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steve_ben

Currency Query from a New Cruiser

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We are going to be taking our first cruise later on this year.  I was intending to take a pre-paid credit card along, loaded with US$ to cover on board spend, but have been told that this is not an acceptable form of payment (why not !).  I have been told that I can pay with either a credit card or a debit card.  I have also been told that I can pay a sum of cash into my on board account, which I assume will be subject to a very poor exchange rate if I make the payment in GBP.  Have I got this wrong, and if not, would it be better to convert GBP into USD before we come on board and deposit that in our on board account. 

 

Finally, is there any facility on board to use GooglePay ?

 

Sorry for all the naïve questions

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Most pax simply use a CC and that way get the best exchange rate. It can also be used on your visits to the various ports for drinks, lunches or any incidentals.

 

We also take USD for use in the casino and for leaving tips in addition to the daily Hotel Charge. Any leftovers go to our account at the purser's desk.

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My wife has her CC and i have mine...its whoever is faster on the draw at check in that who's card is used. I also take a drug dealer size wad of cash with me just in case .30 days or so after the trip i pay the card off if there are any charges......we are pretty good at even up using the on board credit . iirc cunard is pretty clear on how /what is needed to pay 

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, steve_ben said:

We are going to be taking our first cruise later on this year.  I was intending to take a pre-paid credit card along, loaded with US$ to cover on board spend, but have been told that this is not an acceptable form of payment (why not !).  I have been told that I can pay with either a credit card or a debit card.  I have also been told that I can pay a sum of cash into my on board account, which I assume will be subject to a very poor exchange rate if I make the payment in GBP.  Have I got this wrong, and if not, would it be better to convert GBP into USD before we come on board and deposit that in our on board account. 

 

Finally, is there any facility on board to use GooglePay ?

 

Sorry for all the naïve questions

On board payments are made with your identification card which is also your charge card and your door key. All of your purchases aboard will be charged to your on board account. You can use a credit card to register with, and an authorization will be run against your card. The authorization will be for an amount Cunard has pre-calculated you will spend. That will establish a base line spend in your on board account and you will spend up to that amount at which time an actual transaction will be sent to your card issuer and a further authorization for a new amount sent. If you have no more spend in your credit card account, you will be asked for another card. If you do not exceed the authorized amount when the voyage ends you will be charged the actual amount spent. 

 

Since debit cards and pre-paid cards do not have the power of a pre-authorization they cannot be used. You can take cash and spend it in the casino, or as cash tips or to put into your on board account. There is no provision for google pay or apple pay as they work the same way as debit cards, and all of the charges on the ship are internal to your on board account.

 

Cunard uses US$ as the on board currency so if you wish to put cash into the account it would make sense to convert GBP to US$ at your bank and get a better exchange rate. Remember you will get the best rate by using your credit card which uses the interbank rate on the date the transaction is processed. That way you convert only what you need, and don't end up with a lot of cash to be reconverted when you get home. 

Edited by Bigmike911

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When you register at embarkation the cruise line swipes your credit card or your account-linked debit card, and places a "hold" (BigMike uses the word "pre-authorisation", it's the same thing) of a pre-determined daily amount.

In other words they reserve that amount  of money that's in your bank account (debit card) or in your credit limit (credit card), because they won't actually bill you until the end of the cruise. Because they won't know how much you'll have spent on the ship until the end of the cruise, this ensures that there's still money available then, that by then your bank account isn't empty or your credit card maxed-out. 

That money isn't actually taken from your card account, it's merely reserved / held / pre-authorised, so it won't appear on your statements.  

Same thing happens with deposits for most car rentals (held against potential damage, tolls, fines etc) and some hotels do the same (against potential  room damage and food, drinks, phone calls etc being charged to the room) and other places you buy when the total bill isn't known.

It's probably happened to you in the past & you didn't even know about it.

 

The money is "held", not taken.

 

A hold facility isn't possible with a pre-paid debit card, the merchant can only take money, not reserve it.

Hence it's not normally accepted by cruise lines or car rental agencies etc

If I've not explained clearly enough, ask your bank to explain "holds"

 

Buying ashore in shops, bars, etc your pre-paid card is as good as a debit or credit card as long as it's backed by visa or mastercard. That's because the spend is a known quantity when you buy & pay for it.

