Hooray for the holidays! As you may know, I live in Vancouver, Canada and I’m originally from England. Just after Christmas, I’m heading home with my little family, to spend a few weeks in the English countryside for a postponed holiday get-together. We’re going to bake a gingerbread (well my mum and my daughter will, I’ll eat it), see old friends, and eat all the Christmas sandwiches if there are any left in the shops.
Sidenote – a Christmas sandwich is a wonderful British staple of the season, available in many varying recipes from pretty much any food shop. It’s a sandwich with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sometimes bacon, and it’s amazing.
Aside from eating all the festive food (diet starts as soon as we get back, I promise), I’m going to be doing some January shopping on a couple of trips up to London. However, using my Canadian debit and credit cards can be a little risky as the exchange rate and ‘conversion charges’ can fluctuate wildly. While I have a rough idea at how much the UK pounds translate to Canadian dollars, there’s a lot going on that can give me a hefty bill when I get home.
To beat this and to avoid carrying cash around the bustling streets of London, I’m putting a few ‘deep-sea divers’ (fivers / $5) onto prepaid cards. They work just like a usual debit card and have the same level of securities, but it’s all paid up ahead of time. The money is also locked in at a set exchange rate, so there’s no need to worry about things suddenly turning more expensive without me seeing.
The cards I will be using are ‘open-loop’ cards, which means they’re not store-specific gift cards, but can be used anywhere the card network (American Express, Mastercard, UnionPay and Visa) is accepted, including online.
So, whether I’m spending a monkey ($500) or a pony ($25), I can just use my prepaid card in whichever department store or down the pub and I’ll be sorted.
From the CPPO website, here are a few other great reasons why a prepaid open-loop card makes a great option for travelling safely with money:
- Funds are universally acceptable. Consumers can make purchases anywhere in the world the card is accepted, including online and over the phone.
- Funds are immediately available. There is no waiting for a cheque to arrive in the mail or clear the bank, and funds are available as soon as they are deposited by the consumer, business or government.
- Cards are convenient and easy to use. They function in a similar fashion to credit and debit cards at the point-of-sale and offer the same fraud and loss protections.
- Budgeting Tool. They are an excellent tool to manage a budget because a set amount of funds are loaded in advance of the purchase.
- Consumers can avoid costly overdraft fees and interest charges. A set amount of funds are loaded in advance of a purchase, so consumers can control their budget and avoid interest charges and overdraft fees.
- Financial Inclusion. Open-loop prepaid cards open the door to economic participation for “unbanked” or “underbanked” Canadians without a banking or credit relationship.
Disclaimer: This post was supported by the Canadian Prepaid Providers Organization to help share how prepaid cards can help at this time of the year, and when travelling abroad.