- Apple Pay, Google Pay
- Monthly fees: $0
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.
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.
Debit cards for overseas travel
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:
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.
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.
How to compare travel debit cards
Account keeping fees
Look for a debit card with non monthly account keeping fee.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- Complete the online application form (you'll usually need to be over 18 with an Australian residential address).
- Verify your identity with your Passport, Medicare card or driver's licence.
- Transfer some money into your account to make it active, and activate your debit card when it arrives in the mail.
Frequently asked questions
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Debit cards with no foreign transaction fees
International transaction fees can add up to a lot of wasted money. These debit cards are great for travelling and online shopping and will save you money by waiving this annoying fee.
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