travel-money-cards

Best Travel Money Cards

Rates and fees last updated on

Compare some of Australia's best travel card offers

Travelling should be all about having fun or, if you are on a business trip, getting your work done. However, it definitely shouldn't include constantly worrying about how much you are paying in foreign transaction fees and whether or not you are getting a good currency conversion rate.

On this page, we will be looking at foreign transaction fees and other connected charges as well as analysing different options to help you find a good rate and save money.

Rates last updated December 16th, 2017
Name Product Description Available Currencies ATM Withdrawal Fee Reload Fee Initial Load Fee
Hold up to 10 different currencies and lock in your exchange rate. No transaction fees on purchases with a backup card in case one is lost or stolen.
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD
AUD 3.50, USD 2.50, GBP 2.00, EUR 2.20, NZD 4.50, CAD 3.00, HKD 20.00, SGD 4.00, THB 95, JPY 260
1.1%
$0
Hold up to 11 currencies on the card and get a locked-in exchange rate. Use at home and overseas to rack up Qantas Points on eligible purchases.
AUD, AED, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD
AUD 1.95, CAD 2.00, EUR 1.50, GBP 1.25, HKD 15.00, JPY 160, NZD 2.50, SGD 2.50, USD 1.95, THB 70.00, AED 6.50
$0
$0
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, USD, THB

Overseas: $0. Although, some ATM operators may charge their own fees or set their own limits

Domestic: 2.95% of the amount withdrawn

The greater of 1.1% of the initial load / reload amount or AU$15.00
The greater of 1.1% of the initial load / reload amount or AUD 15.00
Load up and lock in up to 10 currencies and benefit from no fees for reloading funds. Comes with a secondary card for added security.
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD

Overseas: $0 per withdrawal via international ATMs

Domestic: $3.75 fee applies

$0
$0

Compare up to 4 providers

Some of the best* travel money cards today

  • Velocity Global Wallet - A travel money card that allows you to earn points on your overseas spending as well as your everyday spending.
  • Qantas Cash - Earn points on your everyday spend and overseas transactions.
  • NAB Traveller Card - This pre-paid travel card allows you to lock in up to 10 currencies.

Introduction

Over the past few years, the Australian dollar has weakened, giving Aussies decreased value on overseas transactions. That offers any traveller reduced purchasing power and many people forget to take into account that the rates they see announced by the media are far from what they will actually get. This is because most banks and money exchangers take quite a bit off for themselves during the currency exchange process.

In addition to the difference in rates, there are other fees and charges that most people don't factor in when exchanging money or making withdrawals overseas. In other words, most people don't get what they think they will and the problem is that one could end up spending a lot more money than they realise simply because they don't factor these additional costs in.

On this page, we will be looking at how you can effectively analyse whether or not you are getting a good rate as well as looking at various options that will offer you a better return on your foreign currency transactions when travelling overseas.

The difference between market rates and what you actually get

If you've made any foreign currency exchanges, you probably realised that the rate the media announces (also referred to as the market, mid-market or wholesale rate) is not the same as the rate you actually get. This gap in exchange rate between what your bank pays and the one that is used for making overseas purchases or withdrawals, over and above any fees, is referred to as the 'margin'. It differs according to the transaction type or card you are using as well as the money exchanger.

A good example of this margin is the difference in rates at airport exchange booths. If you've ever changed money in an airport, you're probably well aware of the fact that the difference in rates tends to be exorbitant.

This margin is so complex that it's practically impossible to figure out how much a financial service provider earns through the foreign exchange process. And it's this complexity that makes it seem as if the consumer will always get the short end of the stick when it comes for foreign currency exchange transactions.

A look at exchange rates

To get a glimpse of the current exchange rates, check out www.xe.com

Below is a comparison of ANZ interest rates on 20 July 2017. In order to show the margin, we've included the market rates for that day.

