BETA testing completed!!
• 03 Mar 2017
The SWAPX card needed testing abroad - its a hard job but someone has to do it...
Where to go?
Given the dark nights and cold weather in the UK I thought that some winter sun would help with the testing process so I packed my bags for the Virgin Islands.
You will always need to carry a small amount of cash for incidentals like food on the go, taxis and emergencies. So I use www.travelfx.co.uk who I think offer the best rates for cash with free next day delivery.
Arriving at Gatwick airport I felt very smug as the Moneycorp bureau was charging 13% above the market rate. They claim "no commission" but add a hefty mark-up to the exchange rate. The reason never to use an airport bureau is that they have to cover very high rent costs.
Before I left I loaded my SWAPX card with pounds which cost just 1% and it is then free to swap into dollars using the app.
Should you forget your UK bank card you can use the SWAPX card at the airport to pay in pounds, as I did in Duty Free (some new sound-cancelling headphones for the flight).
Arriving in Tortola on a small plane (connection from Antigua) you are hit by a welcome wall of heat; very different to the air conditioned sterility of Antigua airport.
You can tell if Richard Branson is 'in' (he lives here - on a Virgin island, of course) as his jet, Galactic Girl sits parked on the runway with a decal of his own iris on the tail staring at you!
There are several other private jets, sat on the runway waiting to whisk their owners back to New York or California (Larry Page from Google has an island too).
First stop is a walk to the nearby beach at Trellis Bay for a beer and a Caribbean roti at Jeremy's Kitchen. As luck would have it they had just cut some fresh coconuts from their trees; a proper Caribbean welcome!
Out with the SWAPX card for its first test in US Dollars: chip and pin. No problem!
Then to the shop next door, local beachwear brand HiHO to buy some swimming trunks that had been left behind in the UK.
Needless to say, the trip was very hard work, spending money and monitoring activity on the app which tells you where and when you have used the card as well as balance updates.
The transaction map is useful if you leave the card in a shop as it shows exactly where you last used it.
Chatting to other travellers about the card, everyone thought it was a fantastic product, especially when I showed them the app and its functionality.
It took a bit of a beating at Cooper Island where there is not only a great beachfront restaurant but a Rum Bar and stunning gift shop.
The SWAPX card was also used to top up the cash float at a couple of local ATMs in Road Town which meant that I received the rate I had swapped at instead of the bank's 'rate of the day' which could have been be anything.
No trip to the British Virgin Islands is complete without a Full Moon party and they happen once a month in Trellis Bay.
A final purchase at the Pier Park (the cruise ship dock where you are guaranteed to find all the tacky souvenirs you could ever want) and the SWAPX test was done.
There was only one issue with the card where a shop's machine couldn't read the chip so they swiped the magnetic strip instead and it was fine. I think it was their terminal which had the issue but it made no difference.
I flew BA from Gatwick to Antigua and then with InterCaribbean Airways to Tortola.
I now have to lose the T shirt and do some proper work as we gear up for a public launch in April (with some exciting news coming mid-February).
Click on the photo to watch a short video of the SWAPX test card leaving the BVI! And some higher quality footage - an overview of the BVI in HD