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CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Visa Prepaid Card Review
9 Dec 2018

CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Visa Prepaid Card | Credit Card Review

There are many travel and no-FX-fee cards on the market, but this card offers a slightly different way to pay for things while out on your voyages. Read our entire CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Visa Prepaid Card review to help you figure out if you might like to try this off-beat card.

Stay ready to travel at any time with a credit card that lets you store up to $20,000 in 9 different currencies.

 

General Information

You Are Interested If You often buy things using some of the common foreign currencies of the globe and would like to try an alternative to paying foreign exchange fees on normal credit cards.
Brief Description The CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Visa Prepaid Card allows its holders to carry around different currencies with them, making it easy to pay for things while abroad without dealing with money conversions.
Main Requirements This card is extremely easy to get; you only have to ask for it and load funds equivalent to at least $100 in CAD onto it immediately.

Card Details

Network Visa.
Provider CIBC.
Card Type As we’ll describe in further detail in the rest of our CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Visa Prepaid Card review, this is a unique prepaid card with a sub-focus on travel, since it can only be used with foreign currencies.

Fees and Interest

Purchase Interest Rate This is a prepaid card, so there are no interest fees to worry about.
Cash Advance This card cannot be used to take out cash advances.
Balance Transfer It also cannot be used to perform a balance transfer.

Eligibility

Income Requirements There are no income requirements for this card – as long as you have money to load onto this card, you can use it.
Household Income Requirements For the same reasons as described above, household income is also not a factor in getting this card.
Annual Fee There is no annual fee to pay with this card.

Rewards

Welcome Bonus There is no points or reward system you can use with this card, so there is no bonus available.
How To Earn Points As previously mentioned, there is no points system here, so you cannot earn points in any way.
Benefits The primary benefit of this card is the way it allows you to circumvent typical foreign exchange fees by carrying previously-converted currency with you.

About CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Visa Prepaid Card

Main Features

The most important thing to establish at the beginning of this CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Visa Prepaid Card review is that this is (as its name states) a prepaid card, and that means that it works a little differently from the standard credit card most people are used to. There are no interest fees to worry about and no statements to pay – every penny you spend on it has to come from funds you have already transferred onto it. In this way, it’s more like a debit card than a credit card.

However, the main advantage that this specific card has over a simple debit card is that you can use it to store and spend 9 different specific currencies, including:

  • US Dollars
  • Euros
  • Turkish Liras
  • Mexican Pesos
  • Japanese Yen
  • Hong Kong Dollars
  • Swiss Francs
  • British Pounds
  • Australian Dollars

This combination covers over 45 countries in total, so this card will in theory give you no-fee payment options in most places where you would travel. To make this happen, you’ll need to load the card up with each type of currency you want access to through CIBC’s convenient online dashboard, converting from Canadian dollars as needed when you do. This money will then be stored on the card until you need to use it.

Though the process of actually using this card is quite simple, the reasons to use it have to do with some of the finer points of the currency exchange system on credit cards, so let’s quickly go over that in this CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Visa Prepaid Card review/ To get foreign currency with Canadian dollars, you first have to exchange those dollars, and that means dealing with currency exchange rates. These rates are constantly fluctuating, moving up and down by at last a few fractions of a percentage point each day. Most of the time, these small deviations don’t add up to much of a difference when you’re making conversions. However, it’s possible for you stretch your money several full percentage points further by doing your conversions at a time when the Canadian dollar is particularly strong relative to the currency you are trying to obtain. If you’re converting at the point of purchase (as most credit cards do), you’re stuck with whatever the rate happens to be at the time.

By using this card to make the exchange in advance, you can monitor the exchange rate over several days, weeks, or even months and make sure that you’re able to take advantage of the best rate available. This may mean that you can make your money go significantly further than it otherwise would, especially if you regularly keep several different currencies on hand and keep an eye out for deals you can find by trading between them as well. Storing all these funds on a card also saves you from having to carry around cash in a foreign country and put yourself at risk of mugging or pickpocketing.

Another noteworthy thing about this card is its excellent accessibility. Like any prepaid card, this one is extremely easy to get, requiring only that you want it and are willing to load money onto it. Provided you are a Canadian resident who is of legal age, you’ll never be turned down for it. You do give up the suite of benefits that most cards offer in exchange for that comforting certainty, but many people feel it is more than a fair trade.

