USD Travel Card: Exchange Rates and Fees to Consider

TransferWise content team
13.08.19
6 minute read

Prepaid travel cards provide a cost effective alternative to using your UK credit or debit card abroad. While using your existing UK debit or credit card in the USA can be convenient because you don’t have to get a new card, the costs and charges can be hefty.

They can help you save on fees and get more for your money whilst you travel, but you need to take the time to research the different providers and ensure that you are getting the best USD exchange rate for you.

Providers often add a mark-up to the exchange rate, so that you aren’t benefiting from the real exchange rate and they can make money on your payment. It’s important to check their rate with the rate that you see on Google, to make sure you don’t lose out. Providers, like TransferWise, offer the real exchange rate so that you don’t lose out when your money is converted. More on that in a moment.

TransferWise debit Mastercard®

The TransferWise borderless account comes with a debit card. It lets you spend anywhere in the world at the real exchange rate, with low conversion fees and zero transaction fees.

  • Free to receive card
  • Free to pay with currencies in your account
  • Free ATM withdrawals up to £200 a month
  • Only pay a small conversion fee when you convert your money - typically between 0.35 and 1%
  • Automatically convert your money at the real exchange rate
Exchange Rate Exchange Fee Transaction Fee ATM Fee
1 GBP = 1.2178 USD *Rate updated on 07/08/2019 (08:30 BST) 0.35 and 1% Free. *some merchants may charge an extra fee Free, up to 200 GBP per month (or equivalent) - 2% fee after this

All information, rates and exchange rates are valid on 07/08/2019 at 08:39 BST.

Sainsbury’s cash passport allows you to keep 10 currencies in your pocket with a single card as your travel. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Sainsbury’s add a mark-up to the exchange rate so you’re not getting the real exchange rate as you would see on Google. This means you can lose out when they convert your money.

  • Sainsburys offer a different, more favourable exchange rate for Nectar card holders. When different rates are offered, it’s an indication that a mark-up is being applied.

  • Card issue and replacement of card is: FREE

  • Inactivity fee: If you don’t use your card for 18 months or more there is a £2 GBP per month fee (or currency equivalent).

Exchange Rate Exchange Fee Transaction Fee ATM Fee
1 GBP = 1.1922 USD *Rate updated on 07/08/2019 (08:30 BST) 5.75% Free. *some merchants may charge an extra fee Free. *some ATM operators charge an extra fee¹

All information, rates and exchange rates are valid on 07/08/2019 at 08:39 BST. For full up-to-date details of fees and exchange rates, always check the provider’s site directly.

The Travelex Money Card is a prepaid Mastercard that allows multiple currencies to be loaded before you travel. Things to consider are:

  • Offer an additional card for a fee of 5 GBP

  • Likely mark-up applied to exchange rate. Travelex apply a ‘tourist’ rate for exchange which may not be as favorable as the real market rate.²

  • Inactivity charge: 2 GBP per month charged after not using your card for 12 months.

Exchange Rate Exchange Fee Transaction Fee International ATM Fee
1 GBP = 1.1861 USD³ *Rate updated on 07/08/2019 (08:30 BST) 5.50% Free. *some merchants may charge an extra fee Free. 1.50 GBP on withdrawals in the UK⁴ *Although some ATMs charge an extra fee

All information, rates and exchange rates are valid on 07/08/2019 at 08:39 BST. For full up-to-date details of fees and exchange rates, always check the provider’s site directly.

The Post Office Travel Money Card offers one prepaid Mastercard card for 13 different currencies. Once loaded you can use it at 36 million shops, restaurants and bars around the world. Some things to consider:

  • Likely a mark-up on the exchange rate, so you may lose out on the exchange.
  • Inactivity Fee: maintenance fee of £2 per month will be charged if you have a remaining balance 12 months after the card has expired.⁵
Exchange Rate Exchange Fee Transaction Fee ATM Fee
1 GBP = 1.1928 USD⁶ *Rate updated on 07/08/2019 (08:30 BST) 3% Free. *some merchants may charge an extra fee 2.50 USD per cash withdrawal (or currency equivalent)⁷

All information, rates and exchange rates are valid on 07/08/2019 at 08:39 BST. For full up-to-date details of fees and exchange rates, always check the provider’s site directly.

The Thomas Cook Cash Passport provides a simple alternative to carrying cash, allowing 10 different currencies to be loaded onto the card.

  • Likely that you’re not getting the real exchange rate, as a mark-up may be added.
  • Inactivity fee: 2 GBP. Only charged after a 15-month period of you not using your card for transactions, reloading or taking cash out.
Exchange Rate Exchange Fee Transaction Fee ATM Fee
1 GBP = 1.1949 USD *Rate updated on 07/08/2019 (08:30 BST) 5.75% Free. *some merchants may charge an extra fee 2.50 USD flat fee (or equivalent in another currency)⁸

All information, rates and exchange rates are valid on 07/08/2019 at 08:39 BST. Check with provider directly for up-to-date information.

ASDA Currency Card

The Asda prepaid currency card can help you handle your travel money in 6 currencies, with all the reassurance of Chip and PIN security and a safer way to carry and spend travel money abroad than cash.⁹

  • Available currencies are: EUR, USD, ZAR , AUD, CAD, and NZD.¹º
  • Inactivity fee of 2 GBP if you’re card is not used for 12 months.
Exchange Rate Exchange Fee Transaction Fee International ATM Fee
1 GBP = 1.1925 USD *Rate updated on 07/08/2019 (08:30 BST) 5.75% Free. *some merchants may charge an extra fee Free. *Although some ATMs charge an extra fee¹¹

All information, rates and exchange rates are valid on 07/08/2019 at 08:39 BST. Check with provider directly for up-to-date information.

Comparing exchange rates

But what does this mean for you? To help you research which option works for you, here is an overview of the exchange rates, and mark-ups for each of the providers mentioned in this article.

Provider Exchange Rate Mark Up (Based on mid-market rate: 1 GBP = 1.2178 USD)
Transferwise 1 GBP = 1.2178 USD 0%
Sainsbury’s Cash Passport 1 GBP = 1.1922 USD* 1.0627%
Travelex Money Card 1 GBP = 1.1861 USD 1.3191%
Post Office Travel Money Card 1 GBP = 1.1928 USD 1.0375%
Thomas Cook Cash Passport 1 GBP = 1.1949 USD 0.9496%
Asda Currency Card 1 GBP = 1.1925 USD 1.0501%

This information is correct as of 07/08/2019 at 08:29 BST. Always check with the provider directly for up-to-date information regarding exchange rates, before making a payment.

*Sainsbury’s exchange rate is based on customers who do not have a nectar card.

While all the cards listed in this article offer a degree of convenience over taking cash abroad, it’s clear there are a range of costs and terms and conditions that affect the value on offer from each provider.

The TransferWise debit MasterCard and Borderless account offers one low transaction fee and gives you the real mid-market exchange rate giving you more for your money. See how you could save more with TransferWise.

Sources used:

1.Sainsbury’s Cash Passport: Fees and Limits
2.Travelex: Exchange Rates
3.Travelex: Currency Converter
4.Travelex: Money Card
5.Post Office: Travel Money Card
6.Post Office: Exchange Rate Travel Money Card
7.Post Office: Terms and Conditions
8.Thomas Cook: Cash Passport Fees
9.ASDA: Currency Card
10.ASDA: Currencies Available
11.ASDA: Fees

Sources checked on 13-August 2019.


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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