If you’re a mum of teenagers like me, there comes a time when they start to fly the nest and travel on their own. It might be school trips, off with a group of friends in the UK, their first independent holiday abroad to celebrate the end of exams, or even some extended travel in their gap year. At this point you’ll probably be funding some or all of their travels and you’ll need a secure way to give them cash that won’t get lost on the beach or stolen from their hotel room. Enter pre-paid currency cards such as the Caxton fx currency card that I was asked to review on my recent trip to the Greek island of Zakynthos.
My daughter, Sophie-Anne was with a group of friends on this trip and although I was also there in the background, she wanted to be as independent as possible. This seemed to be the ideal time to test out the concept of using a currency card where I was the main cardholder, but she had a second card to use to withdraw cash at the ATM in the resort or buy items she needed in the local shops.
Benefits for my daughter
- She didn’t need to take large amounts of cash with her on holiday that might get lost or stolen.
- She could use the cash card to either take money out of the ATM as she needed it, or use it to buy things in any shop that accepted a visa card.
- She could feel independent by having her own card without having to keep asking me for cash.
Benefits for me, the parent
- I didn’t have to worry about my daughter losing cash
- I could top up the cash on her card at any time via internet or mobile
- I could monitor the money she was using and what it was being spent on
- The Caxton card also offers a currency conversion rate that claims to be more favourable that what you might get at the airport or in the resort
- The currency card can also be used by anyone who has a bank account so if you (or more likely your teenager) don’t have a visa card, you can still use the Currency cash card
Setting up the Caxton fx currency card
We set up the card by completing a simple form online which took around 30 minutes. The card, together with the second card for my daughter arrived in the post (it takes up to 7 days). Depending on where you are going, you need to apply for the Europe Traveller (the one we tried), Dollar Traveller or Global Traveler card. Once I received the cards it took me around 30 minutes to ring the number given and set up the card with a pin number.
Our experience in the resort
We had €60 on the card initially and Sophie-Anne tested the card both to use at the ATM in the resort and to buy things in local supermarkets and souvenir shops. There was no problem in using the currency card to withdraw cash from the local ATM, the only downside was that the machine only allowed us to withrdraw a mimumum of €50, not the smaller amounts that we would ususally prefer. I later withdrew cash from the same ATM using my visa debit card and successfully took out smaller amounts such as €20, so I think this was a restriction with the currency card. Otherwise Sophie-Anne used up the balance of money on the card by buying items in 2 different shops and found that the card was accepted with no problem, wherever other debit cards were taken.
Sophie-Anne’s view of the currency card
As a teenager, I can be somewhat careless from time to time and the card allowed me to securely carry large amounts of money and not fear thieves. I took my card with me on holiday to Greece, the Euro being one of the many currencies available on the card. I used the card to buy a variety of items from food to jewellery in different shops. I found that generally wherever cards were accepted my travel card would also be accepted. I was suprised to find it even worked in small souvenir shops in the resort where I was staying. I also used it to get money out of the bank with no problems after I spent a few minutes working out how a Greek cashpoint worked.
The best thing I thought about the card was the security it allows you as you can cancel it at any point. Some people I met in Zante told me horror stories of their hotel room being broken into and all the girl’s money stolen – some of whom hd up to 500 Euros! If they had they had a currency card they would not have been out of pocket and their holiday spoiled. If you were going on holiday to an extremely remote area you might want to consider taking both cash in case cards are not accepted or there are no cashpoints. Otherwise I think the travel card is an extremely intelligent item to have in your travel kit, not to mention how easy it is to set up. I’d totally recommend it to other travellers for secure adventures.
Currency rate benefits of the Cafton fx currency card
To test the claim that the Caxton fx currency card would save you money through favourable currency conversion rates, I checked the £ to € conversion rates at the airport and in the resort, based on an assumption of £200 spending money.
In the airport – £200 converted to €215.45 – based on a rate of £1 = €1.048 and a handling charge of £4.99 for all transactions under £300. For transactions over £300 there was no handling charge and my £200 would have converted to €220.96 Euros
Using a debit card – £200 converted to €237.39. My cash withdrawals from the ATM machine were converted at a rate of £1 = €1.23 but there was a transaction fee of £1.75 for each transaction. Assuming that I withdrew my £200 spending money on 4 withdrawals of £50, my £200 would have converted to €237.39. If I had taken the £200 out in one go the £200 would have converted to €243.85
At the Hotel – £200 converted to 240 Euros – the rate was £1 = 1.20 Euros and there was no transaction fee
Using the Caxton fx card – £200 converted to €250, based on the conversion rate published on the site of £1 = 1.25 Euros, although there is a £5, €7.50 or $10 fee for secondary cards which you’d need to take into account if you were only planning to use the card as a one off. This would assume that there were no additional ATM charges for withdrawals, which could be the case in some countries – this would be stated on the machine at the time of withdrawal.
