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Travel debit cards to use overseas

A travel debit card can save you money on international ATM fees and foreign transaction fees when you're overseas.

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Suncorp Everyday Options Account
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Government Guarantee
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Visa
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HSBC Everyday Global Account
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Ubank Spend Account
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Macquarie Bank Transaction Account
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Government Guarantee
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Card type
Mastercard
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Suncorp Everyday Essentials Account
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$0
Government Guarantee
Own network ATM fee
$0
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Visa
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Suncorp Carbon Insights Account
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There are a bunch of Australian debit cards that charge no overseas ATM fees and no foreign transaction fees. These are great travel debit card options that you can use at home in Australia or overseas to save on fees.

You can also find a comparison of travel friendly credit cards and travel cards by reading our travel money guide.

What is a travel debit card?

A travel debit card is a regular debit card with features designed for travel. For example, the card may charge no international transaction fees on overseas purchases or no overseas ATM fees. Or, it may allow you to hold different currencies as well as AUD.

The debit card is attached to a bank account with your own money, and you can only spend what's available in the account. You can use the debit card to make purchases in stores or to withdraw cash from ATMs while you're overseas, just like you would here in Australia.

What's the best debit card to use overseas?

These debit cards won the 2023 Finder Banking Awards for their impressive travel benefits:

Macquarie Transaction Account

The Macquarie Transaction Account and debit card has no account keeping fees, no international ATM fees and pays a refund on any local ATM fees charged. Plus, you can earn a high interest rate of 4.75% p.a. on balances up to $250,000 in your account without needing to meet any conditions. So you can earn interest while you travel.

HSBC Everyday Global Account

The HSBC Everyday Global Account has no account keeping fees, no international transaction fees and access to free ATMs around the world. However what really makes this account a great travel option is that you can hold up to 10 different currencies in the one account.

The good part about the ability to hold multiple currencies is that you can transfer money before you go. So when the Australian dollar is strong against a particular currency, I transfer money into that account, and then when I go, I just spend in local currency. That way, I'm not getting hit with a potentially higher exchange rate, or being forced to spend in AUD and charged for the conversion.

How to compare travel debit cards

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Account keeping fees

Look for a debit card with non monthly account keeping fee.

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Overseas ATM fees

This is charged by your bank when you use your card at an overseas ATM, and can be as much as $5 (or more) per transaction. It's best to look for a debit card without this fee, if possible.

Public

International transaction fees

This is charged by your bank when a currency conversion is needed (e.g.: when using your AUD card to make purchases in the UK). This fee can be as high as 4% of the transaction value. Luckily, there are several Australian debit cards that don't charge this fee.

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Account accessibility

It's handy to choose a debit card from a bank that has a good mobile baking app, which you can use overseas to keep an eye on your account and transfer money if needed.

Public

Multiple currencies

Some debit cards allow you to hold multiple currencies at once. This is handy for travelling as it allows you to load up on the currency you need ahead of your trip while the exchange rate is good.

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Contactless payment options

Being able to link the debit card to Apple Pay or Google Pay could be helpful while you're travelling if you don't want to keep your physical debit card on you.

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Safety features

Some debit cards will come with a 'card lock' feature in the attached mobile banking app that allows you to temporarily freeze or lock your card if you've misplaced it while travelling.

Other ways to pay when travelling

Here's the difference between a travel debit card, a prepaid travel card and a travel credit card.

Travel debit card

Just like a regular debit card, a travel debit card comes linked to a transaction or everyday banking account, giving you easy access to your own money while you're travelling. You don't need to convert any currency before you leave, as you can just use your AUD and the currency will be converted at the time of purchase while you're overseas.

Prepaid travel card

A prepaid travel card lets you pre-load with the currency you need before you leave for your trip. It's not linked to a bank account like a regular debit card is. You can stock up on the currency you need in the weeks and months leading up to your trip when you notice the exchange rate is favourable. However, these cards still do come with fees and charges and if you have currency leftover when you return home you'll need to convert it back into AUD.

Travel credit cards

Unlike prepaid cards and debit cards, a travel credit card offers a line of credit for your to spend what you need and then repay at the end of the payment period (usually monthly). However, if you don't repay it in full, you'll be charged interest at a fairly high rate. Some credit cards allow you to earn points or other rewards, and offer things like complimentary travel insurance or airport lounge access.

Pros and cons of using a debit card for travelling

The pros

  • Access your funds 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.
  • You can avoid overseas ATM fees. You can save on overseas ATM fees by using a partner bank's ATM or choosing a card that doesn't charge this fee.
  • You can avoid international transaction fees. Using a debit card that doesn't charge international transaction fees will save you 3.5% or more on every single transaction.
  • It's a safe way to spend your money. 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.
  • Use it at home or overseas. There's no need to switch between different banking products when you travel and when you're home in Australia. If you choose the right debit card, you can use the one account for all your day-to-day banking at home and take it overseas too.

The cons

  • Getting your card replaced overseas is difficult. 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.
  • Only access your only funds. Unlike a credit card, a debit card will only give you access to the money in your account, and no more.
  • Can't choose your exchange rate. A debit card will do the currency exchange with the exchange rate at the time of purchase, which might not be very good.
  • No points or extra perks. Unlike a credit card you don't earn points with a debit card and you usually won't be offered other perks either, like free insurance.

How to apply for a travel debit card

You can apply for a travel debit card in the same way you'd apply for a standard bank account and debit card.

  1. Complete the online application form (you'll usually need to be over 18 with an Australian residential address).
  2. Verify your identity with your Passport, Medicare card or driver's licence.
  3. Transfer some money into your account to make it active, and activate your debit card when it arrives in the mail.

