I am going to Cyprus in a couple of weeks. Is it better to use a cash passport or debit card? I believe you can still incur charges with the cash passport. Angela R
I would take neither. Most debit cards represent poor value for overseas transactions. Typically they charge up to 3% as a “non-sterling transaction fee”, and levy 2% (often with a minimum of £3) on top of this for ATM withdrawals. So on a £100 withdrawal you could be charged £5 or more.
The Cash Passport is a pre-paid money card with no connection to your bank account. You load sterling, euros, dollars or other currencies on to the card, and then use it for purchases or cash withdrawals.
These cards are often portrayed as the 21st-century version of travellers’ cheques. If the card is lost or stolen, you can get a replacement and the balance should be safe because it is PIN-protected. For some travellers, for example those on a gap year, pre-paid cards are useful because they help keep a lid on spending — and can be topped up remotely, if necessary, by a generous parent.
But having owned a few, I’m not a fan of them. Take the Thomas Cook Cash Passport, which is fairly typical. You can load it with euros, South African rand or dollars for the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. But you will be loading sterling on at a rate chosen by the company. If you load sterling, you pay 2% — in other words, £100 dwindles to £98 immediately.
Cash withdrawals are subject to a fee of £1.50 (or more in local currencies). If you fail to use your card for 15 months, the balance is then eroded by at least £2 per month. And if you decide to recoup the balance, there is a cash-out fee of £6.
Personally I can do without those charges. For Cyprus, I would simply take sterling cash and change it on the island at one of the excellent bureaux de change in tourist areas.
You will get a good rate, and the attendant risks in carrying cash are minimal because Cyprus has a low incidence of crime.
SAFE SPOT: Cyprus has low crime rates