Prepay credit cards (specifically, overseas)

I’m headed to Iceland in December, and seeing as it’s a modern nation which understands the benefits of plastic:

Icelanders love credit and debit cards, and will commonly whip one out just to buy an ice cream cone. Most shops and tourist establishments accept credit cards; you can even charge a taxi ride. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted, though American Express and Diner’s Club are useful as well. Electron, Maestro, and EDC debit cards are increasingly accepted at retail stores. [source]

I’m looking to load up a prepay credit card for use while I’m over there, so I don’t need to exchange cash and carry it about with me.

This raises some issues for me, however - I’ve never used a prepay credit card before, and while I’m sure they’re simple in theory (load it with money, spend money), I have no idea how much they’re likely to cost - especially seeing as I want to load it with krona.

Basically, I’m looking for some advice. Is the idea of a prepay credit card for Iceland a good one? Or am I better off just using my British debit/credit card as-is - or maybe the whole idea is silly and I should just stick with cash?


The first time I paid for a taxi ride in-car electronically was 1994 in Sweden.

When I’m making a short trip to a country these days, I usually just use my regular credit and debit cards, and often withdraw some cash on my debit card from a local ATM. (Large hotels usually have them.)

Does that generally work out better value than having it exchanged in the UK?

According to Insight Guides, it’s better to exchange your money over there, as doing it in the UK will give a poor exchange rate.

I’m also wondering if it’s cheaper to do one large exchange (i.e. pull out £100, say), than lots of smaller transactions (pay for this on card, pay for that on card). I’m guessing a lot of banks will have a per-transaction fix-fee, as well as a per transaction percentage fee (at least, that’s what’s happening when I use my debit card to pay for Digital Ocean)

Check this. We got royally screwed in the US in April, compared to last time we were there.

Just done this in the US.

First up, you’re gonna need to do your own research, rather than some anecdotes on a tech forum. It’s different for different countries, banks, etc. Some banks (e.g. Lloyds) will charge a shitload for ATM/debit use overseas.

Prepay cards are probably one of the safest and cheapest ways to take money. They can be found in most travel agents. They’re all much of a muchness. Small loading fee, or small transaction charge, or small exchange rate diff. We did a load of maths on a bunch of them and you find there’s really not much in it.

I’d try to find one you can load online. then you can just top up as you go. Watch out for time-to-load. Some take 48 hours for online top-up.

So yeah, go do research. Go into a couple of travel agents and get them to explain stuff to you. Conversations with a few people who actually know this stuff will highlight things you’ve not thought of.

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Thanks for the info, I’d not even thought of asking travel agents about this. I’m going to talk with my bank this evening to see what they say about it.

One quick question, did you load your card with US dollars or pound sterling?

I got a travel card. It has like currency buckets, so I’d load up the dollars bucket.

Talk to travel agents, for sure.

Yes. And far better than airport rates.

My bank has a fax rate for the day, then charges a fixed percentage fee for foreign trades. Same with my (usual) credit card. So, number of transactions isn’t an issue. I’d be surprised if most UK aren’t the same now due to competition.

Foreign exchange is a racket. You’re only ever going to pay. I’ve long thought of it as a cost of travel rather than fret too much about it. I’m just glad it’s so, so much easier than a couple of decades ago.

Used to do stuff like this when travelling around the Asian outback 30 years ago. The world has definitely moved on. Just an anecdote on a tech forum :wink: but if you load up with USDs, then you are going to take take two fex hits.

I think it was one of those pre-load cards we took to California and none of the local banks would accept it, so check that too. We had to travel just to find a Wells Fargo bank. This year we didn’t take one and there was nothing but Wells Fargo banks.

Our Mastercard version worked everywhere.

Use, the exchange rate is the best of any prepaid travel card afaik


Wells Fargo has a terrible reputation. Always has. Only yesterday:

I use this A LOT for my travel anywhere but the UK & US (where I use the work credit card). No charges, top up via debit card in-app, mastercard exchange rate (always use local currency). Only downside is it has a cash withdrawl limit, making it difficult when in cash focused places like Germany.

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I had a prepaid card for a trip to Italy in 2014. It was fine, but there were more places that wouldn’t accept cards than I was expecting, so didn’t use it as much as I had expected to. And then with no forthcoming trip, it turns out after a year of non-use they start taking 3 EUR a month inactive fee, cheeky. I did use it up in just about time, but for my next European trip, I didn’t take any cash or prepaid card at all, and just used my credit/debit card, because (after switching current account) I don’t have any foreign transaction fees (there is an ATM fee). Even the railway station toilets in Gothenburg let you pay by card, which was handy as I was only in Sweden to change trains :wink:

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I advise everyone to use Revolut. That is all.

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I got my Revoult card today, so I figured I’d have a play with the app and learn how to charge it with cash. I’ve been successful in topping up £10, but now I want to convert that to ISK, but I can’t figure out how.

I’ve added ISK to the rates screen, but it isn’t showing as an option to convert to, all I get is GPB, USD and EUR.

Am I missing something?

(Side note, I was impressed with it’s NFC technology, being able to read the relevant data from my bank card and my passport).


Nevermind, I’ve just read the FAQ:

How can I exchange currencies other than GBP, EUR & USD?

The card will auto-convert your balance to the currency you’re spending in at the best rate so there is no need to pre-purchase currency. You can currently only exchange between USD, EUR and GBP on the app.

We will be adding more base currencies later in the year which you will be able to load onto your Revolut account and exchange to lock in a great rate.

With this new information, I’m guessing I should be able to go out, make a purchase, and have the app update my balance accordingly? I’ll give that a trial later today.

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