Earlier this year, my girlfriend and I went to Cape Town and the Post Office Travel Money Card was our best companion.
We were going for an all-out holiday to visit family and friends. We also planned to do some sightseeing and have a weekend away.
All of this involves spending a lot of money. Cape Town is inexpensive to navigate or holiday in, to the average Brit. However, with what we had planned, and the two weeks we were going to spend, we’d need a lot of cash. In South African Rand, two weeks’ of money was tens of thousands. There was no way I wanted to take all that with us, in cash!
The chance of it getting lost or stolen in our luggage was too high.
Plus, we’re both clumsy and forgetful. I’d be so worried about losing our passports on the journey there, I’d leave all the cash in a bar.
Add to that the crime rates and frequency of muggings in Cape Town and we ruled out cash entirely. We agreed to get some changed up in the UK, maybe £100 or so for tips, water and roadside niknaks. We could get out more as we needed it. Where did that leave us? South Africa may be, technically, a third world country, but Cape Town is as modern as London. Digital money it was!
There was no way I was going to use my Lloyds Current Account card. Every transaction abroad comes with an extortionate fee. On top of that, no matter how many times I’ve told my bank I’m going to a certain country and may use my card, it’s been blocked every time. Cue me in Paris, trying to ask Disney Store staff (and half the tourists on the Champs Elysee) where the nearest ATM is. ATM is not a word that the rest of the world understands apparently.
Maddie has an HSBC account which is supposedly worldwide but hers isn’t transaction fee free. We also wanted to take two options, in case one got lost or stolen. I didn’t want to end up in Cape Town with no cash and no means of getting any!
A colleague at work mentioned a pre-paid visa or mastercard. I had a look online but most of the major ones would incur currency exchange fees and big fees for cash withdrawals.
That’s when I stumbled across the Post Office Travel Money Card.
It’s a pre-paid Mastercard that had everything we needed and is specifically for travel! We ordered online and waited around 3 days for it to arrive.
You can add 13 different currencies to the card. Naturally, this time we topped up in Rand but you can add Euro, dollars, Dirham, even Stirling!
It’s accepted at over 36 million locations worldwide. Basically, anywhere that accepts a credit card will accept it, which made it perfect for Cape Town. There’s also no transaction fees which is fantastic.
There is an app for the card. Here, you can see your wallet, the daily exchange rate, top up, see what you’ve spent. It’s just like a normal banking app. Topping up is easy and takes a few minutes the first time while you figure it out, maybe 1 minute after that! The minimum top-up is £50 which isn’t great if you’re on a tight budget but we had saved and planned to spend.
Again though, we were worried about what would happen if the card was stolen, as it’s also contactless, so we kept the top-ups around £50 to £100.
The only real downside is that you don’t get the best conversion rates.
For example, one day whilst we were in Cape Town, the online average was 17 rand to the pound, but the card only offered us 16. When you’re in a country where the pound is infinitely stronger, it’s not really an issue. If, however, you’re in Europe, you might feel a little cheated sometimes.
The app has a secure login so even if your phone is stolen, they thieves can’t access the app. It doesn’t store your card details so you’re well protected. Also, you can top up with any card. So I could load what I’d saved, she could too etc. Or if you’re a parent with a child travelling, you can load onto it as needed!
Although your transactions can take 48 hours to appear on your statement on the app, the balance updates in live time. So wherever you are (if you have phone / internet signal to check the app), you can keep a constant track on what you’re spending.
You can use the card in an ATM as normal – just make sure you choose one that doesn’t charge you, and you select local currency rather than native currency. If you’re in Spain and choose Stirling instead of Euro, you’ll most likely get charged by the Spanish bank for conversion. You’ll be charged from your balance for withdrawing cash anyway so it’s best to take out a lump sum, rather than several different withdrawals. The charges average out about £2 which is much more reasonable than the £5 I was charged in Turkey by Lloyds TSB.
If you lose it or your card is stolen, you can cancel it straightaway, 24 hours a day.
You don’t have to worry about all your money being spent. I’m not sure what happens if you’ve lost your card abroad; what happens to the balance, or how you get the money back or get a new card. Their site isn’t forthcoming with that information which is a little annoying!
We only ran into one issue on our holiday with the card, and it was our fault. We hired a car through Hertz. M can’t drive so I had to hire the car. However, Maddie had ordered the Post Office Travel Money Card, so her name was printed on it. I was terribly jet lagged after a horrific delay (thanks Emirates, won’t be using you again). I’m not sure if it was Hertz’ policy or South African law (unlikely) but the card and the hirer’s name need to match. Luckily, our leasing agent was an absolute legend and resolved it for us.
From restaurants to attractions, supermarkets to bars, we used the card all over. Maybe a little too easily after a lot of rum in LouLou’s. We rarely relied on cash and I’m so glad we came across the card. It made our whole trip a lot easier and a lot less to deal with for old anxious me! Just to confirm, this isn’t sponsored, sadly. I genuinely found this and genuinely thought it was a great idea so wanted to share my travel secrets with you all!