Best Mastercard prepaid debit card to avoid Ryanair admin fees

Best Mastercard prepaid debit card to avoid Ryanair admin fees

Update 16 September 2011 – From 1 November 2011 the only Mastercard prepaid debit to avoid the Ryanair admin fee will be the Ryanair’s own branded prepaid Mastercard ‘Cash Passport’.

Update 20 April 2011 – The Ryanair admin fee has now increased to £6 per person per flight, all the more reason to get a Mastercard prepaid debit card to avoid paying an extra £12 per person per return flight.


From 1 January 2010, the only way to avoid the Ryanair admin fees of £5 per person per flight, is to pay by Mastercard prepaid debit card. Until 31 December 2009 you could avoid the Ryanair admin charges by paying for flights with a Visa Electron card. It was always stated on the site that the waiving of the Ryaniar admin fees by paying with Visa Electron  was a limited offer (although it was on the go for years).

Best Mastercard prepaid debit card to avoid Ryanair admin fees


So which is the best Mastercard prepaid debit card to avoid Ryanair admin fees?  It depends. I recommend the Fairfx Anywhere Mastercard prepaid debit card for someone like me who books very cheap Ryanair flights several times a year, where the total value of the each separate Ryanair transaction is under £100..  Europe a la Carte readers who are UK residents will have the usual £9.95 application fee waived if they apply for the card using this referral link.  However on the application page the initial load amount is set to £100, so you need to change this to the amount you wish to load before you complete the online application form.  There is a charge of 1.4% on UK transactions. There are no loading fees if you use a debit card or bank transfer. The minimum load is £50. You can check the card fees and charges.

The Fairfx Anywhere Mastercard is also one of my recommended debit cards for use abroad now that the Nationwide have started charging 2% on all overseas purchases and cash machine withdrawals plus £1 for cash machine withdrawals, the FairFX is a better deal with a lower flat fee of 1.4% on all purchases and a 1.4% charge plus a £1 flat fee for cash machine withdrawals outside the UK and only a £1.50 flat fee for UK cash machine withdrawals.

However if your value of your transactions will be more than £100 and you buy Ryanair tickets two or three times a year then the CaxtonFX Global Card with a flat fee of £1.50 per transactions will offer you better value when avoiding the Ryanair admin charges.


In early December 2009 I started searching for the best Mastercard prepaid debit to avoid paying the Ryanair admin fees. I tend to book the really cheap promotional fares ranging from £1 – £5 per flight several times a year. However be aware that paying by Mastercard prepaid debit card does not offer the financial protection of joint liability on purchases of more than £100 you’d receive if you paid by credit card.

Best Mastercard prepaid debit card to avoid Ryanair admin fees

There are two types of Mastercard prepaid debit cards either unpersonalised which have a limit of £650 load a year or personalised which have higher limits. I decided to go for a personalised card as I wasn’t sure if an unpersonalised card would be accepted on the Ryanair site as there is usually a box on the payment page where you tick to confirm that your payment card is registered at your home address.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a card that would avoid paying the Ryanair admin charges which was totally free of cost Most Mastercard prepaid debit cards charge for one or more of the following.

Five types of charges made on Mastercard prepaid debit cards:

1 Card application fee – free to £30.

2 Monthly fee – free to £10.

3 Transaction fee – free to 2.75% of transaction value (sometimes fixed lower and upper limit e.g. minimum of 50p maximum of £1.50) or flat fee regardless of transaction value.

4 Card loading fee – free to 3% of load value.

5 Dormancy fee – when the card isn’t used regularly an additional fee is charged.

You have to decide how often you’ll use the card and the transaction values to decide which Mastercard prepaid debit card is best for you. For example if you book peak Ryanair flights for a family then you should look for a card with a fixed upper transaction charge as opposed to a percentage of the transaction cost.

Be aware that fees and charges could be altered by the provider, usually with 1 – 2 months notice. So double check the fees I mention in this post as they may have changed since my most recent update.

