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Prepaid phone cards save business travelers high costs as charges rise

Günther Vogelpoel, CEO of Recharge.com

When Three, EE and Vodafone announced the reintroduction of exorbitant EU roaming fees for UK customers ranging from £2 to £5 every day, business travelers started searching for easier ways to stay connected while abroad. While the obvious way to circumvent these new charges is to switch off roaming and only use wifi, the reality is that data-enabled smartphones have become necessary tools for navigating foreign cities. When urgently checking Google maps, texting people back home, or pulling up a flight or hotel reservation, wifi is not always an option.

For the digital-first members of younger generations, prepaid cards might be seen as a more traditional form of payment. Yet, as the cards have adapted into digital forms (eCards) and become primary tools for mitigating growing privacy and fraud concerns, their international adoption rate has increased significantly during the pandemic. The value of the global prepaid card market stood at £1.28 trillion in 2019 and is estimated to climb to £5.07 trillion by 2030.

This growth is expected to accelerate even more as major phone networks push through the post-Brexit introduction of roaming charges. Five years ago, mobile networks in EU countries became legally forbidden from charging customers extra to use their phones in other member countries. After the UK exited from the EU in January 2021, those rules were lifted, with UK operators becoming allowed to reintroduce these roaming charges as the Brexit trade deal did not rule them out.

These bills can often insidiously creep up on travelers, with British car salesman John Nisill recently running up a £192,000 BT phone bill on his work phone after only four days in Turkey. This type of shock event becomes more probable with the advent of 5G, which can be up to ten times faster than 4G, meaning that a movie can be downloaded in seconds instead of minutes. Consumers might use significantly more data with these quicker speeds.

Prepaid phone cards reduce such risks and allow more financial control. A prepaid phone card automatically links to a pre-allocated spend, which means that at least one portion of the business travel budget can be planned with peace of mind. It also means that employees can rest assured that they are not running up an outrageous bill for their employer by accident.

Hundreds of thousands of business travelers need a mobile connection without potentially exorbitant roaming fees. Before the pandemic, there were 6.24 million visits to the EU by UK business travellers each year. As borders are starting to recover, travelers want to avoid lengthy contracts, and prepaid phone cards provide a flexible way to engage.

A platform like Recharge.com allows people to quickly top up their temporary sim card online to suit their mobile needs without having to find the nearest physical store or dealing with a language barrier. With eSIM, business travelers can enjoy all the comforts of mobile connection (internet access, calls, and texts) without committing a long contract or risking a forgotten automatic direct debit.

Temporary SIM cards are also popular because they protect consumer privacy. The number of identity theft cases has doubled, and 55 per cent of consumers report security as their top priority. When moving around a foreign city, a phone number is often needed to secure restaurant reservations, hotels, and transportation services. A temporary SIM means that business travelers can use these services with an interim phone number, protecting their primary personal or work number from being compromised.

There is also the flexibility to update this allocation if required. For example, should the wifi network provided by the hotel wifi be exceptionally speedy, then data might not be needed from a prepaid card. The configuration of options can be easily adjusted, and additional minutes can be purchased if more international phone call minutes are required.

Lastly, with the rise of eSIMs, it is easier than ever to have two SIM cards in a single device. This means that you can now easily add a prepaid sim to your device. This can be especially useful when staying in touch with two different sets of colleagues in two different countries simultaneously, who might prefer to use local numbers to remain in contact.

About Recharge.com

Recharge.com is the European leader in online consumer-branded payments. Operating in over 150 markets around the world the company processes millions of online transactions annually connecting customers with leading global brands. Through a broad selection of digital vouchers and prepaid money, Recharge’s digital platform improves customer outcomes and disrupts traditional players across the globe. Founded in 2010 and headquartered in Amsterdam, Recharge is one of Europe’s fastest-growing technology companies, having raised over $70m in primary, secondary and debt transactions from investors such as SmartFin, Prime Ventures, Kreos Capital and Rabobank. Today over 3 million people use Recharge to process over $500m of payments every year.

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