Consider prepaid card for your World Cup travels

By Marianne Curphey

With World Cup fever gripping the country, many football fans are still travelling to Brazil to watch the best teams in the world battle it out. However, those preparing for travel may find it difficult to obtain Brazilian currency in the UK, as some foreign currency providers have reported shortages of Brazilian real.

While that may be inconvenient, there are certainly alternatives to cash, such as credit cards and travellers' cheques. In fact, given the high crime rate in Brazil, opting for cards rather than cash may be a safer alternative. But for even more security, consider a prepaid card.

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"In South America there have been reports of holidaymakers' credit cards being taken from the hotel safe by staff, used and then replaced," says Jasmine Birtles, of Money Magpie, which offers tips on debt, shopping and credit cards.

Prepaid cards hold a couple of advantages. First, thieves won't have
access to your entire bank account, just whatever is loaded on the card. And prepaids come with a minimum level of insurance to protect your balance if the card is lost or stolen.

"You can also put a stop on the card as soon as you realise it's gone and,
if you do it quickly enough, your money will be safe," says Birtles. The
Chip and PIN system used in British credit and debit cards applies to prepaids as well, providing another layer of protection.

"A large proportion of credit card fraud happens abroad," she explains. "If you are using your normal credit card or debit card you stand to lose
a lot of money. Fraudsters can empty your accounts or rack up huge credit card bills in your name. However a prepaid card is not linked to your bank account so you are protected."

Expert-recommended prepaid travel cards
Birtles recommends a couple of different prepaid cards.

You can load the Moneycorp Explorer Card with up to £10,000 (in an enhanced account) or €1,000 (in a basic account) in 14 different currencies and you can lock in exchange rates, which makes it ideal for multi-trip holidays. To minimise risk, don't load more than you'll need. You can always load more funds online or via SMS.

Birtles also likes the FairFX.com MasterCard Anywhere Card, which has a purchase fee of £9.95 for initial loads under £500. You can use it in any country, in any currency and with any vendor that accepts MasterCard. FairFX's CEO, Ian Strafford-Taylor, agrees this card is suitable for use in Brazil and other parts of South America.

David Black, of Consumer Intelligence, says the key to managing your money when abroad is to pre-plan in order to minimise the foreign exchange fees some cards levy.

Black says Caxton FX prepaid currency cards -- which you can load with either euros or dollars -- are a good option, as there are no fees for overseas purchases or ATM withdrawals, although the retailer or ATM operator may levy a charge.

ATM tips
A couple of other tips to keep in mind: even with plastic, your ability to withdraw cash in Brazil may be limited. Elvin Eldić, head of UK retail at Travelex, warned travellers that in Brazil there was a daily limit on ATM withdrawals on foreign cards, which is capped at 300 real (about £79 at current exchange rates).

Finally, MasterCard has an app called "Priceless Brazil" which gives information on local ATM locations, offers a 10% duty free discount, and restaurant offers and recommendations.

See related: Currency cards can ease money hassles abroad, Four credit card problems that can ruin a holiday, How to play dynamic currency conversion game

Published: 18 June 2014