With my own personal card usage in mind I narrowed my search down to three Mastercard prepaid debit cards.

Fairfx Anywhere Card

1 Card application fee, free if you are a UK resident and use this referral link

2 Monthly fee – free

3 Transaction fee – 1.4% for UK purchases

4 Card loading fee – free card load online by debit or bank transfer, £10 minimum load.

CaxtonFX Global Card

1 Card application fee – free but a  £10 deposit payable to be added to initial £100 card load, valid for 2 years with no annual renewal fee

2 Monthly fee – free.

3 Transaction fee – £1.50 flat fee for UK transactions

4 Card loading fee – free online, by land line or text from your registered mobile, £100 minimum load

NB You should apply for a CaxtonFX Euro Card if you book flights which originate in a country where they use the euro.

Escape Prepaid Card

1 Card application fee – £10, f you have provided proof of identification whilst applying for the card, the card will be valid until 3 years from the activation date and there is no annual fee levied.

2 Monthly fee – £0

3 Transaction fee – free for UK transactions

4 Loading fee – free by bank transfer or in cash at a Phones4U shop.

5 Dormancy fee – when the card isn’t used for more than 90 days, there’s a fee of £1 per month.

The best Mastercard prepaid debit card to avoid Ryanair admin fees?

I reckoned that I’ve spent £100 on 6 return Ryanair flights in the last year which would come to total of £60 if I paid the Ryanair admin fees of £5 per person per flight. Below I’ve worked out the costs of using each of three Mastercard prepaid debit cards thereby avoiding the Ryanair card payment fees.

FairFX: no card application fee ( if you’re a UK resident and purchase using this referral link) plus £1.40 (1.4% of £100) = £1.40

CaxtonFX: no card application fee plus £9 (6 x £1.50) transaction fee = £9.00

Escape Prepaid Card: £10 card application fee plus zero transaction charges = £10.00 (but possible dormancy fee if not used for more than 90 days).

Therefore the best Mastercard prepaid debit card for my Ryanair admin fee avoidance is FairFX.

I was put off the CaxtonFX card by the high minimum load of £100, the £10 deposit and the £1.50 flat fee per transaction when most of my Ryanair transactions are only for a few pounds. However if you book a small number of higher cost flights this card may suit you.

One of the reasons I didn’t apply for the Escape card is that there is no facility for online ID checks, so you have to either scan your documents (I don’t have a scanner) or post in a photocopy. Also I wasn’t sure if I’d use the card regularly so might incur a dormancy fee. Again if you book high cost and/or very frequent flights this card may be the one for you.


Whichever of these three Mastercard prepaid debit cards you select, you’ll save money by avoiding paying Ryanair admin fees, so it’s one of my top money saving travel tips. You have to estimate the average cost of your Ryanair flights, the number of separate transactions and the number of flights you’re likely to book over the year. to judge which is the best Mastercard prepaid debit card for you to avoid paying the Ryanair admin fees.

However you should be aware for purchases of £100 of more, you would receive more protection if you paid by credit card, as the credit card company would be jointly responsible if there is a problem under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act (1974).

Warning and Disclosure

Please read the terms and conditions very carefully before you sign up for a card. I spent hours researching these cards but it’s quite complex and there is a lot of small print. This post is based on my personal research in December 2009 and spending patterns. I’ll receive a commission if you purchase a prepaid debit card through the links in this blog post.

Best Mastercard prepaid debit card to avoid Ryanair admin fees

52 thoughts on “Best Mastercard prepaid debit card to avoid Ryanair admin fees

  1. Peter Robinson

    Interesting article Karen and a good indication of the hoops and hurdles Ryanair passengers will need to go through in order to mitigate against these unfair charges.

