A GUIDE TO DIGITAL TRAVEL CARDS
If you travel often, then you already know the pains of withdrawal fees and foreign transaction fees all too well. Say nothing for card skimming woes on debit or credit cards.
While I was living in the UK, digital banks became popular. Monzo, Revoult, Transferwise, Starling- the options were plentiful.
While there are benefits to having a digital bank card, most of which are borderless, in addition to regular debit cards and offline accounts, just for day-to-day life, those benefits become even more prominent when you’re travelling.
Whether on a city break, annual holiday, or extended trip, digital bank cards offer more flexibility and protection than traditional banks.
Before you sign up for any account, digital or offline, you should do plenty of research- read reviews from users, seek out press coverage, whatever it takes for you to feel good about your choice.
It’d be right for me to start off this post by saying I haven’t fully vetted tons of digital bank options for travel.
Revolut was recommend to me by friends, and once I looked into their offering, I knew it’d be a good digital bank option for me to start with.
When I have a permanent residence again in 2020, I’m planning on signing up for one or two more digital bank cards to expand my options – likely Transferwise, and either N26 or Monzo.
Why multiple digital bank cards?
If I lose one or one gets skimmed, I’ll have options before I have to pull out my debit card.
Having multiple digital bank cards while travelling is especially helpful. At some point, you’re bound to experience card skimming, have a card blocked, or even lose a card- no matter how careful you are.
Multiple digital options means you can easily switch to another without exposing funds in your offline accounts.
First things first, back to Revoult.
What is Revolut?
Revolut is banking app and payment card with the mission of being an alternative to traditional bank options. It’s designed to fit the lives of those who travel often, or need flexibility traditional banks don’t provide.
Why do I like Revolut for travel?
So many reasons.
My Revoult card is the main one I use when travelling, but I still bring my debit cards, as well as a few credit cards. I’m just less apt to use them for purchases or cash withdrawal, unless it’s an actual emergency.
Because I control the money in and out of my Revolut account via top-ups, it’s more secure than putting one of my debit cards in any ATM, where, if a fraudulent incident occurs, they’d have access to everything in my account.
Usually, I top-up weekly, only adding a small amount at a time to help control and protect my finances.
Beyond that bit of added security, I enjoy Revolut for these features:
- Free Standard accounts, up to £200 free in monthly withdrawals – limitless spending on contactless transactions
- I had a Standard account for over a year, until recently, when I upgraded to Premium for a few months added travel features (namely, the three day replacement feature)
- Premium accounts cost £12 monthly but offer up to £400 free in monthly withdrawals and a slew of other benefits
- Concierge service, which I haven’t tested yet, but can help you with booking flights, hotels and services for travel around the world
- Medical insurance
- Delayed flight and delayed baggage insurance that apply to delays of more than four hours
- 20% discount on phone insurance
- Global express delivery to 180 countries in one to three working days – this benefit is huge. It meant easy, fast card replacements when I left my card in an ATM in Thailand, and when it was stolen in Vietnam. Standard banks simply can’t compete in this area
- Cash back on qualifying purchases
- Instant cryptocurrency access
- Free card replacement
- Limitless disposable virtual cards – great to use for one off bookings of large purchases, like flights or hotels
- Contactless cards, regardless of what account you have, that work with more than 130 currencies, giving you actual exchange rates without markup from outside services or vendors
- Spend tracking analysis
- Ability to open a ‘vault’ – like a ‘Savings account’ within your Revolut account that automatically transfers spare change from purchases. I have this feature set to round up to the nearest £1, which means I’m always tucking some change away to my ‘vault’
- Quick international money transfers, up to 10 times cheaper than it would be with a standard bank
- Ability for recurring payments and direct debits into Revolut. I currently just have my card set to top-ups, which I make from my Barclays account
- Excellent customer support, in app and online. Whenever I’ve had an issue and start a chat, within seconds, Revolut’s customer support team has been quick to reply and help
- Great fraud protection, and ability to unblock a card quickly so it can be used again. Revolut offers mobile notifications for whenever money is spent, the ability to change a pin number in app, and instant card blocking
- This point shouldn’t be easily overlooked. Digital banks assume you’ll be on the go often. Whenever I’ve used my debit card travelling, often they’ll block my card purchases because they suspect fraud. I’d be fine with this prevention practice if 1) I didn’t have to wait for my bank to be open to have it removed, and 2) It didn’t take nearly two hours of phone calls for my bank (hi, Barclays) to remove the hold on my card
In some ways, because I treat my Revolut card as my ‘spending’ account, it also makes it easier for me to manage my money and easily see how much I’ve spent each week, making budget adjustments simple.
This post isn’t sponsored, by the way, just an opinion from a person who is genuinely thrilled with her Revolut card and how it works so seamlessly with my lifestyle- while travelling, and also, while living in one place.
Having said all of the above, I do recommend traveling with your standard cards- debit and credit, as well as cash in the local currency. I also usually stash away a bit of USD (~$50) to have readily available in case of a pinch.
Do you do digital banking? If yes, which brand or product are you a fan of? Do you have digital travel cards?
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