TRAVEL CLINIC

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - TRAVEL - SIMONCALDER’S

Ques­tion:

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

An­swer:

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

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