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Planning Retirement Online

Travel & Holidays in later life

Money Matters – Traveling Abroad – Foreign Currency

Whether it’s the Euro, US Dollar or Thai Bhat, going abroad mostly involves working with a foreign currency. Travel Editor, Hugh Taylor, looks at the best way to handle this.

Casting my mind back to the early days of my own foreign travel I recall the ill-fitting and uncomfortable money belts I used to wear under my clothing. While they provided some protection for my money and travellers cheques they always left me with a nasty sweat rash.

Then there was the hassle of organizing that first batch of foreign cash, sourcing travellers cheques and the interminable visits to local banks to change them. Fast forward a few decades and now all I need is a pre-loaded cash card in a local currency, hit the nearest ATM and hey presto out it comes in Euros, Dollars and even Bhats.

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The huge advantage of these cards is that they can also be used for purchases, the balance checked online and topped. There are even smart phone apps that let you do all this while on the move. We’ve tried two or three different cards but now exclusively use Caxton FX. Why them I hear you ask?

I’ll be totally honest with you. Many years ago I was asked by one of their PR people to review the cards. They even offered to load cash into it so that I didn’t even need to use my own money. So I signed up for all three cards and after having spent all there money was impressed enough with the service to continue using it. I’m still with them. There are several reasons why but the main one is that there are no fees.

I don’t have to pay for the card, or for its renewal. There are no transaction fees or fees for withdrawing cash at ATM’s. More importantly if I do not use the card for a long period they do not siphon off any of the money from my balance.

There are several advantages to having a pre-loaded card in the local currency. The main one is the avoidance of charges. Although your bank debit or credit card will work in ATM’s and be accepted at shops the charges involved are horrendous.

Now that we spend up to half our year living in Italy we find the card invaluable. On Saturday we use it to withdraw cash for the week. We use it in restaurants, shops and at filling stations. It really is a great boon at the automatic toll barriers on motorways. Driving from where we live into Rome costs €0.80 each way and using the Caxton Card that is exactly what we pay. I once left my card behind and had to use my normal UK bank debit card and ended up getting stung over £3 each way after charges and transaction fees were added.

One of the major factors that need to be taken into account when deciding what card to get is the fees that they charge. Some companies charge a fee for setting up, a transaction fee on all withdrawals and purchases and if you have a balance left after your holiday will deduct fees from this to cover non-usage.

Caxton have none of these. The card is free and renewal is free. They do not charge you for loading it or for purchases and withdrawals. There are some fees but they are easily avoided by following a few basic rules. Don’t withdraw cash over the counter in a bank and don’t use your card in your home country or it will cost you. There is a small fee to replace a lost, damaged or stolen card and also for the issue of a secondary card on an account. If you want the balance refunded when your holiday is over they will charge you £1.50. We just leave our money there for the next trip.

Caxton makes their money from the exchange rate. At the time of writing this they were offering 1.36 Euros to the pound while the rate quoted by the Financial Times is 1.39. That compares very favourably with other companies. It’s also a much better rate than you would get from changing currency at the airport or in bureau de changes.

The cards also provide much better security for your money than cash in a wallet or purse. If you lose, or have your card stolen you can have it replaced and still be able to access your balance. That is unless you have been daft enough to keep your PIN with it. If that’s the case you can bid it farewell. At least your loss will be limited to whatever your balance was.

The card on its own can be used to buy goods and services online but provided you are quick enough off your mark to report it lost or stolen Caxton will block it and secure your cash.

We’ve used our Caxton FX cards all over the world with no problems. When one of our daughters was on a round the World trip after University we got secondary cards in her name. That let us monitor the account balance and keep it topped up. That provided a lot of peace of mind. And yes she did pay it all back.

Now there may well be a better deal out there so before rushing out and getting yourself a Caxton Card you should maybe do a bit of research. But I’ve been more than satisfied with the service I’ve had and if there is a better deal I can’t be bothered trying to find it.


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