Multi-Currency Accounts And Cards
If you often make purchases in a different currency, or use your Spanish bank cards outside the eurozone, you’re probably overpaying bank fees. With a multi-currency account and card you’ll reduce the commission you currently pay to your bank, keeping your hard-earned euros in your pocket.
How much commission are you paying now?
Have you actually checked the commission rate levied every time you use your credit/debit card outside the eurozone?
Some Spanish banks charge a fixed rate for the most common currencies plus a percentage on top. With rates at around 2.5%, or even as high as 4%, it soon adds up when you make several purchases. If on a typical holiday you pay by your usual bank card for meals, trips, car hire and more, this commission can be considerable.
If you use your Spanish bank card and pay in euros when abroad, rather than in the currency where you’re located, you’ll end up paying even more. This is because the exchange rate levied will be the merchant’s rate – normally a lot higher than the official rate. The same happens if you make online purchases from other countries: don’t pay with the currency of your card – in this way you can avoid inflated exchange rates levied by sellers.
If you’re not sure what the rate is for your card, check online or get in touch with your bank. Then you can compare with a multi-currency card.
Multi-currency accounts and cards advantages
#1 You don’t need to change bank
You can still carry out all your day-to-day banking with your current provider and use your multi-currency account for international purchases and travel.
#2 A multi-currency card is often safer than a ‘traditional’ card
Most multi-currency cards have to be loaded, so if your multi-currency card is stolen or hacked, you’ll only lose up to the amount currently on the card.
Cards come with chip and pin technology, this minimises the possibility for fraudulent use. If it’s stolen you can block it by calling the company.
Before signing up for any financial service, check that the business is registered, for example by the UK FCA (Financial Conduct Authority). This guarantees that customer funds are kept separately to company funds; if the company goes bankrupt, customer funds should be safe.
#3 Loading and using your card is easy
Normally you should load your card with the required currencies before travelling, with most providers applying the mid-market rate on the day of loading. If you run low on funds, you can top-up the balance on the card during your travel.
#4 Free ATM withdrawals in different currencies when abroad
Most providers will allow for at least one free cash withdrawal when you’re abroad and some allow for up to four free withdrawals per month. However there may be a one-time initial card activation fee and additional cash withdrawals will be charged.
When using the card in another country, if you have loaded it with several currencies it automatically detects which currency should be used.
#5 The fee structure is clear
Rather than having to search for information on applicable fees, all are clearly shown online on the provider’s website.
Multi-currency accounts and cards disadvantages
With multiple providers it can be time consuming to compare the fees and commission charged by each.
Watch out for any inactivity fee that may be charged on loaded cards unused for a long period.
The amount you can load on a card may be limited, although in most cases the amount is sufficient for normal holiday usage.
Although many currencies can be loaded, if you’re travelling to a smaller country you may find that a specific currency is not offered.
Who Are The Main Providers?
Take a look at any of the following main providers of multi-currency accounts and cards:
Wise (formally TransferWise)
- Create a free multi-currency account to manage your money across over 50 currencies
- Receive a multi-currency Mastercard, accepted worldwide (issue charge 7€)
- No monthly/annual fees for balances of under 15,000€ (or equivalent)
- Currencies are converted at the real exchange rate
- Two free ATM withdrawals up to 200 GBP or equivalent per month
Find out more at Wise.
- Revolut offers an app-based service with savings and investment possibilities
- Choose from one of four different plans: Standard (free) and paid plans Plus, Premium and Metal
- Allows for transfer to over 30 countries
Find out more at Revolut.
- Basic (free) app-based account includes a free virtual debit Mastercard
- Physical Mastercard costs 10€
- Categorise your spending with the N26 app
- Choose from a basic Standard account or upgrade to Smart, You or Metal for a monthly fee
Find out more online at N26.
For more options (and lots of small print!) take a look at:
Monese (free Starter account charges 2% currency exchange with min. 2€ charge).
Multi-currency banking apps and cards mean spending less when you travel, however they don’t offer the full suite of services you might expect from a ‘traditional’ bank. If you’re thinking of ditching your Spanish bank, make sure you weigh up the pros and cons first.
If you only travel once a year (or less) outside the eurozone and don’t spend a lot in other currencies (either when travelling or online), then the saving in commission may not be worth opening a multi-currency account.