RyanAir has become the latest airline to issue its own card – which offers to cut out the €12 administration fee that is attached to return flights.
Irish airline Aer Lingus also offers a Visa Electron card that cuts out the administration fee. So are these airline cards a ‘no brainer’ to be considered a ‘must have’ by all frequent flyers – or do hidden charges mean they’re not all they seem?
How do the cards work?
The airline cards are effectively pre-paid debit cards. If you’re not familiar with pre-paid cards, the concept is actually simple – they work in a similar way to a traveller’s cheque system in that you pay money on to it upfront and then you can use the card to spend the money: avoiding the difficulties of carrying large amounts of cash. It can be used for purchases and it can also be used to withdraw money at ATMs. In addition, you can upload more money on to pre-paid cards at Payzone outlets in shops; as well as via the internet from your current account or credit account.
Of course, pre-paid cards do come with fees: there may be fees on purchases; fees to upload money; fees on cash withdrawals; and more. So it’s vital to read the terms and conditions of these cards before you decide which one is best for you.
In the case of the RyanAir Cash Passport card, it is a Mastercard pre-paid debit card. It has an initial cost of €10, although it offers €10 off the first flight purchased on the card; an upload cash fee of €3; an ATM withdrawal fee of €2; €6 for cash over the counter; and an inactivity fee (after six months) of €3 per month. Meanwhile, the Aer Lingus Visa Electron Card has fewer charges: it has a cash upload fee of 4.95 per cent; but there are no transaction fees or initial costs.
Are they worth it?
To summarise whether these cards are worthwhile or not is largely dependent on the regularity in which you use the airlines. Regular RyanAir travellers will cut out the administration fees; but upload charges and inactivity charges can quickly add up; while Aer Lingus travellers need to bear in mind the high charge for uploading cash on to the card. As such it may be simpler to stick with the debit card attached to your current account particularly for avoiding the cash withdrawal fees associated with the RyanAir card.
Of course there are still many ways to save on travel costs – particularly if you take advantage of the travel and holiday voucher codes at Moneysaver.ie. Among the savings currently available are: 25 per cent off a stay in Brno Palace courtesy of Barcelo.com (code expires on December 31, 2012); and save up to 65 per cent on Easter airfares at CheapAir.com (code expires on April 08, 2012).