The 6 Best Travel Money Cards for Europe - 2024
If you’re travelling to Europe, a travel money card can make spending and withdrawing cash when you’re away cheaper and more convenient. Different types of travel money cards, including travel debit cards, prepaid travel cards and travel credit cards, are available to support different customer needs. The right one for you will depend on your personal preference and how you like to manage your money.
Read on for all you need to know, including a closer look at travel money card types, some great options to consider, and the sorts of fees you need to think about when you choose.
Wise - our pick for travel debit card for Europe
Before we get into details about different travel money card options, let’s start with the Wise card as a good all-round option that allows you to hold and spend euros, as well as a diverse range of other European and world currencies.
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using the Wise travel money debit card, to help you decide if it's suitable for you.
Hold and exchange 50+ currencies including EUR and a selection of other European and world currencies
No fee to spend any currency you hold, low conversion fees from 0.41%
Mid market exchange rate on all currency conversion
Some fee free ATM withdrawals every month
No ongoing fees and no interest to pay
ATM fees apply once you exceed your plan limits
No option to earn points or rewards
What is a travel money card?
Similar to your standard bank card, a travel money card is accepted for online and in-store transactions, as well as cash withdrawals - but the features and fees you’ll get are tailored for international usage. That can lead to benefits such as improved exchange rates and reduced fees compared to your regular card.
If you’re headed to Europe, you could find a travel money card which supports the currency or currencies in the destinations you’re visiting is a good idea. While much of Europe uses the euro, there are actually 29 different European currencies, so you’ll need to double check what’s needed wherever you’re headed.
6 travel money cards for Europe compared
Before we get into each card option in more depth, here’s a summary of how six of the best travel money cards for Europe compare to each other.
|Europe ATM fee
|Some free withdrawals every month, low fees after that
|Free to spend any currency you hold
|Canada Post Cash Passport
|15 CAD card purchase fee
|Variable by currency - 2.5 USD for example
|Free to spend any currency you hold
|Rate set by the card distributor or merchant when topping up
|BMO Reloadable Mastercard
|6.95 CAD annual fee
|No interest applied
|2.5% foreign transaction fee
|2.5% foreign transaction fee
|Koho Premium Mastercard
|9 CAD monthly fee
|Visa exchange rate
|HSBC World Elite Mastercard
|149 CAD annual fee
|Mastercard exchange rate
|Home Trust Preferred Visa
|1% to 1.5% (minimum 2.5 CAD to 15 CAD) depending on the ATM type
|Visa exchange rate
The features of various travel money cards can differ significantly. Typically, travel debit cards are cost-effective and convenient, while travel credit cards offer advantages such as cashback or rewards, but may result in interest and late payment fees, depending on how you choose to pay.
Travel debit cards usually allow you to easily add funds online or via a mobile app, which helps you stick to your budget and avoid overspending. Conversely, travel credit cards enable you to spend up to your credit limit, and you can pay off the balance over several months. The choice between the two will come down to how you like to manage your money - we’ll dive into a few more details about each card type, next.
What are different types of travel cards?
Generally, Canadian customers are able to select a travel money card from either a regular bank or a specialist provider, with card types available including travel debit cards, travel prepaid cards or travel credit cards. We’ll walk through what each travel money card type is, and pick out a couple of good card options, so you can compare and choose.
1. Travel debit cards
2. Travel prepaid cards
3. Travel credit cards
1. Travel Debit Cards
Travel debit cards from specialist providers have linked digital accounts you can use to hold and convert a currency balance. It’s common to find a good selection of major European currencies supported, including euros and British pounds. Some more flexible card options, like Wise, also support other European currencies like Norwegian or Danish kroner, Swedish kronor, Romanian lei and more. While different cards have their own features, travel debit cards can usually be topped up easily online and through an app, with the option to see your balance and get transaction notifications through your phone too. That makes it easier to keep on top of your money, even when you’re away from home.
Travel debit card Option 1: Wise
Wise is our pick for travel debit card for Europe. There’s no fee to open a Wise account, and no delivery fee for your Wise card, with no minimum balance and no monthly charge. You just pay low Wise fees from 0.41% when you convert currencies, and transparent ATM fees when you exhaust the monthly free transactions available with your account.
