The Post Office Travel Money Card Review: Key Features, Rates and Fees

TransferWise content team
25.10.18
8 minute read

Travel cards are on the rise. More secure than carrying lots of cash, they are becoming increasingly popular with families going on holiday. They are also convenient to use, easy to top-up while abroad and usually offer a better exchange rate than buying currency face-to-face in a branch, being the go-to option for savvy travellers.

Topping the table for travel money, Post Office offers a prepaid card onto which you can load up to 13 currencies and spend wherever you see the MasterCard logo. But how does the Post Office travel card work and, most importantly, is it worth getting one?

In this review you’ll find more about its key features, advantages and limitations. You can then compare the Post Office Travel Money Card to other alternatives, like the TransferWise multi-currency card, to discover the right product to pack for your next trips.

Exchange rates

The Post Office offers exchange rates that move up and down according to the demand for currencies. So, the exact amount of travel money you’ll receive on your travel card will depend on the rate at the time of your purchase.

You can check the Post Office exchange rates on its website, travel money card app and branches. Keep in mind, though, that rates may vary whether you’re buying online, via phone or in-store – and, in some cases, even across branches depending on the postcode. Generally speaking, to get a better deal, you should consider ordering online.

There's another catch here: the rates at which the Post Office decides to "buy" or "sell" a currency come with a markup. That means that you get charged without even knowing.

Tourist rate vs mid-market rate

TransferWise, in contrast to other providers, uses the mid-market rate without a mark-up. Instead, it charges a small, transparent fee. The mid-market rate is what you find on Google or Yahoo Finance, and what banks and other providers use when trading currencies between themselves, so it’s considered to be the fairest option.

Take a look at this example to see how the Post Office exchange rates for euros compare to the mid-market rate at the time of writing this article:

You spend£200£500£1000£2000
Post Office travel card rate£1 = €1.1136£1 = €1.1182£1 = €1.1188£1 = €1.1188
Mid-market rate£1 = €1.1384£1 = €1.1384£1 = €1.1384£1 = €1.1384
Conversion loss€4.96€10.10€19.60€39.20

Rates displayed are for online orders only. Source: Post Office* (18/10/18)*

Fees & charges

Post Office prepaid cards are free to order and there are no charges for paying retailers in the currencies held on your travel card. However, you’ll be charged if you use it to withdraw cash from any ATM. These fees vary depending on the currency used.

If you withdraw money in euros, for example, the Post Office will charge you €2 per transaction, while you’ll be charged $2.50 for withdrawing US dollars. To save money, you should consider withdrawing all the cash you need in one go, if possible. And keep an eye for free-to-use cash machines, as the ATM operator might also charge you a small fee on top of that.

In addition to paying for things or withdrawing money abroad, you might also be asked if you want your purchase to be processed in sterling or local currency. Don't let the foreign ATM or card machine choose the exchange rate for you. This is called Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) and you’ll often get less value for money. If given the choice, choose to be charged in the local currency of the country you're in.

The Post Office won’t charge you when converting money between currencies on your card. But you can be charged a 3% cross border fee if you use your card in a country for which the Post Office does not offer currency, like Brazil, for example.

Lastly, if you don’t use your travel card for a year, you can be charged an inactivity fee of £2 per month and if you cash in unused funds or close your account, you’ll have to pay £5 for each transaction.

Currencies supported

You can load your Post Office prepaid travel card with funds in any of these 13 currencies:

Euro (EUR), US dollar (USD), Australian dollar (AUD), Canadian dollar (CAD), Croatian kuna (HRK), New Zealand dollar (NZD), Polish zloty (PLN), pound sterling (GBP), South African rand (ZAR), Swiss franc (CHF), Thai baht (THB), Turkish lira (TRY) and UAE dirham (AED).

Limits

You can top up your card with between £50 and £5,000 in any of the currencies listed above. The maximum you can hold is £10,000, plus you can load and spend up to £30,000 on your card each year.

Cash withdrawal limits vary from currency to currency. You can, for example, withdraw up to €450 euros, $500 US dollars in a single transaction. You can make a maximum of three cash withdrawals each day.

App overview

You can download the app free of charge from the Google Play and Apple App stores. You can use it to monitor your balance, top your card up, see your recent transactions, update your details and track exchange rates. You can also buy a Post Office travel insurance policy through it.

How good is the Post Office prepaid travel card?

