An award-winning travel writer for National Geographic, The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, Conde Nast Traveller, and more.
In the age of contactless smartphone payments, bank cards are becoming an endangered species (and let’s not even mention outdated traveller's cheques). Have a holiday abroad planned? Then all you really need is your passport and fully-charged phone. Not much else.
The thing is though, even with the march of technology, it’s all too easy to fall into the tap-and-go trap, without thinking about conversion charges or nominal percentages added onto every smartphone purchase abroad. Then you get home and — jeez — those extra, out-of-sight charges have added up, haven’t they?
A pretty nifty solution is a Currensea travel debit card, a marvel of portability that travels fantastically well.
With the sleight of hand of a magician, the trick is your Currensea card is directly linked to your own bank account at home. Which is to say no extortionate foreign exchange rates while you’re away, no bill payments nor trawling through paperwork when you get back home. It also promises the lowest overseas fees at your fingertips. And the clincher? It’s supported by Google Pay on your smartphone, with Apple compatibility coming in a month or two.
I’m no accountant — my stock in trade is words, not numbers — but it all feels reassuringly easy. You use your card as and when you like, then Currensea helps you save all through your vacation. Following every purchase, a courtesy email pops into your inbox confirming the transaction amount, the exchange rate used, and the estimated saving versus banks.
Last month, my first experience was en route to Iscghl in the Austrian Alps when buying lunch in notoriously expensive Switzerland after arriving at Zurich Airport. “CHF7.25, a transaction amount of £6.46, and an estimated saving vs. banks of £0.34,” read the mini statement. Sure, it was a modest saving but, suddenly, the ‘Eureka’ bulb flickered on. Every little helps when it comes to cutting hidden fees and stretching holiday budgets further.
In Ischgl itself, the savings began to rack up. On morning coffees on pedestrian Dorfstrasse, on cheesy käsespätzle, on a high mountain terrace, and on apres-ski steins of Stiegl beer (OK, and one too many late-night Jägermeister shots). I saved without thinking. For every transaction there was extra money left in my bank account, and for every use on the way back home to the UK — in Innsbruck, then at Frankfurt Airport on a stopover, then again on my Lufthansa flight — there was a flow of statements and savings. Swiss Francs, Euros, Pounds, it worked for them all, without glitch or hitch.
Previously, I’d never bothered with a prepaid travel card and relied solely on ATMs and their predictable overseas charges, or Foreign Exchange desks with their ill-advised rates. Now this funky little piece of plastic has completely closed the door on those travel traditions.
And I’m saying “tschüss”, or goodbye, to all that.
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