Market rates from www.xe.com1 AUD
United States Dollar (USD)0.7938
Euro (EUR)0.6898
Great Britain Pound (GBP)0.6086

By way of explanation of the table jargon:

IMT = International Money Transfer

TT = Telegraphic Transfer

ANZ Foreign Exchange Rates

Currency:IMT/TTTravel Card / ChqNotes
USD0.76050.76050.7605
EUR0.65620.65620.6562
GBP0.58190.58190.5819

Percentage difference between market rates and bank rates:

ANZ

CurrencyIMT/TTTravel Card / Chq

Notes

USD4.20%4.20%

4.20%

EUR4.87%4.87%

4.87%

GBP4.39%4.39%

4.39%

Travelex tips:

Title

Generally, the least attractive rate you can find is in airports. But it seems that if you choose to order your foreign currency in advance, which is a service Travelex offers online, the rate isn't quite as bad as changing on site because you won't be paying the 3% commission they charge per transaction. However, you have to exchange a minimum of A$250 and they do specify that in-store rates are different.

If ordering online via Travelex, the rate as of 20 July 2017 is US$0.7704 for one Aussie dollar. In other words, it would cost you A$129.80 for every US$100, though as specified the minimum you can order via this system is A$250. Conversely, in-store rates will cost you approximately 34% more than mid-market rates and that's before applying the 3% commission! Yes, it's definitely worth planning in advance.

Making life easier on yourself

One thing is certain. Banks do not make it easy to calculate the real expense of converting Australian dollars into another currency. There are so many fees to consider as well as possible exchange rate variations from one financial product to another that it can be practically impossible to work out exactly how much you will end up paying.

One way to make life easier on yourself and to make sure you are getting the best possible rate is to look for financial products or services that feature exchange rates that are very close to market rates and don't have too many additional fees, charges or commissions. To find current market rates, two excellent sources are XE.com and the RBA but when doing your calculations, don't forget to look at the fees as well.

And it does pay to make calculations because you might end up with a surprise or two.

As of 20 July 2017, for every 100 Australian dollars, you can get US$76.05 from ANZ. So, if you were to make a reservation for your hotel that costs US$900 it would cost you A$1,183.43 using your Travel Money Card as there is no fee. Now, your ANZ Visa Debit card uses Visa consumer exchange rates and as of the same date, for every A$100, you get US$73.53. That means that the hotel bill of US$900 would cost you A$1,138.23 plus the 3% fee, bringing it to a total of A$1,172.41. In other words, even with the additional transaction fee, you are better off using your Visa debit card due to the more attractive rates Visa offers.

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What is a travel money card?

A travel money card is a special type of debit card that can have foreign currency deposited onto it before you leave on your trip. The advantage of making advanced foreign currency deposits on the card is that you can make the exchange when the rate is most favourable to you and not have to worry about fluctuations on your journey.

plane_wing_city_Shutterstock

Many people are turning to travel money cards, whether they are travelling to one destination and need one currency or multiple countries requiring multiple currencies, since these cards are, essentially, just as good as taking cash or traveller's cheques. While the different cards that are available can be loaded with different currencies, most of them offer at the very least US dollars, GB pounds, Euros and NZ dollars.

These cards allow you to load them up with a currency or multiple currencies, depending on where you will be travelling to. This way, you can access the foreign currency you need at any time. Once you've left the country, you can use the internet or your mobile phone to reload your card or change the currencies around as you need to. The card can be used for ATM withdrawals, to make purchases, pay for meals or book accommodation.

Can't I just use my credit card overseas?

The vast majority of credit cards on the Australian market can be used overseas, however, it will most likely cost you more. You can use the table below to compare cards that don't charge a foreign transaction fee, however, other charges may apply.

