I would not get fooled again on hidden card fees ... until I was

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Hidden charges make me see red. I know from sad experience that if you don't check all the small print, you're almost asking to be taken for a ride – but still I get caught out. And I was caught out this summer simply because I had tried to be clever and cut costs.

The story centres on spending money on a foreign holiday. The cheapest way to do is to use a prepaid currency card that has no usage charges, no loading fees and no charges when you take money out.

Once you apply and receive a card, you can simply transfer cash from your current account online – and, if you're really lucky, you can buy currency when the pound is strong ahead of your trip. Do that and you'll be quids in – or euros in – giving you extra holiday cash to spend.

Once it's arrived you have a card – normally backed by MasterCard – that you can use at most restaurants and shops or even cashpoints abroad. And you won't be facing an unexpected bill when you get home as a result of so-called currency conversion fees or double charging by banks.

When I looked into holiday money a couple of years ago, I discovered the exchange rates on most of the cards were also much better than you could get on the high street or at airports. So it made perfect sense to snap up a My Travel Cash card, load it up, and use it to spend abroad on our family holiday that year.

All went well. It was accepted everywhere we went and I was able to take cash out of overseas ATMs with no worries and no extra charge. The amount we paid – or took out of the cash machine – was the amount taken off the card: simple! When we returned, there was even around €80 still on the card, which I thought would be a good kickstart for our spending next time we went abroad.

As it happened, that wasn't until this summer. When we talked about holiday money I smugly produced my card and said: "We'll use this. It's already got a fistful of euros on it." But it hadn't.

I had made the cardinal sin of not checking the small print thoroughly and therefore missed the fact that the card has a punitive "inactivity" fee of €2.50 a month. So putting the card away in advance of our next foreign trip – which happened to be 24 months later – ended up costing me around €60. In a stroke that ate up all the potential savings I'd made, both on the holiday back in 2013 and probably every holiday I'll have in the future. Thanks, My Travel Cash!

The company's website lists 11 free (or "FREE", as it screams the message) services offered by the card before mentioning the expensive inactivity fee. There's no discussion of the vengeful joy of breaking the card into little bits. But I bet they'd charge a fee for that too, if they could.

There is, of course, a €4 card replacement fee, which hits the hasty.

simon read

Donald MacInnes is away

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