Some firms charge customers if they pay with a debit or credit card, although if you’re making an online purchase this is a fee that’s pretty hard to avoid. However, as a general rule, it’s usually cheaper to pay with a debit rather than a credit card.
Ryanair is well-known for the additional charges it levies for extras such as checking luggage in to the hold. However, one charge customers have been able to skirt round is the card fee. Ryanair charges an additional £5 per person if you pay with a standard debit or credit card, although it’s free to pay with an Electron card. That will change from January and Electron card holders will also pay the £5 per person levy.
There is one loophole remaining however: if you pay with a prepaid Mastercard, there will be no additional charge.
Bob Atkinson, travel expert at travelsupermarket.com, said: “While this might be annoying for passengers who’ve taken out a Visa Electron card simply to avoid paying these fees, this will be useful in the long term.
“Many banks are phasing out their Visa Electron offers, so in the future it’s likely to be easier to use a Mastercard. Other airlines, including easyJet and Flybe, don’t charge fees for customers paying with Visa Electron. That means you may need more than one card to avoid high fees and find the cheapest flights.”
If you want to read more about keeping the cost of your flights down, read Bob’s article ‘Hidden flight charges unravelled’.
What is a pre-paid card?
Unlike a gift card that can be pre-loaded with cash and given away, a pre-paid card looks like a credit or debit card. It’s branded and specific to one person, but unlike a credit card, there’s no overdraft facility.
You load money onto the card and then you can spend it.
What to watch out for
If you’re planning to take out a pre-paid card to avoid paying a fiver for every person in your party when you’re booking flights, there are some things to watch out for:
Some cards bill a monthly fee and most will charge a set-up fee. Of course, if you’re likely to fly Ryanair more than once over the next couple of years, or you are booking seats for two or more travellers, it will be worth taking out a card.
For example, the Escape Prepaid Mastercard has no monthly cost but charges a £9.99 set-up fee. If you use it for more than booking flights, for example to withdraw money from an ATM, you’ll pay a 99p charge.
Don’t forget that if you do use a prepaid card, you lose the extra protection you get under the Consumer Credit Act when making a purchase with a credit card.
If you’re worried that taking out a pre-paid Mastercard might hurt your credit rating then don’t panic.
Unlike a credit card, applying for this won’t lower your score because it isn’t lending you money, so you are safe to open one and avoid high booking fees.
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.