Daniel Einspanjer (daniele) wrote,
Daniel Einspanjer

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Advice regarding using Travelex Cash Passport cards for travel

If you are a traveling to Europe and considering getting one of these debit cards to make life easier for you while there, my advice is don't! Figure out which of your credit cards charges the least amount of fees for international usage and just use it.

First, a general complaint:  interacting with Travelex is a hassle. Their phone menus are a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.  When you finally manage to reach a person, you'll have to give them all the exact same information you entered into the phone menu.  Calling them when you are on your trip means calling a long distance number plus additional charges if you must use your cell phone or hotel phone or pay phone.  The customer service agents are not rude though.  I'll give them that.

Most importantly, the card does not work everywhere that MasterCard is accepted. If you give it to a merchant that it is not compatible, their credit card processing machine might decline the card but the money can still be withheld from you for seven days. If the merchant runs the card through three or four times, each attempt will withhold the funds again. A nice €60 meal can turn into a €180 disaster.

If you get into this situation, don't expect help from anyone. The merchant can't do anything because it was declined on his side. When you call Travelex (paying international long distance or international roaming fees), they will tell you that it isn't their fault and that the merchant did something wrong. Ignore the fact that you had to turn around and use a different MasterCard with the merchant and that one went through just fine. Furthermore, Travelex will tell you that your only option is to wait seven business days and see if the hold disappears. If it does, move on to the next challenge. If it doesn't, then expect the following additional hassle:
  1. request a dispute form from Travelex
  2. wait for it to be delivered by mail
  3. fill it out and send them copies of all the decline receipts and a letter from the merchant stating that they did not receive the money that is disputed and that you have already paid them through other means
  4. wait. After pulling teeth with one customer service agent, I was able to get the reassurance that it should definitely take less than a year to resolve. Likely just a few months.
Once you have the funds back on your card, it is likely you might be in the same boat as me and your trip to Europe is now over! So now, how do you get the money back? You have a few options:
  • Withdraw it from an ATM. You will pay:
    • €1.75 ATM fee converted to USD at a worse than market rate
    • $x dollars to the owner of the ATM for using a foreign ATM card
    • Whatever remainder you can't take out through the ATM will be taken by Travelex after 12 months
  • Close the card at a Travelex branch. You will pay:
    • $20 administration fee
    • Worse than market conversion rate (note the fine print that the "Currency Return Guarantee" doesn't apply to the money on the card!)
    • Another arbitrary fee/commission that varies from branch to branch and (I suspect) the mood of the employee
  • Leave the funds on the card until your next trip. You will pay:
    • €2.30 Monthly inactivity fee each month after a year.
    • The unavailability of the money for the duration (Travelex will happily take advantage of the money while you aren't using it though!)
Tags: personal
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