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Sundaytimes

YOUR FIVE-MINUTE GUIDE TO... PREPAID CARDS

MONEY MADE EASY by NIALL BRADY

DODGING Ryanair’s add-on charges becomes trickier
from next month, just as the summer holiday booking season
gets under way.

At present you can avoid the administration charge of €6 per
passenger per flight by using any prepaid Mastercard. From
March 1, only flights booked with Ryanair’s new Cash
Passport, a branded prepaid Mastercard, will escape the
charge. We tell you what you need to know.


HOW WILL IT WORK?

Like other prepaid cards, the Cash Passport is
designed for those who want to limit their spending:
you can spend only the amount loaded on the card.
It can be used for online purchases and at shops, restaurants
and ATMs displaying the Mastercard symbol. Stamp duty is
€2.50 a year, or €5 if you use it at ATMs as well as for
purchases, compared with €30 for credit cards.
 

IS IT ANY GOOD?

Prepaid cards are notorious for high charges but
Ryanair’s are lower than most. The card costs €10,
which Ryanair returns as a voucher to be redeemed
against a future flight. The big advantage of the card is
that there are no spending fees for making purchases for
Ryanair flights, online purchases from other websites or in
face-to-face transactions.

Other prepaid Mastercards charge 2.95% of the value of
each purchase. A Swirl card caps fees at €2.95 per
transaction, while a Rubycard has a maximum charge of €2.
Rubycard allows customers to avoid transaction charges but
only if they agree to pay a service fee of €6 a month.


WHERE’S THE CATCH?

Ryanair cards can be topped up online only by
transferring funds from your current or credit-card
account, which means you must already have a debit
or credit card. The minimum top-up is €175 and it costs €3
each time you load the card. You do not need a bank account
to use other prepaid Mastercards, which can be topped up at
1,700 retail outlets around the country. Fees for cash top-ups
can be as high as €3.50 per transaction, although customers
who pay Rubycard’s service fee of ¤6 per month can top up
online for free.

Simon Moynihan of Bonkers.ie, a price-comparison site,
said: “You can top up most prepaid cards with as little as €10
but Ryanair says you must top up with at least €175. You
should also watch out for the monthly fee of €3 if the card
isn’t used for six months.
“If the fee exceeds the value on the card, there’s a negative
balance fee of €15.”

Other prepaid cards charge more. Payzone Money has
an inactivity fee of €3.50 a month if the card has been unused
for three months, but this does not apply if there are no funds
on the card.


HOW DO I SWITCH?

If you are determined to avoid Ryanair’s €6
administration charge, you will have to switch from
other prepaid Mastercards to the Cash Passport.
However, it could cost as much as €15 to redeem any funds
that remain on the prepaid card you have cancelled.
You would be better off emptying the card at an ATM but this
involves another fee of €1.50 to €2 for every cash withdrawal.


TOP TIP

The charges for the Cash Passport could easily cost
you more than the savings to be made from avoiding
Ryanair’s administration fee. Those most likely to
benefit from the card would be groups such as football or
rugby supporters who travel abroad regularly and club
together to book all their flights on one card.

Niall Brady
 

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