Amex Prepaid cards for foreign travel


In the post “One card to rule them all” I introduced the idea of buying Vanilla Reload cards at Office Depot and using them to load money onto American Express Prepaid cards.  For Ink Bold cardholders, this is a great option for earning extra points with your credit card.  One of the lesser known features of the Amex card, though, may be of interest to almost all cardholders: the Amex Prepaid card has no foreign transaction fees.

These days, there are many good options for credit cards with no foreign transaction fees (e.g. Ink Bold, Sapphire Preferred, Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve, etc.).  So why would anyone be interested in using the American Express Prepaid card?  Here are a few great reasons:

You want to increase spend on a card that does have foreign transaction fees.  Suppose, for example, you are working on meeting a credit card’s minimum spend in order qualify for its sign-up bonus.  Or, maybe you’re trying to earn elite status with your Delta Reserve card or your Hilton Surpass.  There are many reasons why you might want to pump up spend on a variety of cards.

You want to take out cash at ATM machines.  With most credit cards, you will be charged for a cash advance if you take out money at an ATM.  And, with most ATM cards, you will be charged a foreign transaction fee for withdrawing money outside of the United States.  The American Express Prepaid card simply charges a flat $2 fee after the first withdrawal each month.  Of course, the ATM owner may (and usually will) impose a fee as well.  One great thing about using the American Express Prepaid card is that you will have earned points on your credit card for loading it (because you used your credit card to buy Vanilla Reload cards).

If either of the reasons given above appeal to you, then do the following before your trip:

  1. Use your credit card of choice to buy Vanilla Reload cards at Office Depot (or elsewhere if you can find them).
  2. Use the Vanilla Reload cards to load money onto your American Express Prepaid card(s). 


Reader Experiences

Have you used the Amex Prepaid card outside of the United States?  What has your experience been?  Has it been widely accepted?  Have you had success in using it at ATMs?

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