No fee to open a Wise account, no minimum balance requirement
No fee to get your Wise card, free to spend any currency you hold
2 withdrawals, to 350 CAD value per month for free, then 1.5 CAD + 1.75%
Hold EUR and 50+ other currencies, convert between them with the mid-market rate
Get local account details to receive EUR, HUF, RON and 6 other currencies for free
Travel debit card Option 2: Canada Post Cash Passport
You can pick up a Canada Post Cash Passport in your local Post Office, and top up your account in CAD. You can then switch your balance to any of the 7 supported major currencies - or you can just allow the card to convert to the currency you need, although there is a foreign exchange fee of 3.25% for doing so. You can use your Canada Post Cash Passport card in ATMs and wherever the network is supported. ATM fees apply which vary by currency.
Supports 7 major currencies, including euros and pounds
No fee to spend currencies you hold in your account
Variable ATM fee, 1.9 EUR when in the the Eurozone for example
1.5% fee for using your card in Canada - plus any applicable fee to convert funds back to CAD if you hold a foreign currency
Pros and cons of using debit travel cards in Europe
Avoid interest costs and late payment fees
Hold and exchange currencies in advance or at the time of spending
Accounts can be topped up, viewed and managed using just your phone
Safe to use, as accounts aren’t linked to your main Canadian bank account
Travel debit cards are issued on popular global payment networks
Transaction and currency conversion fees may apply
Cash back and rewards may not be available
How to choose the best travel debit card for Europe?
The best travel debit card for Europe really depends on your personal preferences and how you like to manage your money. If you’ll be travelling widely it makes sense to look for an account with mid-market currency exchange and a large selection of supported currencies as well as EUR, like Wise. Other providers like Canada Post also support EUR and GBP for your trip to Europe, and the Cash Passport can be conveniently collected in your local Post Office.
Is there a spending limit with a travel debit card in Europe?
Card use limits are determined by individual providers and can vary depending on the transaction type. Limits may apply on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. For instance, there may be a cap on the number or value of ATM withdrawals allowed per day or a limit on the value of contactless payments you can make. These limits are set for security reasons and can often be adjusted using the provider's app.
2. Prepaid Travel Cards
With a prepaid travel card you’ll usually need to first order a card and then add funds in the supported currency of your choice. Once you have a balance you can then pay merchants and make cash withdrawals at home and abroad. While prepaid travel cards are usually issued on large global networks - and can therefore be used pretty widely - you may find you pay a foreign transaction fee when overseas, depending on the specific card you select.
Prepaid travel card option 1: BMO Reloadable Mastercard
The BMO Reloadable Mastercard can be topped up in CAD and used when you travel in Europe. You’ll pay a 2.5% foreign transaction fee when overseas, but you’ll still have the advantage that - as with other prepaid and travel cards - this card is not linked to your primary bank account, so it can increase security when spending abroad. There’s a 6.95 CAD annual fee, but as this is a purchase card rather than a credit card, there’s no interest to worry about. You just top up and you can spend up to your account balance freely.
6.95 CAD annual fee, 2.5% foreign transaction fee
5 CAD ATM fee
No interest to worry about
Manage your card online or using your phone, to top up and view balance
Add funds from BMO or other Canadian banks directly
Prepaid travel card option 2: Koho Premium Mastercard
You can get up to 2% cash back with the Koho Premium Mastercard, and there’s no foreign transaction fee to worry about. Instead, you pay a monthly card fee of 9 CAD. The basic card is free to get, or you can upgrade to a Koho metal card for 159 CAD if you want a fancier way to pay when you’re at home and abroad.
9 CAD/month premium fee
No foreign transaction fee
No ATM fee
Earn cash back on your spending
Pros and cons of using prepaid travel cards in Europe
Manage your account, add more money or convert funds online or with an app
Accounts with no monthly fees are available
Issued on globally popular networks for good coverage
ATM withdrawals supported globally
Some accounts have extras like options to earn cash back or reward points
Typically only CAD supported - watch out for foreign transaction charges
Transaction fees apply to most accounts
How to choose the best travel prepaid card for Europe?
