Off on holiday? consider prepaid credit cards!

15th July 2010  

The most innovative and socially responsible financial product of the last decade has come of age as finally there are prepaid credit cards out there that seriously undercut the overseas charges levied by their “real” credit card counterparts.

This time a year ago the best of the UK prepaid credit cards reduced their charges for things like cash withdrawals of your own money, but the move to suspend the 2% to 3% charges levied for foreign transactions on some cards comes at a great time for those off on holiday in the next few weeks.

Many people aren’t aware that just using your ordinary credit card abroad means a “fine” from the card issuer of usually around 2.75% on all your holiday spending. Credit card comparison websites have been recently highlighting these charges to their followers so people can look for alternatives, and to put pressure on the card issuers to reduce costs, but these changes couldn’t come at a better time.

The first commentators to compare prepaid cards gave them a cautious ‘thumbs up’ when they first appeared in the UK late in 2006, but many people couldn’t really see where they fitted in. In the early days, many financial journalists billed prepaid credit cards as “an expensive way to spend your own money”, and an option only fit for people with a poor credit rating.

However like many financial products, prepaid credit cards have evolved and can now been seen as a Twenty First Century alternative to cash and traveller’s cheques.

Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act means that in the event of a problem with goods or services abroad, you’re protected in the same way as you are at home. Prepaid cards are now available to anyone over 13 years old, and many teenagers are turning to them as a safe and cool place to park their pocket money and spare cash.

Some of the prepaid credit cards for under 18’s are smart enough to not work on online gambling websites or in sensitive locations like adult only stores or off-licenses.

Add all these benefits up, and take into account that there’s no risk of running into debt as these cards offer no credit or overdraft facility, and suddenly their position in the market becomes clear.

Key advantages of prepaid credit cards?

  • No chance of spending getting out of hand – with prepaid cards you’re limited to the amount you load on your card, a maximum of £15,000 with the best prepaid cards.
  • Control – prepaid cards are a good way to budget for you or your kids. Like a normal credit card you get an online breakdown of spending on the card so you can see the date, amount spent and location of transactions. There are even ‘family cards’.
  • Excellent for overseas travel – prepaid cards are a great option if you’re off abroad. They’re popular with students heading off on gap years and children on school trips as parents can reload them from home. Recently reduced charges make them an even better deal.
  • No credit check and easy to obtain – although there maybe a small initial set-up fee, most of the prepaid cards are available very easily whatever your credit history.

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