Best prepaid travel cards for 2023
This is the most comprehensive comparison of the prepaid travel cards available to Canadian travellers. We’ve picked the best all-round prepaid travel card, Wise, plus four other highly recommended cards to look at in detail.
Wise - our pick for prepaid card in Canada
Hold and exchange 50+ currencies with the mid-market exchange rate and no hidden fees
Autoconvert feature means you’ll always get the cheapest available currency exchange when you spend with the Wise card
Send payments to 80+ countries and get paid fee free from 30+ countries with a Wise account
Open a Wise account online for free or in the Wise app and order a Wise card for spending and withdrawals in 170+ countries around the world. You’ll be able to hold and exchange over 50 currencies in the Wise app, with no fee to spend any currency you hold - and all currency exchange uses the mid-market exchange rate with no markup and no hidden fees.
There’s no fee to get your Wise card, and no ongoing charges or minimum balance to worry about. Some transaction charges apply, depending on the services you use.
Canada Post - quick pick up
Supports 7 major currencies, including US dollars, Mexican pesos, euros and British pounds
Mastercard branded for global acceptance
No fee to spend currencies you hold in your account
You can pick up a Canada Post Cash Passport in a Post Office - perfect if you’re in a hurry and can’t wait for delivery. Add money and convert to any of the supported currencies depending on where you’re headed. Variable ATM fees apply based on location, and there’s a 3.25% foreign exchange fee if you don’t hold the currency you need for spending.
BMO Prepaid Mastercard - easy top up
Not linked to your main account for security
No interest or cash advance fees (purchase card, not a credit card)
Use globally anywhere you see the Mastercard logo
If you’re a BMO customer and want an easy way to move money from your primary account to a separate prepaid card with global acceptance the BMO Prepaid Mastercard might suit you. There’s a 6.95 CAD annual fee to pay, and foreign currency spending does incur a fee of 2.5%. However, BMO positions this option as a convenient and secure way to spend with no risk of running up interest, cash advance or late fees - which might be handy if you’re a BMO customer looking for convenience.
Koho - partner discounts and promotions
Either pay a monthly fee for no foreign transaction fees, or have a no-subscription plan with a 1.5% foreign transaction fee
Cash back promotions and extra benefits from a good selection of partner merchants
Fee free way to top up all card types
Koho has a few different prepaid travel cards available to Canadian residents. You might want to choose the standard account plan which has lots of free transaction options and partner promotions, but comes with a foreign transaction fee, and inactivity charges if you don’t use your account. Or you can pay a 9 CAD monthly subscription to access a Premium account with no foreign transaction fees, while still getting all the partner perks.
CIBC AC Conversion prepaid card - airport pickup
Collect in Pearson airport or have it mailed to your home address
Hold and exchange 10 currencies
Free to spend currencies you hold
Depending on the active promotions at the time of purchase, you may be able to earn cashback on your spending with the CIBC AC Conversion card - plus you can hold 10 currencies and spend them fee free. Variable ATM fees apply if you want to make a withdrawal, and there’s a foreign transaction fee of 2.5% if you’re spending a currency you don’t hold in your account. You don’t need to be a CIBC customer to sign up.
Is it worth getting a prepaid travel card?
Yes, getting a prepaid card is usually easy, and can be free. A travel card helps you budget as you’ll only be able to spend the balance you load on the card - and could save you money on currency exchange too.
Are prepaid travel cards safe?
Prepaid travel cards are usually considered safe to use as long as you take normal security precautions like keeping your account details and card PIN secret.
If your prepaid travel card is stolen you’ll usually be able to freeze or cancel it in an app - and it’s not linked to your main bank account, which can also offer peace of mind.
Some providers like Wise also offer virtual cards which can add an extra layer of security when spending with new merchants.
Is my money protected?
Some prepaid travel money cards are issued by financial technology companies. These services aren’t banks - but they are usually regulated in a very similar way to banks for the services they offer.
While different card providers may have slightly different regulatory requirements, you’ll usually find your money is protected through safeguarding. This means the card issuer must hold customer funds separate to their own operating capital, so it can always be easily accessed and won’t be mixed with the funds needed to run the business.
