They gotcha! If you went to book a flight on Ryanair’s website over the last few days, and pulled out your trusty prepaid Mastercard – you’ll have joined thousands of others in discovering that it doesn’t work anymore for avoiding those dreaded admin fees.
Sure, you can pay for your flight with it, but you can no longer use it to dodge Ryanair’s famous €6 administration fee… which is really a €12 fee because when people pop off to Gatwick or Skavsta or Memmingen, they usually come back home again when they’re done. And Ryanair charges €6 per hop, not per journey or per booking.
So, after a spot of grumbling and disappointment you probably schtumped up the twelve quid and thought to yourself… there must still be a way to avoid these blasted fees… right? And sure enough there is.
From March 1st, the one and only way to get around Ryanair’s admin fees is with Ryanair’s very own prepaid Mastercard. They’ve just launched it and it’s called the Ryanair Cash Passport. It takes the place of all other prepaid Mastercards as the only way for Irish people to book a flight on Ryanair without having to pay the administration fees.
So of course, it’s worth asking, is the Ryanair Cash Passport any good, or is it just a one trick pony? And how does it stack up against the rest of the prepaid cards out there?
Well, Ryanair’s PR boss Stephen McNamara seems to think the only reason people have prepaid Mastercards is to book flights on Ryanair. He said last week that:
"Ryanair's new Cash Passport is now up and running and makes other Prepaid products far less attractive as only Ryanair Cash Passport holders will be able to avoid Ryanair's €6 admin fee”.
It was a Ryanair choice to remove the other prepaid cards from the list of ways to avoid the admin fee, but fair enough.
In Ireland right now it’s terrifically difficult to get a regular credit card, and two of our biggest banks still don’t give their customers Visa Debit cards. So prepaid cards are a popular and useful alternative. And people actually use them for more than just Ryanair bookings.
So with that, we’ll take a bit of a look at the Ryanair card and some of the other prepaid cards out there to see how they stack up.
The Ryanair Cash Passport costs €10 to buy, but they give you a €10 flight voucher with it, so if you’re using it for Ryanair flights, it’ll pay for itself right away. As it’s a prepay card, you’ll need to top it up and Ryanair charges €3 regardless of how you add money to your card. And that brings us to the one thing that is restrictive about this card. The minimum top-up amount is €175. That's right - and this is what makes this card less useful for day-to-day spending. Clearly Ryanair wanted to continue offering a prepaid card option to avoid their Administration Fee, but only if the card was used exclusively to pay for their flights!
The Moneybookers Prepaid MasterCard is the next on our list and like the Ryanair card, it’ll cost you a tenner to buy (unlie the Ryanair Cash Passport it will cost you a tenner a year in annual fees). Unlike the Ryanair Cash Passport and most of the other prepaid cards listed on bonkers.ie, there are no top-up fees if you use a Laser card or bank transfer to add money to your card although you will be charged 1.9% if you use a credit card to top up. There’s no minimum top-up amount which, is good for online purchases or those on a budget. And finally, there are no inactivity fees, which is a major gotcha for most other prepaid cards.
The Payzone Prepaid MasterCard has a purchase fee of €6 which isn’t bad, but they have an assortment of other fees to make up for it. Loading the card will cost at least €3.50 each time and they charge for buying stuff too. All transactions whether online or in a store are 2.95% of the amount spent, which is pretty hefty.
If you are a regular user of Ryanair's flight services or if you generally travel with familty or friends, then you already know about their Administration fee and how to avoid it - the Ryanair Cash Passport is the only way to do so now, so you might find it worth your while to use it when paying for your next return flights. You will save €3 if you are travelling alone on a single topup/purchase, and a further €12 per person if you're travelling with a group.
On balance, if you are an infrequent flyer with Ryanair or you don't travel with groups, we still see the Moneybookers card as a good choice for most people needing a general purpose prepaid money card. It carries an annual fee of €10, but we feel this is balanced with no topup fees (for the most common ways to topup) , no usage fees and no "lack of usage" fees which are charged by all other cards, including Ryanair's Cash Passport.
Ryanair Cash Passport
Card fee: €10
Top-up fee: €3
Minimum top-up: €175
Transaction fee: None
Eurozone ATM fee: €2
Non-Eurozone ATM fee: €5
Inactivity fee: €3 per month
Card becomes inactive after: 6 months of non-use
Moneybookers Prepaid Mastercard
Card fee: €10
Top-up fee: None*
Minimum top-up: None
Transaction fee: None
Eurozone ATM fee: €1.80
Non-Eurozone ATM fee: €1.80
Inactivity fee: None
Card becomes inactive after: None
Payzone Prepaid MasterCard
Card fee: €6
Top-up fee: €3.50 to €5.95
Minimum top-up: €10
Transaction fee: 2.95%
Eurozone ATM fee: €1.50
Non-Eurozone ATM fee: €1.50
Inactivity fee: €3.50 per month
Card becomes inactive after: 3 months of non-use
So as usual, with Prepaid Credit Cards there is a choice to be made and that choice involves balancing your needs with the charges you'll pay. Hopefully after reading this you'll be in a good position to figure out if the Ryanair Cash Passport it a good choice for you -- or if the gotchas just make you groan.