There’s no single best travel prepaid card for Europe - it’ll come down to your personal preference. If you don’t mind paying a monthly fee you might like the Koho Premium card which waives foreign transaction fees, and other charges like ATM withdrawal fees. Otherwise, if you just want a simple prepaid card and don’t mind the foreign transaction fee when you’re in Europe, the BMO prepaid card might suit you.
Is there a spending limit with a prepaid card in Europe?
Different prepaid travel cards set their own limits for spending and withdrawals, which can vary between currencies. You’ll need to check your card’s terms and conditions carefully to make sure you pick a provider which suits your needs.
3. Travel Credit Cards
Travel credit cards typically offer some extra international features compared to regular credit cards, such as low or no foreign transaction fees or extra option to earn rewards when you’re abroad. In general, travel credit cards are safe and convenient but can be more expensive compared to using a debit card option. Before you select the right card for you it’s important to check the fees, rates, eligibility rules and interest rates which apply, so you can make sure it’s a good fit for you.
Travel credit card option 1: HSBC World Elite Mastercard
The HSBC World Elite Mastercard has been optimised for overseas use, with extra rewards on international spending and travel, plus no foreign transaction fees to pay. There are lots of ways to earn rewards, including variable new customer bonus offers - the downside is that there’s an annual fee of 149 CAD, so you’ll need to check if the benefits outweigh the costs. As with any other credit card, you’ll also need to pay off your bill in full every month to avoid interest charges.
149 CAD annual fee, 5 CAD ATM withdrawal fee
Variable interest rate
No foreign transaction fee
Options to earn rewards, including enhanced benefits for travel spending
Travel credit card option 2: Home Trust Preferred Visa Card
The Home Trust Preferred Visa Card is a credit card with a variable interest rate, no foreign exchange fees and 1% cash back on all eligible purchases. There’s no annual fee to pay, although the ATM withdrawal fees can run pretty high - 1% or 1.5% depending on the ATM type, and the maximum cap is 15 CAD for some withdrawals.
No annual fee, no foreign transaction fee
1% cash back on all eligible purchases
Variable interest rate
ATM fees apply, which are set as a percentage, and can run pretty high
Pros and cons of using credit cards in Europe
Some cards offer zero liability policies, for extra consumer protection
Spread the cost of your travel over several months
You may pay no foreign transaction fee
Network exchange rates typically apply, which are usually pretty fair
Some cards offer cash back and rewards on spending
Interest charged if you don’t repay in full every month
Eligibility rules apply
How to choose the best travel credit card for Europe?
Selecting the best travel credit card for Europe largely depends on individual preferences. If you aim to earn rewards and cashback on your foreign transactions, the Home Trust Preferred Visa may be a suitable option as it does not have a foreign transaction fee and provides cash back on all purchases. Whichever card you’re considering you’ll want to weigh up the potential fees you’ll need to pay against the rewards you can earn to make sure it’s worthwhile.
If you regularly travel to Europe, getting a travel money card which supports the currencies you need frequently can help you save money. Travel money cards have different features, and can be picked up via regular banks, online specialists and even the Post Office.
You could opt for a low cost travel debit card which comes with a linked account to hold a selection of currencies - like the Wise account. Or you might prefer a prepaid travel money card like the Koho Premium Mastercard which has monthly fees in exchange for lower transaction charges - handy if you use it abroad often. Finally, another option is to get a travel credit card either to earn cashback and rewards, or to avoid foreign transaction fees.
The good news is that the Canadian market is well served for all types of travel money cards - use this guide to start your research and pick the right option for your specific needs.
FAQ - Best travel cards for Europe
You can usually make cash withdrawals with a credit card in Europe at any ATM that supports your card network. You’ll often find that a fee applies, and you may start to accumulate interest on the withdrawn amount immediately. Travel money debit cards from providers like Wise and Canada Post can be a lower cost option for cash withdrawals overseas.
You can use your debit card anywhere you see the card network’s logo displayed. Visa and Mastercard networks are very well supported globally, including in Europe, making these good options to look out for when you pick your travel debit card for Europe.
Prepaid cards from reputable providers are safe to use at home and abroad. They aren’t linked to your main bank account which can offer extra peace of mind, and may also make it easier to manage your travel budget. However, you’ll need to check the card features and fees carefully to make sure you're getting the best match for your needs.