The Post Office travel card is handy to have if you’re travelling and want to keep your money safe. Paying in local currencies is quick and easy, especially with contactless payments gaining ground around the world. Plus, you can only spend what’s on it, so this can help you to budget.

As you can store 13 currencies on it, it’s convenient if you travel regularly or are taking multi-destination holidays. If you love visiting far-flung places, however, you might need a card that supports more currencies.

Other cons are that Post Office’s exchange rates come with a hidden profit margin on top and you’ll be charged every time you use your Post Office travel card at an ATM, while other travel cards might offer you a better deal.

So, it’s important to shop around and compare the fees charged by different travel card providers, as picking the wrong card could prove a costly mistake. Other options, such as the TransferWise debit card, may meet your needs better. You can keep funds in more than 40 currencies in your borderless account, plus you can take out up to £200 per month from ATMs free of charge.

How to get and use a Post Office travel card

You can only get a travel card from the Post Office if you’re aged over 18 and a resident of the UK.

Ordering your card

You can order one at any Post Office branch. Some branches can give you a travel card on the spot. If they can’t, they’ll post one to you and it should arrive in four to six days. You’ll need to show the counter staff your driving licence or passport. They’ll also check your address. If they can’t confirm you live there, you may need to show them further ID before you can use your card.

Alternatively, you can apply for one online and you’ll get it in four to six days. You’ll need to provide your personal information and your passport or driving licence number, as well as your credit or debit card details. You’ll also be asked if the Post Office can check your address is correct. If they can’t verify your address, you may need to apply in a branch.

Card activation

You’ll need to activate your travel card before you can use it. When you do this, you’ll get a PIN and a six-digit access code. You can activate it on the Post Office’s website, by SMS or by calling their customer support.

If you ordered your travel card online, you can activate it immediately. If you got it from a branch, you won’t be able to do this until 10.30 a.m. the next day.

Using your card

You can use your Post Office currency card anywhere that accepts MasterCard, online and at ATMs. If you’re buying something in person, you’ll need to enter your PIN. If you’re in a country where Chip and Pin isn’t as widely available (such as the USA), the retailer will ask you to sign to verify your purchase instead.

You may be able to make contactless payments for small amounts. However, different countries have different rules about this. You can also only make three contactless payments in a row.

The Post Office currency card's terms and conditions list situations in which you shouldn’t use your card. These include paying:

  • road tolls
  • for petrol at self-service pumps
  • hire car deposits
  • hotel check-in deposits
  • for items on planes or cruise ships

How to top-up your card

You can top up your travel money card:

  • online
  • using the app
  • at a Post Office branch

Top-ups can be made in any of the 13 currencies. If you use the website or app, the money will be available straight away. If you top it up in a branch, it will be available by 10:30am the day after.

Buying back currencies

If you want to get unused money back, phone the contact centre or visit a Post Office branch. You’ll receive it in sterling and any other funds in other currencies will be converted using that day’s exchange rates. You’ll also need to pay a £5 fee. You can use your card in the UK, so spending the money may be more cost-effective if you’re likely to use your card abroad within a year.

How to contact someone about your card

You can call the contact centre on 0344 335 0109 when you’re in the UK or +44 (0) 20 7937 0280 when you’re overseas. Lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

You can also contact the Post Office Travel Card Customer Services department:

  • By post at PO Box 3232, Cumbernauld, G67 1YU, UK
  • By email at info@postoffice.travelmoneycard.co.uk.

Post Office Travel Card: troubleshooting tips

Here’s how to deal with some common problems you might have with your travel card.

How do I report a lost or damaged card?

If you lose your Post Office currency card or discover that it’s damaged, just phone the contact centre. They’ll block it and send you another. If you want them to courier this abroad, you’ll have to pay a fee.

What action should I take if my card is declined?

Firstly, check your account to make sure you have money in it. If you have enough to pay for your item or have less than you should have in your account, call the contact centre.

What if I’ve forgotten your PIN?

If you can’t remember your travel money card PIN, phone the contact centre. They can issue you with a new one.

What’s the best thing to do if my card is blocked?

If you can’t use your card, give the contact centre a call. They’ll be able to help.

What happens when my card expires?

You should receive a new card automatically. If it hasn’t arrived after the expiry date, call the contact centre and they’ll issue you with one.


Sources:

https://postoffice.travelmoneyonline.co.uk/money-exchange-rate
https://postoffice.travelmoneyonline.co.uk/money-exchange-rate/faq
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=uk.co.postoffice.PostOfficeTravel
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/post-office-travel-money-card/id1385844874

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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