Qantas and Virgin Australia have jumped feet-first into the growing market for travel money cards.
And in theory, Qantas Cash and Virgin Australia’s Velocity Global Wallet are a perfect fit for business travellers and frequent flyers.
These prepaid travel money cards supporting a fistful of foreign currencies for use overseas as well as a central Aussie dollar wallet for day-to-day use here at home – and the opportunity to earn points with every swipe of the plastic.
Because the travel money functionality is included in each airline’s latest frequent flyer card, most of us will end up carrying both the Qantas Cash and Virgin Australia Global Wallet cards in pocket or purse with the option to use either or indeed both as the need arises.
They’ve got plenty in common – the cover most of the same currencies, support tap-and-go payments and smartphone apps to help manage your travel money on the go.
The points-earning capability is also the same: you’ll earn one Qantas or Velocity point for the equivalent of every Aussie dollar spent in foreign currency (including online), and one point for every two dollars spent in Australia.
But there are also some areas of noticeable difference between Qantas Cash and Virgin Australia Global Wallet.
So which of the two airlines’ travel money cards is best? Read on!
Both the Qantas Cash and Virgin Australia Global Wallet cards support multiple foreign currencies in what can be considered a series of ‘virtual wallets’.
These are US, Canadian, NZ, Singapore and Hong Kong dollars; British pounds; Euros, and Japanese Yen.
Virgin Australia’s Global Wallet card also covers the Thai baht.
However, the Virgin Australia card lets you access only five of these virtual wallets at any time – and as the Australian wallet must always remain active, that limits you to four foreign currency wallets on the go.
It’s not a major impost for travellers who fly to just one or two countries, but the more you hop around the globe the more you’ll appreciate that the Qantas Cash card lets you store cash in as many wallets as you want.
Winner: Qantas Cash
Next on the list: how to the rates compare when you load your card with Aussie dollars to spend overseas?
It seems to be a mixed bag, with some currencies rating higher under Qantas than Virgin Australia and vice versa.
For example, at the time of writing, Qantas pegged the US dollar exchange rate at 0.8677 against Virgin Australia’s 0.8627, and the New Zealand dollar at 1.1065 versus Virgin’s 1.1037.
But Virgin sold the Euro slightly higher at 0.6534 compared to Qantas’ 0.6465, and the British Pound at 0.5545 against Qantas’ 0.5526.
None of these are significant differences, especially given the relatively small amounts that travellers deal in.
But as Qantas charges no fee to load money onto the card, while Virgin Australia charges $1 for each for each top-up, the Red Roo has the edge in this round.
Winner: Qantas Cash
Load and reload
Both Qantas Cash and Virgin Australia Global Wallet can be loaded with money using the BPAY or POLi systems, although these take 2-3 days to process – there’s no way to instantly get money into your card.
By default all money is loaded into your ‘Australian’ wallet, and you then transfer as much as you want into any of your foreign currency wallets.
However, Qantas Cash offers a little extra flexibility by allowing you to temporarily change the default wallet so that a BPAY or POLi funds transfer will be directed straight into that account – saving you the trouble of having to shuffle the money around.
Winner: Qantas Cash
Virtual card for online shopping
This is unique to Virgin Australia’s Global Wallet, and it’s a feature we think will be appreciated by many online shoppers who are careful with – or concerned about – the security of their card’s details.
The Global Wallet lets create a free ‘virtual card’ with its own card number, expiry date and three-digit CVC number.
This is linked to your Global Wallet account, but can be used for online and telephone orders.
The virtual card is created instantly and added to your list of cards, but it can be cancelled at any time and a new virtual card – with a completely different set of numbers – generated in its place.
In other words, you can create a virtual card to place one large online shopping order, and once that’s fulfilled, delete the card to ensure that even if the details were captured by somebody, they couldn’t use them to buy more goods on your account.
Winner: Virgin Australia Global Wallet
ATM withdrawl fees
Most travel money cards will see you charged a withdrawal fee to pull money out of an ATM, and both the Qantas Cash and Virgin Australia Global Wallet cards are no exception.
But the Qantas Cash card attracts much lower fees, including free withdrawals in Australian ATMs (Virgin levies a $2.95 fee for this).
Pulling out US$ comes with a $1.95 fee under your Qantas Cash card but attracts $2.95 with Virgin; and while Virgin Australia’s Global Wallet charges €2 and £2 for an ATM cash-out in those currencies, Qantas pegs the fee at a lower €1.50 and £1.25.
Winner: Qantas Cash
There are several other features and charges between the Qantas Cash and Virgin Australia Global Wallet cards, so it’s worth checking out their respective FAQ pages:
But in this five-point comparison covering, Qantas Cash comes out streets ahead.
Agree or disagree with our call? What features of these cards are the most important to you, and which do you think represents the better deal?
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.