Is it worth getting airline credit cards?

Wednesday 05 December 2012 11.25
Check the costs of using the card before getting one
Check the costs of using the card before getting one

If you are a regular flyer with either Ryanair or Aer Lingus you’ll know that there is a €6 administration fee charged for each leg of your journey.

But you can avoid that fee altogether if you pay with a specified card.

With Aer Lingus that card is Visa Electron and with Ryanair, from the beginning of March 2012, that card is the newly launched Ryanair Cash Passport.

So, what are the fees associated with the card and how do those fees compare to other pre-paid debit cards? Is it worth your while getting a pre-paid debit card and what else can you use it for?

Tina Leonard has the background for Today with Pat Kenny.

Pre-paid debit cards

A pre-paid debit card is almost like a travelers cheque system – you pay money onto it upfront and then get a card to spend that money. It can be virtual or physical and can be used for any purchases and at ATMs if you have a physical card.

You can upload money via Payzone outlets in shops with some cards or online from your current or credit account.

All pre-paid cards apply fees; for example on purchases, fees to upload money, fees for transactions, fees for withdrawals at ATMs and more. So it is important if you are buying one to choose the one that suits your needs best.

The Ryanair Cash Passport

This is a Mastercard pre-paid debit card.

This replaces the Mastercard pre-paid debit card which was the one to use if you didn’t want to pay the admin fee up to now. Now that card must be a Ryanair branded version.

Cost: €10 (plus you get a €10 voucher off the first flight purchased)

Upload cash fee: €3
General purchases €0
ATM withdrawal: €2 (€5 in non-eurozone)
Cash over counter: (i.e. bank) €6
Inactivity fee (after 6 months): €3 per month

Moneybookers.com

Cost: €10 per annum
Upload fee: €0 with Laser card or 1.9% from other cards
ATM withdrawal €1.80 (anywhere)
 

O2 pre-paid debit card

Cost: €4.99
Upload fees
39c via online bank / 49c via o2 or Payzone for amounts between €5 - €19.99
€1.25/€1.49 for amounts between €60 and €99.99 and €2.55/€2.99 for amounts between €160 and €350.
ATM withdrawal: €1 or 2.75% if non-eurozone
Inactivity fee: €1.50 per month after 15 months until balance is zero or a transaction made.

Rubycard

Cost: €9.99
Fees depend on choice of ‘package’ – Pay monthly / Pay as you go:
Upload fee: €3.50 in store for both; 99c via online for both
Service fee: 99c week / €0
ATM withdrawal: 99c for both or for international use €2 for both
Transaction fee: €0 / 99c

Aer Lingus Visa Electron card

Costs: €0
Cash upload fee: 4.95%.
Transaction fees:: €0 nothing to buy
 

Government fees

In addition there is an annual government stamp duty of €5 on debit cards. The €5 charge is divided into two components; €2.50 if used for purchases and €2.50 for cash withdrawal, so if you only use the card for purchases, your government charge will just be €2.50. Remember, this is in addition to the duty payable on another debit card you pay have.

Is it worth your while getting these cards?

If you’re a regular Ryanair traveler you’ll save the €12 return admin fee. But you will cancel some of this saving out – there is the €3 upload charge and a €3 a month inactivity charge which can easily rack up.

Likewise with Aer Lingus there is a saving, but the fee to put cash on the card is high at just under 5%. If you upload €1,000 you will pay €49.50 for the privilege. So think twice.

If you also have a debit card linked to your current account, you would be better off using that to withdraw cash at ATMs or your bank to avoid the cash withdrawal fees on Ryanair’s Cash Passport..

Ryanair is clearly encouraging the card’s use for general purposes by offering rewards. For example, if you spend €2,000 on the card in one quarter you can get a free return flight and if you spend €5,000 in one quarter you get a pair of return flights. The sting is that this spend cannot be on Ryanair flights, plus it’s a lot of money for a three month period.