Which Debit Card is Best* to Use When Travelling Overseas?

Information verified correct on February 5th, 2016

The right debit card can help you save money on international transaction fees and foreign ATM fees.

Aussie tourists have a number of travel money options to choose from. You can find debit cards, credit cards and travel cards that charge little or no international transaction fees and you can also come by credit cards that offer a range of travel benefits. Here we will unpack the features, benefits and drawbacks of a debit card to help you decide whether it’s the right travel money choice for your next trip.

You can also find a comparison of travel friendly credit cards and travel cards by reading our travel money guide. The following article will examine which debit card is the best* to use when you're overseas

Rates last updated February 5th, 2016
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How does a debit card work for overseas travel?

A debit card for overseas travel is best* suited for individuals who travel overseas from time to time. Such a debit card comes linked to your transaction or everyday banking account, giving you easy access to your funds while you’re travelling.

When it comes to accessing your funds internationally, your best bet in terms of acceptability comes through a MasterCard or Visa debit card. If your bank account comes with an overdraft facility, there’s a good chance you can access the same using your debit card. Plus, choosing a debit card that doesn’t charge international transaction fees and belongs to a strong ATM partner network can help reduce your overall travel costs.

What are the features of a debit card?

The features that come with your debit card will vary from card to card, but here’s some of the standards you expect:

  • Access your own funds. Using a debit card will allow you to access your own funds while travelling overseas. Unlike a line of credit, spending your own money can help curb your spending and keep your budget in check.
  • Global acceptance. As long as you have a globally accepted debit card (such as a Visa or MasterCard), you should be able to access your funds easily internationally. You can use such a card at EFTPOS terminals, to withdraw cash from ATMs and to make purchases online.
  • Easy account management. You can manage your account and keep track of your travel budget using online account management. Most banks offer online banking and mobile phone apps, so you should have no trouble managing your funds on the go.
  • Easy to get. Getting a debit card is much easier than getting a credit card because you don’t have to meet minimum income requirements, and you have to meet relaxed minimum age requirements.
  • Card security. Most modern day Australian debit cards make use of microchip technology, which provides increased protection against fraudulent use when compared to cards that rely on magnetic strips. Both, Visa and MasterCard, have online security programs in place to offer extra peace of mind when your card details make it to the online world.
  • Zero liability. Visa and MasterCard, both, have zero liability policies in place, so when you, as a cardholder, exercise due caution in using your card overseas, your card provider does not hold you liable for fraudulent and suspicious transactions made using your card.
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What else should I consider when using a travel debit card?

Before you get a debit card, know that not all are the same, even if they come with Visa and MasterCard affiliations. As a result, the following aspects require your consideration as well.

  • Global ATM alliance. When you use your debit card to withdraw money from ATMs when overseas, you might have to pay ATM fees.The good thing is certain Australian financial institutions have ATM alliances with international banks, giving their customers fee-free access to their ATMs. Westpac debit cardholders, for instance, can access Barclays branded ATMs across Europe for free, and Commonwealth Bank customers can find Commonwealth Bank ATMs across Asia.
  • Contactless purchases. You can find MasterCard and Visa debit cards that make use of contactless technology, reducing your time spent at the cash register. You can use such cards to make contactless payments for purchases of less than $100 at merchants who support this technology.
  • Travel insurance. Some debit cards come with complimentary travel insurance. Depending what you’re eligible for, you could find that these come in handy if you lose or misplace your luggage or find yourself confronted by a medical emergency or flight cancellation.
  • Visa and MasterCard benefits. Visa and MasterCard debit cards give cardholders access to a range of special global offers and promotions.
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What are the pros and cons of using a travel debit card?


  • Access fund at anytime, anywhere. A Visa or MasterCard debit card gives you instant access to money in your bank account, no matter where in the world you are; all you have to do is look for the Visa or MasterCard logo.
  • No ATM fees. If you use a partner ATM, you don’t have to pay any additional ATM fees.
  • No international transaction fees. If you use a suitable debit card, you don’t have to worry about paying international transaction fees.
  • Safe way to spend. Debit cards give you a safe and secure way to access money when travelling overseas, given that multiple security layers work in keeping your information secure.


  • Currency conversion fees. Just about every Australian debit card you use overseas will require that you pay currency conversion fees every time you use your card.
  • Card replacement. Replacing a lost or stolen debit card when you’re travelling overseas might not happen in a hurry, and you might have to pay a fee for the same.

Use a globally accepted debit card to gain access to your own funds without the temptation of overspending. The fees and rates that come with using your card will vary from card to card though, so make sure to compare your options to ensure the cost doesn’t outweigh the benefits.

Need cover? Compare travel insurance quotes online.

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Frequently asked questions

What should I do if I lose my debit card when travelling overseas?

If you lose a MasterCard or Visa debit card overseas, you can place a collect call and report the same by speaking to an Australian representative. You can also call the local toll-free number, which would vary depending on your country you’re in.

What information do I have to provide to initiate an international funds transfer using my bank account?

You’ll have to provide the recipient’s complete name and address, the recipient’s bank’s name and address, the recipient’s bank account number, and the amount you wish to transfer.

Do I have to pay any ongoing fees to use a debit card when overseas?

Using a debit card when overseas does not attract any additional account keeping fees, barring from what you have you have to pay to maintain the account in question.

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