While it’s always nice to have an option you know you can tap into at any time with no worries or holdups, there are problems with this kind of card as well. The most severe of these is that since it is not connected to a true line of credit, using it does not help you to build credit at all, and most people could stand to improve their credit score at least a little. Many actually get a credit card solely for that purpose. Since this card can never serve that function, we feel it’s an important point to include in our CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Visa Prepaid Card review.

While we’re at it, there is one more thing we need to be clear about in this CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Visa Prepaid Card review: this is not actually a card with no foreign exchange fees, even though it might function similarly to one most of the time. If you were to make a purchase in a currency that is not supported or that you did not have previously loaded onto the card, you would still be charged a foreign transaction fee of 2.5%. This means that using this card to fullest requires some vigilance on your part as you work to keep the currency you’re using topped up. Instead of just using your card without worrying about these things, you may find yourself constantly checking your balance to make sure you’ve got enough money on hand. Consider how hard it is to precisely budget for expenses you might encounter on a trip. Sure, you can estimate how much you’ll spend on things like meals – but what if you opt for an upscale restaurant one night or decide to go to a bar after dinner? Little disturbances like this can throw off your entire budget, and when you need to be able to budget accurately in order to make sure you have the right amount of money on your card, that’s a big problem. The only way to ensure that you always have enough funds at your disposal is to either deliberately load much more money than you need right from the start, to keep loading up funds as you spend them, or to restrict yourself to only the expenses you previously budgeted for. None of these options is ideal.

In addition to this, however, there is one more big restriction that should be covered in any CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Visa Prepaid Card review. Prior to April 13, 2018, the Canadian dollar was one of the currencies that could be loaded to and spend on this card, making it possible to use this card as a simple prepaid card when at home. Now, though, the Canadian dollar is no longer one of the supported currencies on this card, meaning that you cannot add any Canadian dollars to your spending balance. This new restriction makes this card rather useless within Canada’s borders unless you happen to be buying something in foreign currency online – you can’t buy anything at any local shops or businesses because you don’t have access to your own country’s currency. In theory, you could purchase these things with a different currency, but that requires accepting whatever exchange rate CIBC gives you and pay a foreign exchange fee on top of that. This is simply far too much hassle and expense to go through just to be able to use your card where you live.

Conclusions

Since the bulk of this CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Visa Prepaid Card review has been devoted to explaining the downsides of this card, it should be obvious to most readers that this is a problematic card option. The biggest issue with it is its inability to be used with Canadian funds without incurring a fee, effectively forcing you to use it only for travelling or the occasional online purchase. That extreme limitation, combined with the constant upkeep you need to do to keep this card charged up with funds, severely hurts this card’s potential. To get much use out of it, you’ll need to spend a lot of time outside of the country or spend copiously on foreign purchases online. Even then, this card will only be useful for making purchases in the nine supported currencies – in comparison to the complete lack of such limits on a simple card with no foreign exchange fees, that’s a significant drawback.

About CIBC

CIBC stands for the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, and that important-sounding name is your first clue as to how rich a history this institution possesses. Though it has only existed in its current form since 1961, the company as it is now is a result of a merger between two large companies – the Canadian Bank of Commerce and the Imperial Bank of Canada, which were founded in 1867 and 1873 respectively. Presently, CIBC now serves over 11 million customers all over the world and is considered to be the single strongest bank in Canada by the Bloomberg Markets magazine. In addition to their own operations, they also run the brand-new Simplii Financial banking subsidiary which is also becoming quite popular with many Canadians.

What We Think

This card has a lot of theoretical potential to be convenient and fun, but as far as our CIBC Air Canada AC Conversion Visa Prepaid Card review goes, it just doesn’t live up to that promise in the real world. It’s sad to say, but there are few instances where we think this card would be preferable to one of the many other traveller’s credit card options available to Canadians. It’s just too limited in its functions to be worth applying for, carrying around, and constantly reloading with all the different types of funds you might need. If you really like the idea of having many different kinds of currency at your disposal or are good at scoping out favourable exchange rates to maximize your spending power when your money is converted, this might be the card for you. For most people, however, it makes more sense to pass this one up.