 

One significant negative that many folk don't know about.

OK, so an arbitrary amount of credit (credit card) or money in your bank account (debit card) is held on a daily basis during your cruise. Then on the final cruise day your card is actually charged with what you actually spent. But it can take anything from a couple of days to a couple of weeks more before that "hold" is released. So for that period some of your funds are "held" even though they've taken what you spent. In these technological days that delay is a disgrace - the cruise lines & other merchants blame the banks, the banks blame the merchants. But regardless of whether it happens or who's to blame, it's what it is.

If you run a low bank balance you may find that because the only money in your account is "held", direct debits for utilities & car finance etc are dishonoured or you can't draw cash . 

Same applies to a credit card if you're close to maxing your credit limit - you can find your card is declined in shops etc because of that "hold".

Most folk have much higher credit limits than their bank balances, so they use a credit card instead of a debit card and don't have a problem. (credit card also carries more safeguards than debit cards).

 

If you prefer not to have a credit card, you should think carefully about that stance. Most cost nothing to set up, and nothing to run as long as you clear them each month (direct debit from bank account to debit card account takes care of that). They avoid the need to carry large amounts of cash, they're a godsend if there's some catastrophe such as an accident abroad, and if you get one with no foreign exchange fee you get a far better exchange rate than changing money.

So get one, even if you use it just for cruises, foreign travel or car rental.

 

If you don't have & can't get a credit or account-linked debit card you'll need to use cash.

Yes, if you use sterling on a US ship you'll get a pretty usury rate of exchange.

For the same reason, avoid using ship's currency exchange for your shore spending money.

Buy your USD for your on-board account, and your shore spending money, in advance over the internet or from the usual High Street suspects (Post Office, M&S, Asda, Tesco, M&S etc).

If you buy from those stores, buy on-line click&collect because you get a better rate than just going along to the store as a walk-in customer.

The exchange rate that you get from those intermediaries is never as good as the rate you get by using a card, but that's life.

 

I said to get USD for your on-board account.

You're gonna have to figure how much, and that's not easy. Change too little & you'll have to top up with sterling at ship's exchange rates. Change too much & you'll lose by changing the excess back to sterling. 

Mebbe buy a drinks package, that way you'll know exactly how much you'll spend on the stuff.

And keep an eye on how you're spending by looking after your copies of the purchase tabs, checking your on-board account on your cabin TV screen (most ships), or getting interim printouts from the pursers office ("guest relations") 

 

But you can see how much easier it is to use a credit card.  :classic_rolleyes:

 

JB :classic_smile:

 

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Big Mike and John Bull provided excellent advice.

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thanks for all the great information.

 

Do I have to register my CC on board in order to use it for ad hoc bar purchases ?

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37 minutes ago, steve_ben said:

thanks for all the great information.

 

Do I have to register my CC on board in order to use it for ad hoc bar purchases ?

 

You register your credit card once at check in before you board. Then you present the cruise key card that you received at check in to make purchases on board from bars, restaurants, shops, etc. Those purchases are charged to your on board account which eventually will be charged to the credit card you registered at check in. Think of your cruise key card as your on board credit card that's linked to the actual credit card you registered at check in.

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If you are UK based then the best advice it to get one of the "No Commission" credit cards - I have two - Halifax Clarity and Nationwide Select - These both offer no commission foreign currency close to the interbank exchange rate of the day - This saves me about £25 per £1000 in commission fees over my Lloyds account and that's not taking account of their abysmal exchange rates.

 

More advice on this can be found at Martin's Money Saving pages

 

If you're not in the UK then please ignore

 

 

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2 hours ago, bluemarble said:

 

You register your credit card once at check in before you board. Then you present the cruise key card that you received at check in to make purchases on board from bars, restaurants, shops, etc. Those purchases are charged to your on board account which eventually will be charged to the credit card you registered at check in. Think of your cruise key card as your on board credit card that's linked to the actual credit card you registered at check in.

