly fee
  • No loading fees
  • Minimum top up: £100
  • Transaction fees: Free as long as you do not use them outside of their denominated currency. £1.50 per transaction in the UK
  • ATM withdrawal: There is no charge for overseas ATM withdrawals but the global card charges £1.50 per transaction in the UK
  • Cards issued by R Raphael and Sons plc (a bank)

Bread FX Euro pre-paid Mastercard

This also has some of the best rates amongst currency cards. You can only load it with euros so it’s perfect for anyone going on holiday in Europe.

  • No purchase fee
  • No loading fees
  • Minimum top up: £50
  • No euro transaction fees
  • An exchange fee of 2.5% of applies to all non-euro transactions.
  • ATM withdrawals: In euros are charged at €1.50 and in other currencies are charged at €2, along with the 2.5% non-euro transaction fee
  • Cards issued by Newcastle Building Society

Thomson Travel Moneycard

This is a good card for holidays as it is available in euros, US dollars, and Australian dollars, as well as sterling. The sterling card is more expensive than the others so not a good choice. The other disadvantage is that the minimum loading amounts are high, although the card lasts for three years so the balance can be used on your next foreign trip.

  • Application fee: free (except sterling card)
  • Monthly fee: free
  • Transaction fee: free (except sterling card)
  • ATM withdrawal: €2/$3/A$3/£1.50
  • Loading: free at Thomson/ First Choice travel agents/ free online by debit card, 2% fee via credit card
  •  Minimum load: €100/US$150/A$150/£100
  • Issued by Clydesdale Bank plc

my Travel Cash

my Travel Cash offer three pre-paid MasterCards – in sterling, euros and US dollars.  You get 1% cashback on all purchases which is great for buying souvenirs and gifts.  Another big bonus is that there are no ATM withdrawal fees, so you can get at your cash whenever you want without worrying about hefty charges.

  • Purchase fee: free
  • Monthly fee: free
  • Transaction fee: free, or 2.99% if used outside denominated currency.  2.99% in UK
  • ATM withdrawal: free
  • Loading: free by debit card, 2.5% by credit card
  • Minimum load: £25/€30/$40/

Best cards with extras

Babee Card

The Babee Card is especially for mums who have got a lot of spending on their children to do and gives you discounts in tonnes of different children’s retail outlets and supermarkets. You can also save money on fuel with the card and every time one is purchased Babee will donate £1 to a baby charity.

It’s a great card to have just to buy the things that it offers you the discounts on, but if you can, avoid using it for other things. Getting cashback in a shop will cost you £5. You can view some of the shops that you get a discount at here. They are also offering a bonus £5 of credit when you refer another mum.

  • Purchase fee: £9.95 (valid for two years)
  • Monthly fee: 75p
  • Loading fees: Free by bank transfer, £1 by debit card
  • Minimum top up: £10
  • Transaction fees: Free in the UK, £1 plus 3% abroad
  • ATM withdrawal: £1 in the UK, £2 plus 3% abroad and limited to £50 per day in either case
  • Cashback in store: £5 fee
  • Cards are issued by Newcastle Building Society

This card is due to be re-launched in 2012.

Escape Travel Money pre-paid MasterCard

This is unlikely to be as cheap as the travel pre-paid cards mentioned above because it comes with a purchase fee but it does allow free withdrawals from international ATMs and also offers up to 20% cashback on online purchases when you shop through www.escapecashback.com.  The card is available in Euro, dollars or sterling.

  • Purchase fee: £9.99
  • Loading fees: free via bank transfer and at Phones4U in cash, 99p at the Post Office and by debit card online and 4% by credit card online. There is a minimum initial load of £10.
  • Transaction fees: Free
  • ATM withdrawal: £2, €2, $3 in the UK but free elsewhere
  • Cards are issued by Newcastle Building Society

Best cards for teenagers

Neon pre-paid Mastercard

This card is specially for teenagers and is available for 13-17 year olds. A good way to avoid having to lend your credit card to your teen whenever they want to buy something online. It also offers up to 20% cashback on online purchases when you shop through www.escapecashback.com. In addition, pay-as-you-go mobiles can be topped up by text using the card.

  • Purchase fee: £9.99
  • Monthly fee: free
  • Transactions fees: free
  • UK ATM withdrawals: 99p (overseas not allowed)
  • Loading fees: free via bank transfer and at Phones4U in cash, 99p at the Post Office and by debit card online and 4% by credit card online.

MeCard

This card works slightly differently as parents have to apply for a card too.  This might be better if you want more control over your teenager’s spending, particularly as it can only be loaded via a parental card. An ideal way to dish out pocket money, perhaps?   It has the benefit of allowing teens to withdraw cash abroad so is a good option for school trips or holidays.

