Prepaid credit cards are a godsend. Money is one of those unfortunate evils in today’s world; no matter where you are in the world, you will need money as it is near impossible to travel without anything but the clothes on your back. So what happens when your wallet runs dry or you get stuck in a pinch? You usually phone home for your parents or friends to send you money. Using Western Union is great and all but it’s very expensive, same thing with international wire transfers. Fortunately, there is a cheap way to get money no matter where you are and just as instantaneously as other ways.
Enter the age of the prepaid credit card, something I discovered is by far the best tool for accessing money if you avoid banks and actual credit cards. There are hundreds of different prepaid credit cards out there too for any need. The problem travelling abroad is many of these cards charge an international “discount” fee of 3%, some even more. If you are transferring even a few hundred, that can be a few meals or a nights accommodation. It’s best to save that money and use the American Express prepaid card www.americanexpress.com/prepaid. By far the best prepaid credit card out there.
The American Express prepaid credit card is one of the best deals out there, plain and simple. The only fee I ever incur is the $2 ATM fee, even when travelling abroad, and the first ATM withdrawal is free per month. All other transactions happen at wholesale exchange rates so you do not incur any “discount” fees that may be charged to you with other prepaid cards, your banks debit card or even a regular credit card. Pretty good right? That’s more money in your pocket.
With the American Express prepaid credit card, you can add money via direct deposit, transfer money via bank account or use the Green Dot Money Pak, my preferred method. With this method, anyone can walk into a retailer that sells the Money Pak with cash and add money to the Money Pak. You scratch off the code on the back of the money pak, go to the website or call the phone number, enter your prepaid credit card number, the number you scratched off and instantly, the money is available. It is important to note that each Green Dot Money Pak can cost $4.95 so if possible, use a free way of adding money such as a bank account or direct deposit. Some retailers may not have the money available immediately and there can be a 15-30 minute wait period. The plus to the Green Dot Money Pak way is that anyone can buy it and send you the code.
Now if you aren’t a fan of American Express, you can go with the Green Dot Prepaid Credit Card as well. American Express isn’t widely accepted abroad as Visa and MasterCard are so it is important to research your destination to see if you can use it or not. ATMs will always accept American Express so if that’s the primary reason of using the card, it’s best to go that route as the Green Dot prepaid credit card has many more fees. You can add more money to the Green Dot prepaid credit card the same way as the American Express one.
Each of these cards are free if you order them online. Green Dot prepaid credit cards are available at retailers but incur a $4.95 charge and are generic meaning they don’t have your name on it. It’s best just to order the prepaid credit cards directly from the websites. No credit check is necessary either, just enter the required information and you’ll receive your new prepaid credit card in about a week. Note that you need to have a United States address so if you are already outside the country, have it shipped to someone within the states and have them ship it out to you. Usually it’s best to get the card before you depart obviously.
As for non-US travellers, there are options out there for you too but I have not researched it extensively. However, the use of prepaid credit cards is growing and you just need to find the right one that fits your needs. Google as always is a good starting place to search. Be sure to compare different offers as each prepaid credit card will have it’s pros and cons. Get the one that will be cheapest for you and try to avoid prepaid credit cards that charge international “discount” fees.