Frequently asked questions

How we choose the Best Transaction Accounts – Methodology

Finder used a data-driven methodology to find our best transaction accounts based on the following criteria:

Selection Criteria

  • Accounts needed to have no account keeping fees, no local ATM fees and no international transaction fees to be included
  • As many transaction account charge minimal fees, this award was then chosen based on extra features
  • Products which offer a value return were rated by the value of that return
  • Products which offer free ATM withdrawals were rated based on the universality of those withdrawals

Presumptions

  • Ties decided by fewest value conditions

Weighting

  • Value 100%

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12 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    AmandaMay 21, 2018

    Going to Sri Lanka. We have 28 degrees for shopping, hotel payments etc. Is there a debit card available that would give us better rates for cash withdrawals in Sri Lanka. Thanks.

      AvatarFinder
      JeniMay 21, 2018Finder

      Hi Amanda,

      Thank you for getting in touch with Finder.

      While we don’t provide a specific product recommendation, we can help guide you through the process of comparing your options. This page provides a list of debit cards for overseas travel and online shopping, you can use our comparison table to help you find the card that suits you. You can also visit our travel money guide for Sri Lanka to know your other travel money options.

      Once you have chosen a particular card, you may then click on the “Go to site” button and you will be redirected to the bank’s website where you can proceed with your application or get in touch with their representatives for further assistance.

      Before applying, please ensure that you meet all the eligibility criteria and read through the details of the needed requirements as well as the relevant Product Disclosure Statements/Terms and Conditions when comparing your options before making a decision on whether it is right for you. You can also contact the provider if you have specific questions.

      I hope this helps.

      Have a great day!

      Cheers,
      Jeniƒ√

    Default Gravatar
    GigioAugust 3, 2017

    If I use my debit / credit card overseas to purchase items Restuarants etc but do not use A T M S to get cash out I know I will incur 3% transaction fee is there any other charges I can incur because I have looked at getting a travel card and loading it with foreign currency but the conversation rates are very low then if I dont spend all the money I would be charged a fee again to convert the money back to aussie dollars what can you advise

      Default Gravatar
      ArnoldAugust 4, 2017

      Hi Gigio,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      For credit cards, you have to take note of 3 charges. Foreign transaction fees, Annual fees, and ATM withdrawal fees. For travel money cards, you need to be mindful of conversion rates and the time it takes to reload the card. Travel money cards can take up to 3 days to make funds available when you transfer more money onto your card in a reload. This is not ideal because it can leave you stranded if you do not have another payment method with you and you have run out of money on that card. For convenience, I would opt for a credit card. You may check a list of overseas travel credit cards here https://www.finder.com.au/best-credit-card-to-use-overseas

      Hope this information helped.

      Cheers,
      Arnold

    Default Gravatar
    KieranFebruary 8, 2017

    Hello

    just slightly confused about this point stated above:

    You can avoid international transaction fees. Just about every Australian debit card you use overseas will require that you pay currency conversion fees every time you use your card.

    This is down as a benefit which confuses me. Could you please explain why this is a positive?

      AvatarFinder
      DeeFebruary 8, 2017Finder

      Hi Kieran,

      Thanks for your question.

      That statement falls under benefits because unlike the usual debit cards with high-interest charges on foreign currency transactions, the travel debit cards we feature on this page have minimal or no foreign transaction fees.

      Cheers,
      Anndy

    Default Gravatar
    RichardOctober 26, 2016

    I am co-treasurer for a group of 40 travelling to South Africa for a month. We want to pre-fund an account in Australia before leaving and have access to the money in South Africa to meet group expenses. A debit card for myself and my co treasurer seems the best. Question is which card is best for wide access within South Africa?
    Look forward to your suggestions. Thanks

      AvatarFinder
      ClarizzaOctober 26, 2016Finder

      Hi Richard,

      Thanks for your question.

      There are a couple of things to consider when looking for a debit card to use overseas.

      Fees and access – there are some debit cards on the market that charge little to no fees for international transactions or ATM withdrawals.

      For example, Citibank Plus doesn’t charge ATM withdrawal fees from Citibank branded ATMs or international transaction fees. However in South Africa, although Citibank operates there, there are no ATMs so you may be charged ATM fees by the owner of the ATM.

      It sounds like you’re keen to use a prepaid travel money card. You may find our travel money comparison page useful. Travel money cards allow you to load it with your own cash before you travel overseas. This means you can ‘lock-in’ exchange rates and avoid ATM withdrawal fees.

      Please note, we are a comparison site and as such can provide general advice only.

    Default Gravatar
    Julie-AnnOctober 2, 2016

    I am moving to China from Australia and have a commonwealth bank savings/debit card account which l want to keep active to pay for loan repayments in Australia, and will have my wages paid in RMB at a Chinese bank. Can l manage my Australian account online, and can l transfer funds from my Chinese account into my commonwealth acct in Australia. Lastly, do you advise l get a travel debit card from the commonwealth bank before l leave?
    Thank you :)

      AvatarFinder
      ClarizzaOctober 5, 2016Finder

      Hi Julie-Ann,

      Thanks for your question.

      Yes, you can continue managing your account from overseas, however, please be mindful international transfers will incur fees.

      If you would like to open a travel debit card, we recommend looking into how its features would benefit you. The travel debit card features will vary between products and it would be worth comparing these before opening an account. For example, with the Citibank Plus Everyday account, you can make withdrawals from any Citibank ATM around the world at no charge. There are also no international transaction fees. This travel money debit cards page might also help you compare other products.

      Hope that helps.

      Clarizza

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