Are prepaid travel cards worth it? Plus, a special look at Qantas vs Velocity’s offerings

A comparison of the features and rates offered by prepaid travel cards

GUIDE: Earning Points
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
TIME TO READ: 5 minutes
POSTED: August 24, 2017
UPDATED: September 6, 2017
LOYALTY PROGRAMS: Qantas Frequent Flyer, Velocity Frequent Flyer

Reloadable prepaid travel cards are useful for those who can’t or don’t want to use credit cards.

This guide aims to explore the advantages and disadvantages of prepaid travel cards, compare the offerings on the market (especially between Qantas and Velocity), and help you determine whether one of these products would suit your travel goals.

Six of the most popular products on the market are:

  • ANZ Travel Card
  • CashPassport Mastercard
  • NAB Traveller Card
  • Qantas Cash
  • Travelex Money Card
  • Velocity Global Wallet

Is a prepaid travel card for me?

Prepaid travel cards are best suited to you if:

  • You are looking to accrue Qantas or Velocity points;
  • You have a mixture of domestic and overseas spend;
  • You have predominantly domestic spend and need an alternative to a domestic credit card;
  • You are not eligible for a credit card, e.g. younger than 18; and/or
  • Use the card at least once every 12 months (in the case of Velocity Global Wallet)

Velocity Global Wallet

Advantages

  • If you don’t want a credit card, but still want to earn points, you have very few options out there, so Qantas Cash or Velocity Global Wallet could be quite useful here
  • Given that it is prepaid, it is easy to control your spending. When the money runs out, it has run out
  • Young people in their late teens can earn points from their own spending without parents having to worry about supplementary cards and the inherent risks of giving their teenager access to an ‘unlimited’ supply of funds
  • Although untested by Point Hacks, prepaid travel cards may offer the ability to earn points on ATO payments

Disadvantages

  • You are locking yourself into an exchange rate in advance. This carries the risk that the exchange rate may change against your favour
  • For cards that earn frequent flyer points, the points can take many weeks to drop, so don’t be fooled into thinking this is a way of quickly topping up your account for a redemption
  • You are foregoing spend on points-earning cards where there are bonus categories for overseas spend, like the American Express Platinum Charge
  • You are foregoing spend on other cards that offer zero (or close-to-zero) fees on overseas transactions and/or withdrawals, such as the 28 Degrees Platinum Mastercard
  • You are pushing your hard-earned cash into a prepaid account which earns no interest

Similarities between cards

  • All offer basically the same amount of currencies (10 or 11) and allow multiple currencies to be held on the card at once
  • No prepaid travel card that we know of charges an annual fee (although Velocity Global Wallet does charge an inactivity fee)

NAB Traveller Card

A comparison of card features

The winner/s in each category are in blue with the loser/s in red:

 Velocity Global WalletQantas CashNAB Traveller CardCashPassport MastercardANZ Travel CardTravelex
Initial load fee$0$0$0$0 online or greater of 1.1% or $15 in-store$11 ($0 if ANZ customer)Greater of 1.1% or $15 in-store
Reload fee$0 via bank transfer or BPAY to foreign currency wallet$0 via bank transfer or BPAY; 1% via debit card$0$0 online; 1% via BPay; $5 via debit card1.1%1% via BPAY; $5 via debit card
Currency conversion fee2.25% only when using a currency not loaded onto the card0%4%0%3%5.95%
Ability to earn frequent flyer pointsYesYesNoNoNoNo
Frequent flyer points earn rate (overseas)2 Velocity points per $ AUD spent1.5 Qantas Point per $ AUD spent----
Frequent flyer points earn rate (domestic)0.33 Velocity points per $ AUD spent0.25 Qantas Points per $ AUD spent----

Velocity Global Wallet vs Qantas Cash

Both cards offer frequent flyer points for every Australian dollar spent, however, each card targets different demographics.

For those looking to maximise points earn, Velocity Global Wallet beats Qantas Cash on both overseas and domestic spend.

Qantas Cash

In regards to fees, there is very little competition between the two, with both offering mostly fee-free transactions as well as nearly identical overseas ATM withdrawal fees.

Both offer fee-free reload by bank transfer; for BPAY reloads, it’s free with Qantas Cash and 0.5% with Velocity Global Wallet. Qantas Cash also offers the option of reloading via debit card for a 1% fee.

