Travel: Expert money tips

2012-09-07 09:58

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This advertorial has been sponsored by American Express Global Travel Card.

The American Express GlobalTravel Card is the first prepaid card product for American Express in South Africa, the first on the African continent, and its fourth prepaid currency card internationally - available in three currencies - US Dollar, Euro and Pound Sterling. South African travellers will now have access to a product that is safer and easier to use, offers free emergency assistance and access to exclusive Cardmember benefits.

Ian Barrable, Director South Africa, American Express Prepaid Travel Payments, Global Payment Options, is clear in his enthusiasm about the card,”Launching this Card in South Africa is an important milestone in the GlobalTravel Card’s expansion worldwide. Being the first prepaid card in the EMEA region, it expands the regional footprint of the GlobalTravel Card franchise. Furthermore, we are very proud that the Card stands as the first prepaid card issued by American Express that is distributed in Africa. This unique payment solution is an important evolution in our relationship with South African travellers, and reflects the strong partnerships we have established in the market since 1995, and will continue to have for decades to come.

Why South Africa as the fourth market for the GlobalTravel Card prepaid currency card?

"American Express commissioned independent research into the South African travel market, with interesting results.  We realised that the South African travel sector had yet to experience the benefits of prepaid currency cards, and the perks of a 'locked in' exchange rate while travelling abroad."

The American Express market research revealed the following market insights:
•    Only a third of respondents claimed an awareness of what a pre-paid currency card was.  Yet, of that group, only 16% were actually able to correctly identify prepaid card products.
•    As much as 52% of business travellers were unaware that prepaid card options even exist.
•    58% of travellers expect to make their payments by means of credit card while abroad
•    35% of travellers expect to make their payments by means of debit card while abroad
•    34% of travellers expect to make their payments by means of foreign exchange cash
•    In a year, the average traveller will withdraw R6 311 with an average of 4 ATM transactions per trip, with debit and credit cards being most used for these transactions.

"The scenario created by these insights indicates that the South African market is still developing, with consumers poised to appreciate the budgetary control of transacting with a card product that maintains their foreign cash at a 'locked in' exchange rate throughout their overseas trip, particularly in light of international currency fluctuations. It also found that 45% of people take foreign exchange advice from their bank or financial institution, and 38% from their travel bureaus. This insight has strongly guided us in focusing and further developing on our established distribution partnerships, in South Africa. Some very personal consumer preferences were also revealed by the research.  Factors that would encourage acceptance and purchase of a prepaid currency card, and particularly the American Express GlobalTravel Card showed that travellers concerns extended beyond simply securing the best 'bang for their buck'."

The top consumer drivers towards a prepaid currency card were for a product that:

•    Is safe and secure
•    Can be depended on in emergencies
•    Makes customers feel special and respected
•    Always stands behind its customers.

What unique features and benefits does the American Express GlobalTravel Card provide South African travellers?

"The American Express GlobalTravel Card provides travellers with peace of mind, increased convenience in managing foreign currency exchange, and complete access to all the service benefits and merchant offers synonymous with the American Express brand. For instance, a Backup Card (with a different PIN) is issued along with the Primary Card at purchase, which alleviates the dramas generally associated with replacing other prepaid card brands, should the Primary Card be lost or stolen. In the event of a loss or theft, American Express is there to help by providing a free Replacement Card as well as access to emergency cash. In addition, the American Express Global Assist® Services provide help in case of an emergency, from lost passport or luggage to legal or medical assistance. (While many Global Assist coordination and assistance services are free benefits from American Express, Cardmembers are responsible for the cost charged by third party service providers. Global Assist Services are not meant to replace any travel insurance.) Travellers who hold the prepaid card also gain greater control over their travel budget, plus benefit from an enhanced level of security and fraud protection since the Card is not linked to a bank account."

Where can the GlobalTravel Card be used?

"The American Express GlobalTravel Card is accepted overseas wherever American Express Cards are accepted - at millions of merchants and ATMs worldwide. American Express has partnerships with the most distributed ATM networks worldwide. A detailed ATM listing is available online at americanexpress.co.za."


Why should travellers consider using a prepaid GlobalTravel Card while overseas?

"Prepaid travel cards provide travellers with safer access to their travel funds compared to Cash and Debit Cards. They provide greater convenience and the ability to lock in an exchange rate prior to departing on an overseas journey.  One of the many advantages of the American Express GlobalTravel Card includes the bonus of loading the card in a foreign currency before leaving home, with an exchange rate that is set until the funds loaded on the card are exhausted. For the traveller this means that no further conversion or transaction fees are charged when a purchase is made, provided the spend is transacted in the country of the Card currency. The card is also re-loadable, allowing travellers to top up their funds at an outlet of the Authorized Seller before they depart for their next journey. With the American Express GlobalTravel Card, travellers also gain the benefits of a Backup Card at purchase, along with free emergency card replacement and access to emergency cash."

