Want to know how to loose 10% of your travel spends very fast? Get an STA Travel Cashcard.
I was sold the card by the agent in the STA highstreet store, to be honest I was a little stupid and didnt do a whole lot of research into it assuming it will be good value for money, oh how wrong can you be.
I am half way through my 8 month journey now and have just decided to check my finances to see how im doing and how much its costing me every time I withdraw money here.
The above image is a quick spreadsheet I have put together from my online bank statement for the Cashcard and data gleamed from xe.com. As you can see im getting well under the official exchange rate when withdrawing money using this card.
Okay I thought, well perhaps thats just how much it costs to withdraw money here. So as an experiment I withdrew 700,000 COP from exactly the same cash point using my VISA debit card on the 6th of September, the result was it cost me £230.76 with fees of £10.34 making a total of £241.1 which is still far shy of the £259 that I was being charged by the STA Travel Card around the same date.
Obviously I was pretty angry when I saw this so I emailed STA which forwarded me onto Tuxedo LTD which is apparently the company that manages the card. After 5 emails of me insisting I get a proper answer to my query I get the following:
Dear Mr. Cann,
Thank you for your enquiry regarding a deeper explanation into our exchange rates.
Having provided you with the way in which our exchange rate is calculated we have been doing some research regarding what we have referred to as ‘market mid-rate’.
These are the findings from looking at our competitors exchange rates online based on 700,000 COP
(These are taken from the 26th of September 2013):
Post office cost in GBP: £257.32 exchange rate: 2720.36
Thomas cook cost in GBP: £266.06 exchange rate: 2631
STA cashcard cost in GBP: £252.79 exchange rate: 2769.07
Having investigated our competitors’ rates it is clear that we are working closely to the other companies on the market and are cheaper than the Post Office and Thomas Cook.
We appreciate that the VISA debit card you hold is charging you at a lower rate. With the debit card belonging to a bank rather than a travel company this may affect the way in which they calculate and maintain their exchange rates.
If you would like to return the funds from your STA cash card to your debit card please advise of the bank details you wish the funds to be deposited in and this can be arranged for you.
We hope this resolves your query regarding the way in which our exchange rate is calculated and set.
I have put in bold the key lesson here they they themselves are admitting, the STA Travel Cashcard (or other travel cards) cannot compete with a regular bank card, i.e. they are a total sham and should be avoided at all costs.
My recommendation for those people thinking about getting one is DONT. If you are worried about having too much funds in the account (like I was) then just open another account and ask for it to have no overdraft ability then just put however much money you need in there at a time. Make sure you check the rates that the account offers BEFORE you leave!