The features of both cards are relatively similar, with Velocity Global Wallet having the edge for usability by offering the ability to change your PIN both online and through the app, rather than having to call the Qantas Cash Customer Service Centre or use a Redicard ATM to make the change.

However, Velocity Global Wallet charges a $1.95 inactivity fee, which is charged per month after 12 months of inactivity. In my opinion, this fee is unnecessary and it is hard to view it as anything other than punishing their clients for not using their business ‘often enough’. Velocity Global Wallet perhaps should reconsider this fee, as it does provide a disincentive, especially when comparing to Qantas Cash, which removed a similar inactivity fee a while ago.

Exchange rates

While many travel cards entice people through fee-free activities, such as no load, reload or transaction fees, make sure to look at the exchange rate your card offers when converting your AUD into a foreign currency, as this can be the biggest driver on whether you are receiving good value for money.

The winning currency rate is highlighted in blue, with the lowest rate in red, and the winner between Velocity and Qantas in bold.

 Velocity Global WalletQantas CashNAB Traveller CardCashPassport MastercardANZ Travel CardTravelex Money Card
US Dollar0.74950.75080.74310.74690.75490.7596
Euro0.63360.63220.62200.62650.63680.6383
New Zealand Dollar1.02321.03511.00961.02271.04431.0446
British Pound0.57570.57360.56430.56880.57940.5801
Japanese Yen81.801280.774179.430080.304282.200082.0729
Canadian Dollar0.95010.94770.93060.93870.95960.9348
Singapore Dollar1.01871.01461.00021.00611.02400.9975
Thai Baht24.870324.587623.775024.001325.002024.3616
Hong Kong Dollar5.85915.82025.74755.77115.90105.7492

Rates calculated on 20 August 2017. Velocity Global Wallet do not display their foreign exchange rates on their website without needing to first log in; luckily, we had a login available to view their rates for this day.

Analysing these results, Travelex Money Card and ANZ Travel Card come out on top, with the NAB Traveller Card offering the least lucrative rates.

Velocity beats Qantas in seven of the nine currencies.

Please note that this is only an analysis of one day and a much larger number of days would need to be analysed to determine if there is a longer term trend.

Is it worth it?

Be careful before you dive in, as you may be losing out on the exchange rate and spending more on your points than what they’re worth.

For example, let’s assume you will load up the equivalent of $2,000 AUD in US dollars for your big holiday.

According to the rates above, that would transfer to $1,501.60 with Qantas Cash or a very similar $1,499 with Velocity.

If you compare this to that day’s Mastercard rate of 1 AUD = 0.7949 USD or Visa rate of 0.7954 USD, then you would receive $1,589.97 or $1,590.80, respectively.

That means that you are forgoing 4-5% of your Australian dollars by using one of these two prepaid travel card compared to the official rates set by the two big card issuers.

Note that this is definitely the absolute best case for both Mastercard and Visa rates. In reality, you will find that no-foreign-exchange-fee cards have a small spread from the above, but they are close enough in practice that the above comparison still holds. Just remember that we are showing the maximum loss.

You’ve also locked your AUD into USD now, which means that if the AUD goes up, you lose out.

And, finally, you either need to spend all of that USD overseas or risk losing even more value by transferring back to AUD.

Our take

  • Qantas and Velocity’s exchange rates are usually poorer than some other options available on the market
  • It’s important to compare the exchange rates of other options and consider the trade-offs before jumping in and loading your prepaid travel card in order to earn points
  • Your Qantas Frequent Flyer card is automatically a Qantas Cash card, which you can use it to fast-track check-in at the airport, for example; for Velocity Global Wallet, you have to opt in to have a Velocity Global Wallet version of the Velocity membership card sent out to you

Summing up

Prepaid travel cards seem to provoke some pretty extreme responses: some people love them, and others hate them.

True, they may not be the best card to use for travel (despite the marketing) due to the poor foreign exchange rates, and may not earn many points, especially when used in Australia, but, for many, they can be a handy little points earner where the alternative is earning no points at all.

At least you can’t argue with free – the fact that it’s available to use with no upfront fee means there is little risk in trying it out and seeing if it has some use to you.

Links to prepaid travel card guides

Supplementary images courtesy respective frequent flyer programs and financial providers.

Are prepaid travel cards worth it? Plus, a special look at Qantas vs Velocity’s offerings was last modified: September 6th, 2017 by Daniel Sciberras