Netspend cards are prepaid debit cards that allow cardholders to make purchases as they would using traditional debit or credit cards. Netspend cards can be used internationally, and they are accepted at any location that accepts a debit Visa or Mastercard. Netspend is a TSYS® Company and a registered agent of Axos Bank, The Bancorp Bank, MetaBank, and Republic Bank & Trust Company. According to its website, over 10 million customers have utilized its services and it offers more than 130,000 reload locations in America.

Prepaid cards are a popular mode of financial transaction in the United States. An article by Consumer Reports stated that according to The Nilson Report, "Americans charged $557 billion, accounting for 9% of all payment-card purchases made at merchants in 2016, the latest year for which information is available."

With figures like these, it is not surprising that U.S. customers are taking their prepaid cards along with them on vacations abroad. Travelers planning post-tax season vacations can even elect to have their federal tax returns direct deposited to a Netspend prepaid card.

Should You Use Your Netspend Card Overseas?

Netspend debit cards can be used at millions of locations worldwide. Prepaid debit cards are often a wise decision for international travel. If a prepaid debit card is stolen or compromised, the account owner can call customer service immediately to deactivate the card. Travelers can receive money on their cards via friends and family who are also Netspend card holders, and Netspend cardholders can send or receive funds via Western Union to over 200 countries. It is also possible to use the Netspend Mobile Check Load feature via the Netspend mobile app to deposit checks into your Netspend account.

However, there are downsides to using it when traveling abroad. For example, Netspend debit cards do not include the newer technology being added to most credit cards, such as the chip-and-signature feature. Most European credit card terminals have been converting to this technology to reduce theft and fraud. Also, there are no Netspend reload locations outside the United States.

Fees and Charges When Abroad

Netspend accounts offer several fee plans, with the most common being the pay-as-you-go plan. This charges the account holder $1 on every credit charge, $2 on every debit charge, and $2.50 for domestic ATM withdrawals. Netspend also offers a flat monthly fee option in lieu of the individual transaction fees.

There are several additional fees involved with using the card internationally. When buying standard items or services overseas, the foreign transaction fee is 3.5% of the U.S. dollar amount of the purchase transaction. When withdrawing from an international ATM, there is a charge of $4.95 per withdrawal, in addition to the ATM's own transaction fee.

The Bottom Line

When traveling abroad Netspend prepaid debit cards can be a good way to avoid overspending and provide a safety net if a card is lost or stolen. Money can be added via Western Union or the NetSpend mobile app. Just don't overlook the downsides: Foreign transaction fees and international ATM withdrawal charges can add up, and some stores, restaurants, and hotels may not be able to process charges as the cards don't use chip and signature technology. (For related reading, see "How Netspend Works and Makes Money")