    You say at the begining of your article that from 1 January 2010, the only way to avoid the Ryanair £5 per person per flight admin fee is to pay by Mastercard prepaid debit card. The other option of course is to exercise your option to vote with your feet and fly with a different airline – as a lot of us are already doing!

  2. Karen Bryan

    Peter – yes consumers can vote with their feet and not use Ryanair. However I feel that I can play the Ryanair game and come out a winner with 6 return flights for £100 in 12 month period. Which other airlines can offer this from my local airport?

    I also think that if the flight is reasonably priced then some consumers will just factor the £5 per person per flight admin fee into the overall price and decided not to bother messing around with a Mastercard prepaid debit card (probably what Ryanair hopes for).

  3. Majid

    Net+ from Neteller is a good option for prepaid MasterCard. O2 could also be considered but the latter is only available to UK residents and those with O2 sim. Neteller is free at the moment and I have signed up to get my 1 quid flights with Ryanair;0;0;0;0

  4. Karen Bryan

    Majid – I thought that the 02 prepaid debit card was a visa, it’s only mastercards which are exempt from the Ryanair charge.

    Thanks for tip about Neteller.

  5. Renzo

    Have you considered ICE Traveller Karen? Free card, no monthly/annual fee, free transactions, no cancellation fee. It would appear that the only charge is 2% to load the card.

  6. Niall

    very good piece karen – very helpful. in my own research the neteller one requires you to open a new bank account with them and then transfer money to the net+ card – which put me off.

    you said about the bread card having the 2% transaction fee – is there a minimimum fee or say if you booked a flight at 1 pound would the fee be 2pence?

  7. Karen Bryan

    Niall – it did take some time to research and write this post. I emailed Bread to check on the minimum transaction charge and here is their reply:
    “To be honest, we have weighed up introducing a minimum charge but have decided against it.
    This is a “trick” of most of our competitors (many of whom charge 50p) but we would like to keep ourselves the most competitive.
    When you take 50p on (say) a £10 transaction – you are talking 5%!”

  8. Niall

    thats great karen – i think you’ve just made my mind up – but just to confirm – a 1 pound flight to liverpool would be 1.02 in total?

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  10. Heather Cowper

    Well done for doing your homework Karen, rather you than me. It just proves to me that somewhere along the line there will a catch for Ryanair’s low fares, although I agree that you should look at the overall cost of the flight when comparing airlines – Ryanair may still be cheaper even with their admin charges.

    Personally, it’s all looking like a bit too much hard work to apply for these cards to save us £10 per ticket on an already cheap fare. I’ll save my money by going hand luggage.

  11. Karen Bryan

    Heather – it took me ages to try to establish the terms and conditions of each card, there are loads of Mastercard prepaid debit cards out there, I narrowed it down to the three that best suited my Ryanair usage. I reckon that many people will adopt your attitude not bothering to try to save the £10 per person per return flight and just factor it in to the overall ticket price.

  12. Majid

    Guys, I have just used Net+ to book my flight and it’s free. I recommend to all open Neteller account. They have excellent service and most importantly, let us buy cheap tickets without transaction fees from Ryanair. Way to go, Neteller.

  13. Mark

    Watch out if you get the plastic card though. The terms and conditions are:

    As an applicant for the Extended Account limit you are alerted to the following conditions that legally apply to your NETELLER account:

    1. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) does not apply to funds stored in your NETELLER account;

    2. If NETELLER (UK) Limited becomes insolvent the funds stored on your NETELLER account may become valueless and unusable; and

    3. Consequently, if NETELLER (UK) Limited becomes insolvent you may lose the funds stored on your account.

    In other words, if they go bankrupt, you lose all the money in your account (it’s not covered by the government). Not sure about the virtual card though.

    Also, seems a little dodgy that to put deposits in your account, you have to transfer to some random Barclays bank account. Is it worth the risk?!

