Prepaid travel cards in my experience fall directly into this category. I don't know if its something about it being your own money but I have both a prepaid master-card and a visa and outside of the major western countries either or BOTH of them have often just flat out not worked.
It can be really stressful being without money but I never ever EVER assume that my prepaid cards are going to just work. NEVER.
Everywhere from the Philippines to Costa Rica either one or both will just not work at the ATM. The drama seems mostly to be that the card isn't recognized, and the error can be anything from declined to the machine just won't work with that card. The challenge of travelling money wise is of course that you don't want to be carrying large sums of cash but if you get to Guatemala and your card won't work the chances of it working in Honduras, Nicaragua or Costa Rica seem to be elevated.
My rule of thumb is that I never run out of cash. I have a set amount that I'm happy to carry (and only you can set this amount) and when I get even remotely close to that I get more cash.
- A Qantas prepaid Master-Card
- A Virgin prepaid Visa Card (both of these are also my frequent flyer cards which is really handy)
- An Amex and a Visa (true credit cards) that are attached to the same account &
- A ING direct flexi card.
My Qantas and Virgin cards are multi currency and I love them both, however if anything is not going to work its always those. I'm assuming that somehow becuase they aren't issued by a bank that has something to do with it so I make sure I always have appropriate travel notifications in place for my Visa and Amex so that I can always use those if need be. The beauty of those is that I can cancel my Amex for example and still have my visa attached to the same account. Perfect!
Weirdly as its not accepted a lot of places at home, but for ATM's my Amex is by far the most reliable. Like 50% more reliable than anything else. So strange for a card that no-one takes in restaurants or cafes, or if they do it costs you $5 to use the damn thing - its SUPER reliable in ATM's and it never gets cut off. I love that thing!
So my advice is to always have an actual bank issued credit card with you. I split my cards between my bags and of course always split my cash up too, but my biggest piece of advice about cards is to NEVER trust that your prepaid card is going to work. Always keep an actual credit card with you.