Rates last updated December 16th, 2017
Name Product Foreign Currency Conversion Fee Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Overseas Cash Advance Fee Annual fee Product Description
Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
2% of transaction amount or $4 (whichever is greater)
$0 p.a.
Offers a $0 annual fee, 0% foreign transaction fees, complimentary international travel insurance and access to a 24/7 concierge service.
Bankwest Breeze Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
2% of transaction amount or $4 (whichever is greater)
$99 p.a.
Receive a 0% p.a. interest rate on balance transfers for 24 months, complimentary travel insurance and 0% foreign transaction fees.
28 Degrees Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
3% of the cash advance or $4 (whichever is greater)
$0 p.a.
Designed for travel, benefit from 0% foreign transaction fees on purchases, a $0 annual fee for life and a personal concierge service.
ANZ Rewards Travel Adventures card
0% of transaction value
$0
$0
$225 p.a.
Receive 40,000 bonus Velocity Points, 2 yearly Virgin Australia lounge passes, plus enjoy $0 overseas purchase transaction fees.
Westpac Lite Card
0% of transaction value
2%
$108 p.a.
Keep credit card costs low with a maximum credit limit of $4,000, a 9.9% p.a. purchase interest rate and no foreign transaction fees.
Bankwest Qantas Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
2% or $4, whichever is greater
$160 p.a.
Enjoy 0% foreign transaction fees, complimentary travel insurances and earn 0.5 Qantas Points per $1 spent on eligible purchases.
Bankwest More Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
2% of transaction amount or $4 (whichever is greater)
$160 p.a.
Earn 2 More Rewards Points per $1 spent, 75,000 bonus points when you meet the spend requirement and save with 0% foreign transaction fees.

Compare up to 4 providers

Credit card fees, charges and repayments

What are the fees for cash withdrawals from an ATM?

If you withdraw cash from an ATM in the card's network you won't have to pay a fee. However, you might have to pay owner fees if you make withdrawals from any ATMs that are not outside of your network. You will be informed of the charge when you make the withdrawal and can choose to proceed or cancel the transaction.

Will I be charged interest on a cash advance?

Yes, the day you withdraw cash from your credit card, the interest will start to accrue. The cash advance interest rate for the majority of cards is significantly higher than the purchase rate, and the interest-free days will not apply. In addition to the higher cash advance interest rate, you will likely be charged a flat cash advance fee.

Can I avoid paying interest costs?

The only way to avoid paying interest on your credit card is to take advantage of the interest-free period on purchases, but that means making sure you pay off your bill every month. If you avoid taking out cash advances, carrying a balance transfer, and make sure your account is paid off every month by the due date, you won't have to pay interest on your credit card for everyday purchases.

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The pros and cons of travel money cards

Understanding how travel money cards work is essential to ensuring you make the most of your overseas trip. This way, instead of worrying about money and trying to figure out how things work, you can spend time relaxing and enjoying the local culture.

The benefits of a travel money card

  • Convert all your money into the currency of the country you will be visiting on the day you purchase the card. Meaning that you lock in the exchange rate and won't have to worry about fluctuations. So, there's no need to worry that you'll have less money available than you planned because the exchange rate might plummet while you are travelling.
  • You can add a variety of different currencies to your card, including USD, EUR, GBP, AUD, NZD, with some cards allowing you to add up to 9 different currencies on the same card. However, you can also use your card to spend in other currencies, with your funds being converted on the spot, making it a lot easier to spend your money. Of course, that might not always be a good thing but it definitely adds a high level of flexibility.
  • A travel money card can be used almost exactly like a standard debit card, whether you want to use it for online or in-store transactions. And the fact that you don't have to carry around large amounts of cash or traveller's cheques is also another advantage. If you really need cash, you can make withdrawals from a huge number of ATMs all over the world.
  • Internet banking allows you to monitor the status of your account, including your transactions and the balance left on your card. If you need more cash, it's easy to transfer money from your bank using the online system.
  • When you buy a travel money card, you usually get two cards, allowing you to keep on with you and another one in the safe in your hotel room. Thus, if you lose one or it's stolen, you still have immediate access to your money without having to pay a fortune to get an emergency replacement card.
  • Since your travel money card is not linked to a bank account, the money in your current account is protected. This helps to reduce the risks and limit your possible losses in case of skimming or if your card gets stolen.