Conclusion – The Caxton card did give the most favourable rate, and on a sum of £200, there was a difference of arround £30 compared to changing money in the airport or £10 difference if changing money in our hotel. The favourable exchange rate would certainly be a major benefit if you are a big spender on holiday although less significant if you wanted to just exchange small amounts.
Questions about the Caxton fx currency card
There is lots of information on the Caxton fx website, but based on our test these are the answers I found to typical questions you might have
How much will it cost me?
There is no charge for the main card although a £10 deposit is taken when you apply that will be added to your credit balance. For secondary cards such as you might need if giving it to your teenager, there is a charge of £5, 7.50 Euro or $10. It is free to make ATM withdrawals abroad although if you use them domestically there is a charge. However in some countries, the ATM owner may levy a fee, but this should be declared on the screen when you make the withdrawal. It is free to make purchases in stores. If you get cash out over the counter, for instance at a bank, there are additional charges. The bottom line is that once you have set up the card, it is free to use abroad at ATMs or shops.
How do I top up the card?
You register your debit card online and then you can either make a top-up online, by phone or via text, providing you have also set up your mobile number in advance. You can also check your balance online, by text or by making a phone call to the automated service.
What if the card gets lost on holiday?
You can ring Caxton to put a stop on the card if it is lost or stolen to prevent it being used. The card will then be cancelled. A replacement card can be issued to you for a fee of £5 or €7.50 or $10 but this will be posted to a UK address and may take a few days to arrive. One way around this if you are using the card yourself is to order a secondary card for your own use and then keep it in the hotel safe just in case the other card is lost and needs to be blocked. It could also be useful on family holidays where you want to give your teenagers a second card for holiday spending money. If your teenager loses the currency card you give them, the cash on the card should be protected but it will typically take a while to get them a replacement, so they shouldn’t be relying on this as their only means of funding.
How old do you need to be to use a Caxton fx card?
To be a primary card holder you need to be 18 or over, resident in the UK and have a UK debit card. To have a secondary card you need to be 13 or over.
How much money do I have to put on the card?
The minimum amount you can initially load onto the card is £100, 150 Euros or $200. The same minimum applies to subsequent top-ups, which could be an issue if you want to top up smaller amounts on the card.
What if there’s money left on the card at the end of the holiday?
Once you get back you can get a refund on the currency held on your card back into your account and there is a redemption fee of £2 or 3 Euros for this, also you should bear in mind that the exchange rate may not as favourable as the rate you got initially.
Can I change my PIN to something I remember?
You can change your PIN at an ATM in the UK before you leave, but not abroad
We found that the Caxton fx currency card was easy to set up and their website is simple to understand. I think this would be a very useful card for parents to give to teenagers who are travelling alone so that they have a more secure way of carrying their cash and the parent has some control over the amounts being spent. The Caxton fx currency card also gave a more favourable rate of currency exchange which could be significant if you are spending a lot on holiday.
You do have to charge the card with a minimum of €150 and then top it up with the same minimum amount, which could be annoying if you are at the end of your holiday and just wanted to charge it with a bit of extra cash. I’d prefer to be able to top up the card in smaller increments. However you can get the money back off the card at the end of your holiday, albeit with a fee and less favourable currency rate. You also need to bear in mind that if the card is lost of stolen your cash should be safe, but you won’t easily be able to get a new card for that holiday. This means that you shouldn’t rely on the currency card as you sole source of spending money.
Overall I’d recommend the Caxton fx currency card as a means of taking holiday cash abroad that is ideal for parents to give to their teenagers, perhaps in conjuntion with some cash so that it’s not the sole means of spending money. Those families who plan to spend a lot on their holiday would also find the favourable currency conversion rates will save them money.
Please note that this review was based on our personal experiences and does not claim to be an exhaustive review of the pros and cons of using a pre-paid currency card such as the Caxton fx cards. However, you can find the information you need to make up your own mind on the Caxton fx currency card website. Caxton fx gave us a currency card charged with some cash for the purposes of this review.
More things to do on Zakynthos
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