  • Purchase fee: free for the adult, £9.99 for the teenager’s card
  • Annual fee: £9.99
  • Transaction fees: free
  • UK ATM withdrawals: 75p in the UK, £1.50 abroad
  • Loading fees: free via bank transfer, £1 by debit card and 3% (minimum £1) at Paypoint.
  • The cards expires after two years, and there is a £9.99 renewal fee.
  • This card is issued by Newcastle Building Society

 

pre-paid card comparison

Card Initial fee Monthly fee Charge for purchases Charge for ATM withdrawals Top up fees Minimum age Is your money protected?
BaBee pre-paid Card £9.95 75p Free in the UK, £1 plus 3% of purchase cost abroad £1 in the UK, £2 plus 3% abroad and limited to £50 per day. Free by bank transfer, £1 by debit card   18 No
Blue Sky pre-paid Mastercard £9.95 £4.45 (pay monthly card) Free (pay monthly), 66p PAYG UK: 99p (pay monthly), 1.50% (minimum 99p, maximum £1.50- PAYG).  Abroad: £2 Bank transfer (free for pay monthly, 99p for PAYG), via Paypoint: 3%, and Post Office: £1.99. 18 (additional card holders- 13) ?
Bread card Free Free Free in Euro.  2.5% foreign exchange fee for non Euro transactions plus €2 In Euros: €1.50. Other currencies: €2, plus 2.5% non-Euro transaction fee Free by BACS or Post Office, 3% of value by Paypoint 18 No
Caxton FX pre-paid Currency Card Free Free £1.50 in UK but free elsewhere Global card £1.50 in UK, free abroad Dollars/Euros cards charge $2/€1.75 in UK, free abroad 18 No
Cashplus pre-paid Gold Mastercard Up to £9.95 Free to £4.95 per month/ £29.99 annually Free for pay monthly, up to 99p for PAYG UK: up to £2, international: up to £3 Free at the Post Office, at Cashplus retail outlets or by bank/ wage transfer. 18 Yes
Escape Travel Money Mastercard £9.99 Free Free UK £2/€2/$3, free abroad Free via bank transfer or in cash at Phones4U, 3% of transaction by PayPoint, and 99p at Post Office or by debit card online     18 No
FairFX Currency Cards Normally £9.95 but free for Moneymagpie readers when you load €10. Free Free within the denominated currency.  Otherwise a 1.4% charge for the Dollar and Euro cards, and the same if the Anywhere card is used in sterling.€ €1.50 for the Euro card and $2.00 for the US Dollar card and £1.50 for the Anywhere Card (in the UK). As above for abroad, except  Anywhere card is £1. Free online by debit card or bank transfer (2.5% fee for credit cards) 18 No
Kalixa Card £4.95 Free Free £1.75 in the UK, £2.25 abroad Free (except via credit/ debit card when a 1.75% fee applies) 18 Yes
Maestro Splash Plastic £5 £4.95 annual fee 2.5% £1.50 (then 2% for withdrawals over £50) Free via bank transfer, 30p per £10 loaded at Post Office, and 2.5% via debit/credit card with a minimum £1.50 fee  13 No
MeCard Free for the adult, £9.99 per teenager £9.99 annual fee Free 75p in the UK, £1.50 abroad Free via bank transfer, £1 by debit card and 3% (minimum £1) at Paypoint. 18 (13 for extra card) No
Moneycorp Explorer Card Free Free (£2 after 12 months of inactivity) Free unless outside denominated currency. 3% in UK Free abroad. 3% in UK Free 18 No
Neon pre-paid Mastercard £9.99 Free (£1 after 90 days of inactivity) Free UK: 99p, abroad: not allowed Free via bank transfer and at Phones4U in cash, 99p at the Post Office and by debit card online and 4% by credit card online. 13 No
Net+ pre-paid Mastercard Free Free Free (in a different currency than the card: 2.95% foreign exchange fee) £3 Free by debit card, bank transfer, credit card 1.75%. 18 Yes
Pockit pre-paid Mastercard Free for pay monthly, £5 for pay-as-you-go Pay monthly: £3 Free for pay monthly, 45p for PAYG UK ATM: £1/ £1.50 (pay monthly/ PAYG)/International ATM: £2.25 Free by bank transfer and debit card, credit card 3.5% fee, Post Office loading: 70p (pay monthly)/ £1 (PAYG), Paypoint £1.50/3% 18 ?
Thomson Travel Moneycard Free (except sterling card) Free Free (except sterling card) €2/$3/A$3/£1.50 Free via Thomson/ First Choice travel agents, by debit card online, 2% fee by credit card. 18 No
my Travel Cash Free Free Free unless used outside denominated currency.  2.99% in the UK Free Free via debit card, 2.5% via credit card 18 No
Virgin pre-paid MasterCard £9.95 PAYG: FreePay monthly: £4.75 PAYG: 2.95% in the UK and 3.5% abroad. Pay monthly: £0 in the UK and 2.95% abroad. PAYG: 2.95% in the UK and 3.5% abroad.  Pay monthly: £1.50 in the UK and £1.50 abroad. Free via bank transfer, debit card or Post Office 18   (additional card holder can be 13 +) No  

And finally…

Starbucks offer a pre-paid card for their fans.  This can only be used for buying stuff in their outlets but offers many money-off perks for the addicted.  The card is free and the minimum initial load is £5 and £2 thereafter.  Cards can be loaded online or in store and there are no fees; the card also has no expiry date.

We can’t conclude an article on pre-paid cards without mentioning Ryanair’s Cash Passport.  This was launched in October 2011 and encountered widespread criticism: it costs £6 (although you receive a £6 voucher to spend on flights) and is the only card you can use to avoid Ryanair’s administration fee when booking flights through their website.  It has a high minimum load of £150 and seems designed solely for this purpose.  Despite Ryanair’s protests to the contrary it’s not covered by the e-money regulations or the FSCS as it’s issued by a bank, so, like many of these cards, your money is not safeguarded. Finally, you will cop for a monthly fee of £2.50 if you don’t use the card for six months.

Certainly there’s plenty of choice in the pre-paid market.  So if are struggling with poor credit, need help budgeting, or fit into any of the above categories, then it’s an option worth thinking about.

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