Robin McKelvie, a travel writer, author and broadcaster, who has written for most UK national newspapers, regional titles and myriad magazines, as well as working with CNN and the BBC. Robin is also the author of over 30 travel guidebooks.
Let’s face it – managing your money overseas can be a severe pain. But Currensea is a handy new option for taking cash out and spending on your card abroad. I’ve just used this new travel debit card and app extensively – as a travel writer who has been to over 100 countries - for my own trip out to Switzerland and I’m happy to report it works a treat.
I get put off by any currency option that is a bit of a faff. You can file changing currency and getting inflated bank charges as a serious negative I try to avoid. That is where Currensea comes in. You use it just like your usual debit card, but the big upside is that you benefit from 0% FX rate (with the Premium and Elite cards) on overseas transactions whilst abroad. You get fee-free ATM cash too, with generous withdrawals up to £500 a month.
Currensea FX rates are only 0-0.5% above the FX base rate. When you stack up against the banks, who charge 3-5% per transaction abroad, it really is a no brainer. You always pay in local currency too – with Currensea you never pay in pounds, which can cost up to 10% more as the merchant sets the rate.
Looking into the card more, Currensea estimates UK travellers pay on average a whopping £5,000 in hidden fees during their lifetimes – this is around a staggering £17,000 taking inflation into account. Did you realise that? I didn’t. I also like their ‘Powered By’ programme that lets you donate to charity, so good causes get a little bit of your cash rather than banks taking a chunk. It’s also a plus that you get Purchase Protection with Mastercard Chargeback Protection – which lends you 120 days of safeguarding on purchases.
Here are five great things you can do in the year-round Swiss resort of Verbier – where I’ve just been to check out all the great things that show it’s not just a ski resort - using your Currensea travel debit card:
Book into a great hotel – I checked into the Hotel la Cordee des Alpes (www.kvhotels.com) knowing I was saving on the FX rate with Currensea. It’s a cosy base in this swish resort with a luxury chalet vibe. It sports a decent-length swimming pool, an acclaimed spa and a restaurant well worth staying in for, under the expert guidance of Romain Maillot, who conjures up delicious French-Reunion fusion cuisine. The tasting menus are jaw-dropping!
Snare a free VIP PASS – your Currensea card is a gateway to the
VIP PASS, an initiative that Verbier runs with the neighbouring Valley de Bagnes area too. Like the Currensea card it really cuts down the cost of your holiday – everyone gets one day of VIP PASS use with every night of accommodation you pay for in Verbier. You get to use gondolas and public transport, and can even go for a swim at the municipal outdoor swimming pool. Get your VIP PASS from your accommodation provider.
Bash out biking - one day I paid for guided biking with my Currensea card, heading out with Remi from Elevation Bike. He kitted me out with all the gear at the Medran Sport Shop and then La Chaux-Express ski lift swished us up to 2,456m and to the Verbier Bike Park to test our skills. There are a multitude of routes to try up here, from reds and blacks, right through to the new green trail, the ‘caterpillar’, a sweeping 2km ‘flowtrail’ of berms, straits and bumps.
Spend your savings on great food – you really start to notice savings when you eat out too with the Currensea card. Look out for the gorgeous traditional cheese dish raclette. Traditional Le Vieux Verbier – a family-run restaurant that has run in the same family for 35 years – offers hulks of ‘Potence’, their grilled meat speciality that hangs from metal skewers. At Les Moulins I tucked into a spot-on À point entrecote that came with a creamy potato dauphinoise. At La Grange I took a table on their sunny terrace and savoured an assiette alive with peppery local meats and cheese from the mountain Herens cows – those of the clanging cow bells fame you find in the Swiss mountains. I followed it with Venison loin laced with wild mushrooms, finished off with a perfect crème brulee.
Head out hiking – one day I hooked up with a local guide, Cherries, through the local tourist office. I took a couple of buses up into the high mountains, using the VIP PASS (I had it after paying for my stay at the hotel). We planned our route from the Cabane Brunet and then ascended steeply to the Passerelle de Corbassière col. I came face to face with a real-life glacier – the Corbassière glacier, which shares the landscape with the Combins massif. We took the Tour de Bec de Sery route for its 10km length with Cherries telling me about those cheese-producing Herens cows and the national flower – the edelweiss.
Ski and snowboard – I came to Verbier in the summer season to show that this Swiss resort offers far more than just winter sports. But it also offers winter sports in rich abundance too. We’re talking a multi award-winning ski resort that is renowned for its skiing and snowboarding. There are myriad runs to check out to suit all levels, tuition schools and, yes, plenty of après ski! And then there is cross-country skiing and the challenge of guide-led winter walking. And the great news is that with your Currensea card you can save plenty of cash as you go, enabling you to enjoy even more adventures.
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