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EVEN Card: Major travel payment card providers have been getting away with adding hidden fees

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EVEN Card allows customers to make transactions abroad and go cross-border online shopping using the exchange rate banks pay each other. At the same time, the card delivers additional benefits such as a behaviour-based loyalty scheme and cash back discounts at some of the nation’s favourite stores.

Co-founder and chairman Michael Lobel suggested that the big difference to what EVEN Card do compared to what other people do “is everybody else charges you usage based fees”. 

“The more you use a card abroad the more fees you pay. With a card like EVEN you’ll pay £50 irrespective of how many more times you use it, you won’t be charged more than that,” he added

Director of marketing Patrick Muir said: “The pre-paid market’s been around for quite a few years but it hasn’t really gained any traction until recently when you started to see some other providers starting to put together coherent propositions. You’ve seen things like pocket-money type cards for younger people and ourselves with foreign exchange and spending abroad. This is fuelling a huge increase in the size of the pre-paid market both here and globally.”

Lobel added that companies have started treating euro cards or dollar cards like the post office does. You go to the post office, you give them £2,000 and they convert it to dollars for you. One company to stand out from the fray is Travelex.

“Companies like Travelex introduced a monthly card where instead of loading one currency onto a card, you can have a number of currencies,” Lobel said. “The problem with that is that you’ve got to manage them. You’ve got to decide how much dollars to buy, how much yen to buy, etc. And when you travel, you’ve got to make sure that you have enough money in the currency that you’re going to use. It just makes things more difficult for the end-user. That’s one of the reasons why we came along with a simple GDP dominated card.”

Indeed, co-founder and CEO Tamir Strauss explained that there is something fundamentally different about EVEN Cards proposition apart from the “mindset and approach”.

He said: “We’re trying to be on the side of the consumer as opposed to hiding things. All the major travel card providers have been getting away with adding unjustified hidden mark-ups, fees and charges because nobody challenged them. They are also penalising customers with more fees if the card is used within the UK. We want to put an end to all this by offering a card with 100 per cent transparency and rewarding customers when using the card at home by offering them a loyalty and a cash-back scheme.”

“I commissioned research about the attitude of consumers when they found out that banks weren’t really zero per cent commission, which they advertise themselves to be. It was revealed that 77 per cent of Brits believe the hidden charges are unfair and a constant source of frustration. And 65 per cent of Brits would be interested in a prepaid travel card as long as the single fixed annual fee was the only charge.”

In that sense EVEN Card’s business model is simple; essentially it’s a prepaid payment card provider for use while traveling or when spending money on non-UK websites. And as perhaps the most important part of the product, the consumer is only charged for one single fixed annual fee. 

“We hope that this disruption will result in other providers having to start explaining themselves as to why additional hidden fees are attached to their cards, as clearly, these fees are exploiting consumers and are unnecessary,” said Strauss. “Hopefully this will also start an interesting debate in the finance industry resulting in better and fairer services for the end customer.”

But marketing the product against banks won’t be easy.

Muir commented: “It’s difficult because the entire industry is set up to think ‘we don’t like the idea of an annual fee’. The first thing is not to pitch it as an annual fee. Pitch it as a subscription to a service that allows you to get access to wholesale and foreign exchange rates where you don’t pay anything else. The trick is engaging with commentators, the comparison sites and bloggers.” 

He also highlighted that, more interestingly, the growth in the cross-border online shopping market is absolutely huge. 

“Something like 30m people shopped abroad in the last 12 months on websites,” Muir explained. “If you’re buying stuff abroad you can find a bargain on Bloomingdale’s website. But by the time you’ve been whacked by various fees and a rubbish exchange rate your bargain’s not quite the bargain you thought it would be.”

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