Escape vs Orange Card
phones 4 u prepaid card
Phone giants are the experts in pre-paid card market
With a phone store on virtually every street corner nowadays it’s pretty easy to see how mobiles have become a must-have accessory in every handbag and pocket.
And it seems the simplicity of pay-as-you-go (PAYG) plans has had a knock-on effect in the world of finance too, with more and more people starting to appreciate the benefits of pre-paid cards.
The idea of loading up your phone with cash which you spend at your leisure is easy to understand. No cash left means no more calls. Translate that to a pre-paid card and you’ve got the perfect shopping solution for those wanting to stick to a budget.
So it seems only right to compare the two pre-paid cards on the market from businesses best known for phones – the Escape Card (from EZPay Ltd, part of Phones4U) and the Orange Cash Card (from Orange).
Both products are backed by MasterCard, meaning they can be used worldwide at more than 30 million outlets.
Don’t worry about having to have an existing relationship with either company to get a card, though there are some benefits if you do (we’ll explain these in a moment). Application and approval is relatively simple and can be done online or in store.
You also don’t need a bank account to use either card – great for those who want to keep their day-to-day spending and savings separate.
And don’t forget, the MasterCard symbol has another important benefit – buying tickets on Ryanair and some other low-cost carriers is fee-free, meaning you can save £5 each way per trip (that’s a saving of £40 for a family of four) compared to purchasing with a traditional debit or credit card.
With heaps of pre-paid cards on the market, it pays to spend time finding the best card to suit your circumstances since fees charged do vary considerably.
As you’d expect, both cards allow you to top up your phone credit.
Escape Card by Phones 4 U
The Escape Card is one of the best cards available when it comes to free usage. Day-to-day spending in store and online is free and there is no monthly charge. Cash withdrawals from ATMs are charged at 99p, the lowest fee of all the branded MasterCard pre-paids available.
Another natty feature is the ability to transfer money for free across international borders. The Escape Card is a real hit amongst foreign workers in the UK who want to send money home cheaply to friends and loved ones. Two cards can be linked to the same account, meaning cash loaded here is available for withdrawal overseas on the ‘partner’ card almost instantly. A £2 withdrawal fee is charged, but this is much cheaper than the £10 or more typically charged by big money transfer brands or banks. Similarly, the card can be used by gap year students or travellers who need funds sent to them by family in the UK.
Top ups are free when made via BACS and at Phones4U stores, with a small charge for topping up at the Post Office or via PayPoint outlets.
Escape also offers its own cashback shopping scheme online offering up to 20% discounts from host of top-name retailers such as Apple, Argos and Wallis.
Price: £9.95 (£5 back when loaded with £100 in first 90 days)
Best for: General UK spending, money transfer, guaranteed acceptance, money-back shopping
Orange Contactless Prepaid Card
Orange has led the way with the launch of its ‘contactless’ payment system on its pre-paid card. The ‘bleep to shop’ method is sure to become more popular in future, though at the moment outlets accepting payment this way are limited.
When shopping the Orange Card is again free in store or online, though ATM withdrawals are charged at 2.95% so can get quite expensive if you take out large sums of cash. An additional 2.75% is charged on withdrawals from overseas cash machines, so this is best avoided. There’s also some fees connected with statements, card upgrades and cancellation.
If you’ve got an Orange PAYG, topping up the card translates into loyalty points which can be transferred into credit or used towards a handset upgrade.
Tops ups are free in Orange stores and by BACS, but charged elsewhere.
Best for: Orange PAYG phone users, early-adopters