Travel cashless with multi-currency cardsPlastic money in its latest incarnation makes travel safe and hassle free in the UAE. Easy money: Travelex’s Multi-Currency Cash Passport can be loaded with up to seven currencies in its stores worldwide. Multi-currency cards are easy-to-use prepaid cards that differ from conventional prepaid cards in that they offer the choice of loading cash in a number of foreign currencies.
This has several advantages. Apart from the fact that carrying plastic money protected by a code rather than cash is generally safer in a foreign country, these cards eliminate the need for carriers to visit money changers at the point of arrival.
Money can be withdrawn from any ATM in the currency of the destination country, which is especially favourable for frequent business travellers as holiday makers visiting more than one country as it gives them a locked-in exchange rate at the point of purchase and clear control over foreign currency spending. Furthermore, the card is not linked to any bank or credit card account.
One of the pioneers of prepaid multi-currency cards is credit-card company MasterCard, which issues such cards either under its own brand or in cooperation with local money-changing companies — with UAE Exchange in the UAE.
“Multi-currency travel prepaid cards take away the hassle and risk of carrying a lot of cash while also enabling cardholders to lock in exchange rates at the time of loading,” says Jason Tymms, MasterCard’s Director of Prepaid Business for Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa.
Gocash, the first multi-currency prepaid card for the Middle East market, was launched by UAE Exchange in cooperation with MasterCard in December 2012 and has since proven that there is demand for such cards that can be used at more than 34 million merchant outlets and some 1.5 million ATMs worldwide. The Gocash card can be loaded with US dollars, euros, UK pounds, Indian rupees, Australian dollars, Saudi Arabian riyals, Canadian dollars, Swiss francs, Thai baht, Singapore dollars, Turkish liras, Malaysian ringgits, Egyptian pounds, South African rands and Hong Kong dollars.
An equivalent of $5,000 can be preloaded onto the card in six of these 15 currencies, “bringing as much convenience for customers as possible”, says Y. Sudhir Kumar Shetty, who oversees the global operations of UAE Exchange, adding that the exchange rate lock facility of the card locks in the prevailing exchange rate at the time of purchase.
Another popular multi-currency card is the Multi-Currency Cash Passport offered by Travelex, also in partnership with MasterCard. It can be reloaded in Travelex shops all over the world with currently up to seven currencies. “The card was developed in response to demand from customers searching for enhanced convenience while travelling abroad,” says Jon Dario, President, Travelex Currency Services. “As such, we look forward to adding additional currencies to continue to meet customers’ needs.”
Visa’s respective product is the multi-currency TravelMoney card, which is marketed under different brand names through partner companies.
The rate lock-in feature is excellent for GCC currencies of which all but one are pegged to the dollar and thus there is no volatility in exchange rates in case the dollar is used as a foreign currency on the card. However, in case of other currencies the lock-in feature can indeed work in favour of the traveller, but also against him, depending how the currency rate fluctuates after purchasing the currency card.
Users of multi-currency cards thus should convert their cash into plastic money as close as possible to the date of arrival at their foreign destination to reduce the risk of unfavourable currency fluctuations. They should also take a look at the fees involved. Most, but not all of the MasterCard and Visa-powered multi-currency cards of different issuers charge annual card fees, ATM withdrawal fees, foreign transaction fees and even reload charges. However, one convenience is that, in case a card is loaded with a few different currencies and one currency runs out, the amount can be taken and is exchanged from the available foreign funds on the card.