The cons of travel money cards

  • While locking in the exchange rate might be beneficial on one hand, it could also be a drawback, especially in the event of the Aussie exchange rate suddenly spiking.
  • If you check the exchange rate your bank is offering, it might actually be more advantageous than the rate the travel money card is offering. And some cards use Mastercard and Visa consumer exchange rates, which are generally even more attractive than the rates offered by the banks. This is why it pays to do your homework when it comes to choosing the best card for your needs.
  • While you can spend money in practically any other currency than the ones on your card, you will have to pay a currency conversion fee, which can prove to be quite steep. There are also vendors who only accept cash transactions, which means you won't be able to use your travel money card to make payment unless you withdraw cash using the card.
  • Some travel money cards don't charge ATM fees and some do. However, this isn't the only issue. You will also have to pay the fees charged by the operators of the ATMs and these fees vary from country to country. So, with some cards, you will have to pay a fee twice for cash withdrawals. Furthermore, while most travel money cards specify their own limits on cash withdrawals, these might be lower in certain countries as these also vary according to the operator of the ATM.
  • Another problem you might encounter is that the internet banking system doesn't always update in real-time, which means you could end up spending more than you budgeted if you aren't careful. To make sure you stay on budget, you should probably keep a record of your transactions yourself to avoid any nasty surprises.
  • While many travel money cards advertise the ease of using BPAY to reload the card, the fact is that it can take between two and three days for the funds to be available on your card. So, don't wait until you run out of money completely to reload your card or you might have an unpleasant few days until the money reaches your card.
  • When you get home, you'll probably want to recover any leftover funds on your card, especially if you aren't planning on visiting the same destination any time soon. The problem is that not only do you lose on exchanging money back into Australian dollars but you might also have to pay a fee to the card issuer to get your money refunded.
  • If you don't use the card at all for 12 months, which means no transactions whatsoever, including reloading the card, you might be required to pay a monthly inactivity fee. Some issuers will charge according to the balance still on the card, while others charge a flat fee. This fee is payable every month until you use the card again.
  • If your card has not been used and it expires during the inactivity period, you could end up losing the money you haven't used that's still on the card or the funds will be kept in trust until they are claimed.
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Conclusion

Despite the fact that currency exchange rates can be confusing, if you spend a little time researching the market, you will definitely be able to find options that will suit your needs. However, because rates fluctuate so much on a daily basis, your research will only be useful on the day you do it.

The secret is to take the time to actually work out the figures, to keep an eye on mid-market rates and to make the exchange on a day when the rates are favourable but is not too far off from the date of your departure. So, remember to look for a financial product or service that doesn't have too many fees, has reasonable limits, offers rates that are as close as possible to mid-market rates — at least when compared to other options — and also provides you with the convenience you need.

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Frequently Asked Questions on Travel Money Cards

The first thing you need to do is pick the travel money card that best suits your needs and decide on the currency. You will then be required to add your personal information and confirm the details of your order. Subsequently, you will receive an email with the Biller Code and Reference Number you will require to make that BPAY payment to load the card. You will have to make the payment within four hours. Once the payment has been received by the issuer, your order will be sent to the pick-up location you chose.

There are certain limits when it comes to the order you can place online. Thus, for a Cash Passport, there is a minimum of $500 and a maximum of $10,000. The minimum order you can place to reload your Cash Passport is $100. Note that these limits apply for every 24 hour period.

Once the issuer receives the payment, you will receive a confirmation email. The email will confirm payment was received and the order has been accepted. It will also include where you will be picking up your card, the date when you will be able to pick it up, ID requirements and the final date when you can collect it.

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4 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    VivienMay 11, 2015

    Hi

    After we returned from Singapore we had $8060 left on our Travelex card. Today we went to transfer it and using their exchange rates we got $6,500. (exchange rate $.88) Why such a difference when the rate of the day is $.95.? Are they allowed to this?

    • Staff
      ElizabethMay 11, 2015Staff

      Hi Vivien,

      Thanks for your question.

      Different foreign exchange rates apply to different transactions on the Travelex Cash Passport. These rates may differ from those offered in-store and they change daily. You might want to get in contact with Travelex to discuss the rate that was applied to your transaction and if this was correct.

      I hope this has helped.

      Thanks,

      Elizabeth

  2. Default Gravatar
    peterApril 17, 2015

    with 28 degrees,if I put excess credit above my credit limit.Then withdraw some cash .would I be charged interest for using my own money.

    • Staff
      ElizabethApril 17, 2015Staff

      Hi Peter,

      Thanks for your question.

      According to the 28 Degrees website, ‘you will still be charged a cash advance fee if you withdraw cash from your 28 Degrees Platinum MasterCard, even if the card has a positive credit balance.’

      I hope this has helped.

      Thanks,

      Elizabeth

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