If you’re looking for a travel card with a provider which has a large user base, and a global presence, check out Wise. Wise is used by over 15 million customers already, and as a global business, they are overseen by several regulatory bodies - so your money is protected no matter what currency you hold.
What are the advantages of prepaid travel cards?
Prepaid cards are safer and more convenient than carrying cash - with the added benefit that they’re not connected to your main bank account. This can make it easier to budget as you’ll only ever be able to spend the funds you’ve loaded to your card - and also means that even if your card was stolen, the thieves can’t access funds in your primary bank account.
Because prepaid cards like these have been built specifically for travel, you may also find you can save money and get access to a flexible range of international and multi-currency services.
Open a Wise account, for example, to spend with your linked card, and access currency exchange which has no markup added, low cost international transfers, and easy ways to get paid for free in a selection of currencies.
What are the disadvantages?
The most common disadvantage of prepaid cards is the fees.
The fees of travel cards can vary greatly - which means you’ll need to compare a few to make sure you get one that suits you.
Some cards - like the Koho Premium prepaid travel card - have monthly fees. Others charge a fee if your card is inactive for too long.
Other cards charge a fee for topping up, which can vary depending on how you want to pay. And some have a pretty high foreign exchange fee when you spend a currency not supported by the card.
How to get a prepaid card
The process to sign up for a prepaid travel card varies by provider. In most cases you’ll have to show or upload proof of your identity, and then load an initial amount onto the card. You’ll then be given your card if you’re applying in person, or sent it in the post if you’re applying online.
The good news is that it’s usually more straightforward to sign up for a prepaid card than a credit card as there are no credit checks to complete.
Loading money on to the card
You can usually load money onto your travel card online, using a bank card or bank transfer. Some cards also offer the option to top up in cash - but there are usually higher fees for this service.
What are the fees?
The fees you’ll pay with a prepaid travel card can vary pretty widely. Read through the terms and conditions of any card you’re interested in before you sign up - and look out for charges like:
Monthly maintenance fees
Top up fees
Cross currency / money exchange fees
ATM withdrawal fees
Replacement card fees
Cash out or account close fees
There’s probably not a single best card when it comes to fees. Instead you’ll need to compare a few to see which suits your specific needs best.
Check out the Wise card if you’re interested in a card with no ongoing fees and options for currency exchange with no foreign transaction fee. Or maybe you can try the Koho Premium prepaid card if you’d rather pay a monthly charge for no foreign transaction fee and lots of ways to earn rewards or cash back from partners.
Can I use a prepaid travel card to withdraw cash?
You can usually use your prepaid travel card to withdraw cash at an ATM, and in some cases over the counter. The fees you pay - and the withdrawal limits which apply can vary by card.
Some cards - like the Wise card or the CIBC AC Conversion card - offer some fee free withdrawals every month, but then apply fees once this amount is exceeded. Other cards, like the Koho prepaid cards, don’t have their own ATM withdrawal fees - but the operators of specific ATMs may still add their own fees to your withdrawal.
Frequently Asked Questions - Prepaid cards in Canada
There’s no single best prepaid travel card. It’ll depend on the currencies you need to use, and the types of transactions you want to make.
For example, if you’re looking for a card with the Google exchange rate with no markup you might want to take a look at Wise. If getting a card in your hands instantly is important to you, you may prefer to pop into a Canada Post Office and get a travel card there.
There are lots of providers out there - so you’ll be able to find the best prepaid travel card for you with a bit of research.
Prepaid travel cards are more secure and convenient than carrying lots of foreign currency cash. And if you pick the right provider for your needs you could also find you get a better exchange rate and lower overall costs for your international spending.
There are pros and cons of each - so it really depends on what transactions you need. Often a prepaid card is perfect as a balance of convenience and cost. But travel focused credit cards may come with handy rewards schemes for spending overseas, while debit cards are also good all round options if you plan to use the card at home.
Some - but not all - travel cards can be used with mobile wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay for easy spending on the move. Compare a few to find one which is best for you.
Most travel cards offer contactless functionality. Double check the one you pick has this facility before you sign up.