 

Spot-on. :classic_smile:

 

1 hour ago, rakkor said:

If you are UK based then the best advice it to get one of the "No Commission" credit cards - I have two - Halifax Clarity and Nationwide Select - These both offer no commission foreign currency close to the interbank exchange rate of the day - This saves me about £25 per £1000 in commission fees over my Lloyds account and that's not taking account of their abysmal exchange rates.

 

More advice on this can be found at Martin's Money Saving pages

 

If you're not in the UK then please ignore

 

 

 

And we have Nationwide Select and Post Office credit cards, both with no foreign exchange commission.

There's a monthly fee for the Nationwide credit card (it includes various insurances such as travel insurance) and I'm pretty certain that is only available to Nationwide account holders.

But no fee or membership requirement for the P.O. credit card, or as far as I know the Halifax Clarity card.

 

JB :classic_smile:

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The Nationwide Flexplus account has a charge, I'm sure the Select doesn't otherwise I would have dropped it as I rarely use it except on holiday

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47 minutes ago, rakkor said:

The Nationwide Flexplus account has a charge, I'm sure the Select doesn't otherwise I would have dropped it as I rarely use it except on holiday

 

Thanks for the correction.  Yes, that figures - I have the Flexplus.

Considered downgrading to Select when they stopped paying good interest on Flexplus last year, but the annual travel insurance more-or-less balances out the monthly fee, and there's the insurances on phones, breakdown cover and such.

 

JB :classic_smile:

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7 hours ago, steve_ben said:

thanks for all the great information.

 

Do I have to register my CC on board in order to use it for ad hoc bar purchases ?

You will register your payment card when you check in at the terminal. The terminal computers are connected to the ships computer. If you don't have a card to use, you will not be able to buy anything on board which would be a tough way to travel, no wine, no spirits, no soft drinks, no on board purchases nor will they be able to collect the daily tips. I suspect, though I don't know this, that you won't be able to board with out a payment card registered.

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Some good advice above (except about the drinks package, which is medically risky trying to turn into a profit). Worth noting that some banking apps nowadays (certainly in the UK) show the customer any pre-authorised amounts reserved on their card, so you can see what is going on.

 

As others have said, take a stack of US$ for tips and the like.  Doing the exchange before you travel puts you in control of the exchange rate.

 

The solution to not having any left over at the end of the trip is that - up until the evening before billing (i.e. last evening), you can pay US$ cash into your ship account at the pursers desk.  So you can walk off the next morning without any unused cash.

 

Edit/ I think the Santander Zero is the best UK card for foreign spending.  The Nationwide one is also good but you have to take the packaged account.

Edited by IB2

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From the Cunard website for Travel Agents

Your 

What do I need to do if I am paying my on board account in cash?

If you wish to settle your account using cash then please note that there are limits on the amount of cash that can be deposited on your account, which vary by cruise length.  Please note that you will not be permitted to deposit cash as payment for any goods totalling €9,000 or more (equivalent in the ship’s currency) and these transactions must be settled using your registered card.

You still need to register a credit or debit card at check-in, even if you intend to settle your on board account in cash. Please note you will be asked to enter your 4 digit pin number for verification. 

Your on board account must be kept in credit at all times. You may add credit to your account at any time by visiting the Reception desk.  

Should your account no longer be in credit, any outstanding balance will be charged to your card unless further cash is provided. 

We are unable to accept:

  • money transfers to the ship (other than gift credits, however these are non refundable and cannot be taken out as cash) either prior to embarkation or whilst on-board.
  • personal cheques, traveller’s cheques or prepaid credit cards

 

Any unused cash on your account can be refunded back to you at the end of the cruise by you visiting the reception desk prior to disembarking. Any credit due to be returned to you will be clearly shown on you final statement which will be delivered to your cabin on the last night of the cruise."

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On 1/11/2020 at 8:19 AM, IB2 said:

Edit/ I think the Santander Zero is the best UK card for foreign spending.  The Nationwide one is also good but you have to take the packaged account.


I have got a Tandem credit card which charges 0% on foreign spending , and also gives you 0.5% cash back.  They don’t seem to offer this card anymore though to new customers.

 

Barclaycard offer a Visa card with 0% fees on foreign spending and 0.25% cashback - however the visa exchange rate is normally not quite so good as the MasterCard rate, so you would probably only be making about 0.15% cashback compared to having a MasterCard.

 

 

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