Accessing money while you’re abroad can be expensive and inconvenient.
The conversion rates for holiday money at most high street banks and bureaux de change are far from competitive, as everyone in the chain takes their own commission. What’s more, carrying round a huge wad of cash on holiday is filled with risk. And what if you happen to run out of cash while away?
The other common alternative is to use a credit or debit card while abroad, but these too often come with expensive currency-conversion costs, plus fees for using your card abroad.
Mulling over this issue before we set off on our recent jaunt to France I decided to do some digging into the cheapest way to get hold of foreign currency while abroad. Not only was I looking for the most competitive rates, but I also wanted to be able to withdraw additional cash during our holiday.
The eventual solution I settled on was a company called Revolut, who issue a combination travel money card and mobile app which work together seamlessly.
The Benefits of a Revolut Card
The key reason I chose the Revolut card was because of their exceptional currency conversion rates; they offer the same rates that banks themselves use to exchange currency between one another. In other words you’re getting currency at a “wholesale” price – before the banks mark it up. This has the potential to save you a considerable sum of money while away.
As it turns out, however, the Revolut card also has a surprising number of other benefits for managing your money while away…
Rapid Order Fulfillment
Transferring money from your bank account to your Revolut card is simplicity itself. Just register a bank account or debit card and you can top up your account in a matter of moments.
Having downloaded the app onto my phone I simply need to select the amount, and which of my registered accounts I’d like to draw money from, to receive almost instant deposit into my Revolut account.
To save on fees levied by your bank, it is recommended to top up your account in your native currency, then transfer it to others once in your account.
Bearing in mind the app also gives you an instant balance of my funds at any moment, it’s super-simple to manage your finances while abroad. Just check in every so often to ensure you have a comfortable buffer, and top it up a little if necessary.
No worries about running out of cash, and no concerns over the safety of using your standard credit card or debit card abroad.
Hold Money in Multiple Currencies
The Revolut card lets you hold money in Pounds Sterling, US Dollars and Euros, and it takes moments to transfer money from one balance to another. While the card is billed as a holiday money card this also means that it can be used like a prepaid debit card at home if you have remaining funds on your return from holiday.
Withdraw Cash or Pay by Card
The Revolut card is a fully-functional Mastercard which allows you either to pay by card (generally the easiest) or to withdraw cash from any standard cashpoint. While Revolut don’t charge you for either process, some cash machines may charge for withdrawals so take care.
What I found interesting was that many of the cash points and card payment machines in France either offer language options or seem to instantly recognise my card and change the instructions into English. Therefore don’t be nervous about paying with your card – I have found it to be simplicity itself even with my very basic French language skills!
Superior Fraud Prevention Tools
One element I really like about Revolut is how much attention they pay to fraud prevention. For example, every time I spend money on my card or withdraw cash I get an instant alert to let me know. This is a nice “check” on your funds, ensuring no money is withdrawn without your knowledge.
Even more impressively, however, is that using the Revolut app you can turn on and off various features of your card. You can change the pin, turn off contactless payments and more. This means you can set up the security elements which make you feel comfortable – and change them at a moment’s notice.
Lastly if you’re unlucky enough to mislay your card while abroad you can even block the whole card to prevent fraud. Then, if you find it again, it is simple to re-activate the card via the app.
This all helps to protect you and make me feel more confident while away from “home territory”.
Built-In Budgeting Tools
Not only does the app attached to your Revolut card show you the balances left on your card in various currencies but it also includes a handy budgeting tool. Here you can not only see how much money has been spent while away, but the tool also tries to break down your spending into categories.
While the categorisation isn’t 100% accurate in my experience it’s still nice to be able to quickly look back over your spending at any time, helping you budget for the remainder of your holiday.
How Does the Revolut Card Work?
Using the card couldn’t be much simpler. Just download the app from Revolut, then sign up via your phone. Your travel money card will arrive within a week or so – and pleasantly I found that I got continual updates to let me know that the card was being made, was ready for dispatch and had then been posted. In the busy days running up to a holiday this is ideal, and allows you keep on top of your new card with minimum effort.
My own card arrived earlier than expected. From here you’ll want to link up a debit card or bank account, so you can quickly transfer money in. Use the simple conversion window to transfer it into the currency of your choice and you’re all ready to go.
Simply keep an eye on your balance while you’re away using the mobile app, and top-up as needed.
How I Use my Revolut Card
Before leaving the UK we wondered whether to rely on the Revolut card entirely, or whether to grab some Euros in cash too. We chose the second option so that we had two forms of payment on our journey driving through France. The goal was to reach our villa in one long, smooth drive without having to worry about stopping to find a cashpoint etc. On arrival we could then experiment with withdrawing cash.
As it turned out, this was a solid idea. We travelled on a number of toll roads in France and while some accepted my Revolut card, we found a couple did not. If we hadn’t had some cash to go alongside we might have found ourselves in a rather annoying position.
The way I use my Revolut card now is to try and keep a balance of 100 Euros or so in cash at all times to cover any eventuality. We then pay pretty much every bill with our Revolut card. Apart from the toll road, we haven’t yet found a cash machine, shop or restaurant that won’t accept the card. That said, having some cash ready can make life easier when it comes to shopping in the wonderful markets and so on.
So that’s how I use my Revolut card – simplicity itself.
Should You Get a Revolut Card?
At the time of writing this review we’re roughly a month into a summer-long trip to France. So far the card has worked without fault, while the app is reliable and very user-friendly. Taking into consideration all the features that it offers, and the way the super-competitive currency conversion rates can help you to save money while away I’m very happy with Revolut.
If you’re heading abroad this year, I’d strongly encourage you to reserve a little money with your local bank – just to see you through the first few days. Then order a Revolut card to deal with all your day-to-day payments while abroad. You won’t believe how easy having a money card can make managing your finances while on holiday – allowing you to enjoy your time away to the full.