  14. Karen Bryan

    Mark – thanks for the info re Neteller. I actually hadn’t considered this issue when I researched Mastercard prepaid debit cards, mainly as I won’t be leaving a much money in the account as I generally book very cheap promotional Ryanair flights. I wonder if the same T&Cs apply to the three cards which I evaluated in my post? However it is a consideration that there’s the possibility of losing your money in order to save the Ryanair £5 per person per flight admin fee.

    I wish Ryanair had just stuck with Visa Electron it was much simpler for me.

  15. Irene

    Hi Karen, FairFX seem very good, and 1.5% transaction fee which is great if you book low cost flights.
    MoneySavingExpert are pushing this and if you got it through their site, the £9.95p registration fee was free.

  16. Irina

    Dear Karen,
    Thanks for your great work!
    It really helps a lot but I sadly found out FairFX is only apply to the UK residents.
    Do u know is there any kind of master prepaid card that is suitable for people who live in Netherlands?
    Thanks in advance.

  17. Karen Bryan

    Irina – Sorry but I don’t know where you can obtain a Mastercard prepaid debit card in the Netherlands. I did a quick google search and nothing of value appeared. However in response to your comment I have added the words, “available to UK residents” in the paragraph about FarFX to make this clear to readers.

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  20. Yvonne

    Irene on January 12th, 2010 at 1:25 am
    Hi Karen, FairFX seem very good, and 1.5% transaction fee which is great if you book low cost flights.
    MoneySavingExpert are pushing this and if you got it through their site, the £9.95p registration fee was free.

    Irene- I try get registration fee to free thro their site but i can’t find. can you help me thanks

  21. Karen Bryan

    Yvonne – You can either load the FairFX card with more than the minimum £10 on purchase, click “buy new card” button on page that appears when you click the shortened link below, or click “top up my card” on button, if you already have a card to top it up:

    You will also be able to get the card free without paying £9.95 purchase fee if you click on link above, click buy new card button1, you’ll see that there’s no purchase fee, it says in red text “This is a special promotion for referred customers”.

  22. Frank

    Can someone tell me why some of the Banks who have been making money by opening Electron Card Account to help people avoid the Ryanair sting have not just moved the Electron Cards to Prepay Mastercards and associate them with the same accounts

    Abbey / Santander were getting all their business via Ryanair – when I asked to open an account with an Electron cards the Abbey person said “thats for Ryanair I suppose”

    Surely their marketing people know this ?

  23. Karen Bryan

    Frank – Sounds like some good old fashioned common sense for the banks that issued Electron cards to offer existing customers the option of a Mastercard prepaid debit card. Every Mastercard prepaid debit card I could find had some sort of fee or charge,so the banks could have made a bit of money out of existing customers who wanted the Mastercard to avoid Ryanair charges.

    Not sure the Mastercard could be associated with an existing current account as one of the selling points of the prepaid debit cards is that you don’t need a bank account or credit check to get one?

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  26. Nicole

    I just used my Net+ Chip & PIN prepaid MC to book a flight on Ryanair and it worked great. Not only are the card fees low but the card is also available in over 100 countries and in 8 currencies. Thanks NETELLER!

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  28. Marc Gregor

    I have a ClearCash card as I worked out that even though there is a monthly fee of £9.99, they do not charge any transaction fees therefore based on a few transactions per week and ATM withdrawals, it works out far cheaper than cards with no monthly fee and instead transaction fees! Also it has purchase protection – normally you only get this with a credit card!

  29. Anna

    Hi Karen,
    Thank you for an excellent article.
    I can’t figure it out why the CaxtonFX Global Card will be better than FairFX when you buy for more than 100GBP per year?
    Please help

  30. Karen Bryan

    Anna – If your total Ryanair spend is £200 and you pay by FairFX you’ll pay £3 in transaction fees ( 1.5% of £200 = £3). If you spend £200 paying by CaxtonFX you’ll pay a flat fee transaction charge of £1.50, therefore paying £1.50 less in charges. The savings of paying by CaxtonFX will increase the higher your total Ryanair spend.