Where can travellers buy an American Express GlobalTravel Card?

"American Express GlobalTravel Cards are currently available through all American Express Foreign Exchange branches nationally and will also be available soon through selected foreign exchange outlets of Nedbank. Travellers can be assured that when buying and loading their American Express GlobalTravel Card through American Express Foreign Exchange branches they will be getting one of the best exchange rates available. "

How can travellers access their funds on the American Express GlobalTravel Card?

"Once a traveller has loaded their American Express GlobalTravel Card with foreign currency, they can withdraw cash at international ATMs, or swipe the Card at overseas merchants that accept American Express. The Card is available in three currencies – US Dollars, Euros and Pound Sterling. Since the Card is re-loadable, Cardmembers can easily top up their currency at any American Express Foreign Exchange branch before their next trip."

What tips can you give travellers when considering what to put in their ‘travel wallet’?

"A 'mixed wallet' is considered the safest, most convenient and prudent way for travellers to have access to cash overseas.  By following a 'mixed wallet' approach, travellers can be prepared for the unexpected.  The American Express GlobalTravel Card provides travellers with easy access to their funds through international ATMs and can be used at overseas merchants wherever American Express is accepted. American Express Cardmembers also get the added peace of mind of emergency card replacement, emergency cash, and secure access to their funds."

When should travellers buy their currency?

"Subject to exchange regulations, travellers may purchase their foreign exchange up to 60 days ahead of their departure. By keeping an eye on exchange rates and familiarising themselves with the trends, travellers can gain extra spending money in their travel budget by purchasing foreign currency when the Rand is at its strongest.  Loading the currency on the American Express GlobalTravel Card also provides travellers with peace of mind that their funds will not expire when the expiry date of the Card has been reached."

How do Travellers Cheques function alongside the American Express Global Travel Cards?

Travellers Cheques remain a cornerstone of American Express’ Global Prepaid business and our leadership in Traveller’s Cheques has led to the innovation of other prepaid products such as the American Express GlobalTravel Card. Travellers Cheques are a longstanding and valued product that consumers still recognise as a safe travel money option, as a key inclusion of a “mixed wallet”. It really comes down to consumer choice and American Express now offers two prepaid travel money products for the consumer to choose from.

Traveller’s Cheques remain popular among travellers because they are:  
•    Safer than cash: protected from theft or loss the moment they are purchased.
•    Refunded if lost or stolen: 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, no matter where you are.
•    Valid for life: with no expiration date they are ideal as a secure funds reserve.
•    Accepted at thousands of locations worldwide.

Can a traveller only use the GlobalTravel Card to make purchases in the country in which the card currency is native?
The American Express GlobalTravel Card is available in US Dollars, Pounds Sterling and Euros, the currencies of the most popular international destinations visited by South African travellers.  However, the American Express GlobalTravel Card can be used overseas wherever American Express Cards are accepted, even if the currency in that country is different to the one loaded onto the card. The American Express GlobalTravel Card is not for use within South Africa, the other Common Monetary Area countries (Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland), or countries where South African or United States restrictions apply.

How secure is the prepaid card? What happens to the funds if the card is stolen or lost?

The American Express GlobalTravel Card offers travellers security and peace of mind. At purchase, the traveller receives a Back-up Card with a separate PIN. When the cardholder reports their Primary Card as lost or stolen, the Primary Card is deactivated and the Backup Card is activated. If the Backup Card is lost or stolen as well, a new Replacement Card can be sent to the preferred destination at no extra cost.  To access funds while waiting for a replacement card to arrive, emergency cash can be accessed through Western Union. 

It is important to note that since the card is not linked to any personal bank account, a traveller’s personal information remains safeguarded against identity theft or fraud. Provided Cardmembers take reasonable care with their Card, American Express will provide the support required in an emergency.

Are there any fees involved when using the travel card? For example, if a traveler uses the card in the US or UK will they incur any foreign transaction fees?
The use of the Card is subject to the terms and conditions. The only use for which a fee applies   are ATM withdrawals, these are $2, €2 or £1.50 as per Card currency and in line with our competitors in the market. If the Card is used in the destination of the Card currency, i.e. a USD Card in the US, a EUR Card in Germany and a GBP Card in the UK, no further conversion fees apply, as the exchange has already happened in South Africa for the amount loaded onto the card at the moment of purchase. If a Card is used in another currency zone a standard conversion fee of 3% applies for purchase and withdrawal transactions. In line with the market, we apply a monthly Inactivity Fee which is deducted from the Card balance, if the Card has been inactive for more than 12 months.

Further information and seasonal offers for key holiday destinations can be found on americanexpress.co.za/globaltravel

Read more on:    travel south africa  |  travel tips  |  travel international
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