Should I Use My Credit Card Overseas? Credit Card vs. Amex Prepaid vs. Travelex

That is a good question. Of course, it depends. There are a number of credit cards out there that offer no foreign transactions fees, the normal 3% per transaction fee that most credit cards levy. Discover is one of them; however, it is not widely accepted around the world. I would have considered it for my recent trip to Paris if it could be used there, which it can't. Then I learned about the American Express Prepaid Card, which doesn't have any fees. I tested this card out by loading a small amount of money from my bank account. Unfortunately, it took 5 business days in order for me to see the amount on the AMEX card! This is way too long to wait for funds, especially for a 10-day trip. The other disadvantage was that most merchants don't accept AMEX due to their higher merchant fees.

My next major issue involved convenience and security. Europe is way beyond the U.S. in regards to credit card security, as the Chip-and-PIN technology is ubiquitous there. This is not to be confused with the Chip and Signature technology now included in many U.S. credit cards. The Chip-and-PIN technology doesn't require any signature at all, as credit card transactions are processed reading the chip and having you enter a unique pin. This is the only way to process some transactions in Europe, such as at kiosques at train stations, toll booths, etc. Since I planned on taking the train from the airport upon my arrival and purchasing Metro tickets, I really wanted this type of credit card, as my whole goal is to avoid carrying any large amounts of cash. 

That was when I discovered the Travelex Cash Passport Prepaid Mastercard, and boy was I happy I did! Not only could I load the card in Euros but it comes with Chip-and-PIN technology. And it is so quick and easy to load the card: all I had to do was go to their Reload site, enter how much I want, and then use my own bank's debit card to process the transfer. The best part of all was that funds became available almost immediately! This was so convenient when I was in Paris and wanted to add more funds before my card ran out, which happened pretty quickly since I ended up using this card for everything. I never had to use cash, as even taxis accepted it. And forget about waiting in line. Since other tourists had no luck with their cards at the kiosques for the train and buying tickets at the Louvre, they would leave frustrated only to cut my wait short so that I could use my card with no issues at all. Another advantage was that all restaurants had hand held card readers, so my card never left my sight as the servers would bring the reader to my table, insert my card, I would enter my pin, and it would print a receipt. Talk about secure (not having to see a stranger walk away with your card like in the U.S.)! And speaking of, it was so easy to Log In and view my remaining balance, including recent authorizations, and they have a tricky secure way of confirming your login by confirming only certain digits of your password. On a final note, while there are no foreign transactions fees or other transaction fees, you will be subject to Travelex's exchange rate at the time of the conversion when adding new funds. Of course, this varies according to currency exchange fluctuations and I tend to think that the rate may be a little higher with Travelex, but let me tell, for the cost of convenience and security, it is totally worth it! I will definitely use this card when I return to Europe in the near future. 

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