  31. Rita

    Thanks Karen your information is very useful as i have been wondering what the best option is as i also only will use the card for Ryanair flights.
    I have checked the FairFX site and i was not clear regarding the following:
    ‘You must have more than £10.00 remaining on the card to redeem the balance’
    does this mean the card automatically cancels if the balance is under £10 or the balance will remain on the card and has to be topped up to over £10 to use it.

  32. Karen Bryan

    Rita – It’s probably best to email FaifFX with your query as I’m no finincial whizz. My understanding is that redeeming the card is taking all the cash out of the account and that you must have more than £10 to do this. I don’t know if you need a £10 minimum balance on card to use it, I just know that £10 is minimum top up.

  33. pat

    I am a youth worker amd take young people away a couple of times a year. My last booking for 16 young people came to nearly 3000 euros but I used my electron card in december. Also I go away a couple of times a year with my partner again using ryan air about £60-£80 a time
    any advise on which card would be more beneficial to me. 16 young people would be the avarage number for each trip.

    Any help would be appreciated

  34. Karen Bryan

    If you are making a total of 3 – 4 transactions per year on the Ryanair site with one transaations being for a large amount the CaxtonFX may be the best card for you as there is a flat transaction fee of £1.50. Whereas with the FairFX card you pay a transaction fee of 1.5%.

  35. Mike

    Hi Karen. Really good info. You seem to use Ryanair like me. (too much free time) I like either Bread Or Escape. Probably the last. Note to all though if it has not been said. RA could remove free payment using these cards, at anytime. So dont commit to much upfront just in case. As for Ryanair which I love. They are mad with these stealth charges. It feels wrong to be charged to pay for your found flights. MAD! I would sooner see the price at the start as most people. :0

  36. Sam

    I have a Utility Warehouse prepaid mastercard but it doesnt seem to work when I tried to book Ryanair flights. Does anyone know why?

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  38. ricardo

    has anyone used the fairfx anywhere mastercard to pay for ryanair flights? I am thinking of getting one

  39. Arwa

    Quite an interesting post Karen! I personally like Ryanair for budget travels so the mastercard offer definitely sounds worth a look. Thanks for sharing this!!

  40. S2ao

    Just stop flying with Ryan Air, that’ll get them to reconsider and change their really annoying policies!

    I use a FairFX card (for a different reason) and it’s really good.

  41. chris swinburn

    I am a UK citizen with spanish residence and although I do have active UK bank accounts Fx cards will not let me have a card as I do not have a UK address.
    Does anyone know how I can get a prepaid debit card here in Spain as I am a frequent flyer with Ryanair.
    i.e. is there a spanish equivalent to the FXcard?

  42. Karen Bryan

    Chris – sorry I can’t help. I had an experience similar to you but the other way around. I wanted to buy a Spanish Orange PAYG USB modem when in Spain recently. But was told I could only pay for online daily tops if I had a Spanish bank card.

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  44. Mary

    Hi Karen, thanks very much for doing all the hard work on finding out all of the pros and cons of the cards, this was extremely useful.

    Similarly I use Ryanair quite frequently, due to its low prices, ok it is annoying with all of the additional charges, but hey, the rest of the airlines are doing it too! Ryanair tell you what you get, and as long as you don’t expect anymore, then you won’t be disappointed.

    However, I am looking forward, to not having to give them more money than necessary, so will be progressing with one of the prepaid cards.

    Thanks again

  45. Karen Bryan

    Mary – Yes it is worth getting a Mastercard prepaid debit card but it is pain compared to the previous fee free Visa Electron option as I’m never know how much to load onto the Mastercard. If I load too little, I can’t book my flights, too much and I’ll have to pay the 1.5% to spend my own money.

    BTW noticed today that Ryanair online check-in fee now appears to have increased to £6 per person per flight (formerly £5, a 20% increase).

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