With a bunch of Australian debit cards now charging no overseas ATM fees and no foreign transaction fees, a debit card is an easy, convenient option to consider for your next overseas trip. Organising foreign cash ahead of your trip can be a hassle, so opting for a standard debit card that you open online for free in a matter of minutes is a stress-free option that will not only save you time, but will save you money on fees too.
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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
How does a debit card work for overseas travel?
You can use your standard Australian debit card overseas just as you would when you're home in Australia. You can use the debit card to make purchases in stores or to withdraw cash from overseas ATMs. A debit card comes linked to your transaction or everyday banking account, giving you easy access to your own money while you're travelling.
Choosing a debit card that charges no overseas ATM fees and no foreign transaction fees is the best way to avoid unnecessary fees while you're travelling. These debit cards, such as the cards in the table above, can be used anywhere you're travelling internationally and help you save big on fees.
Debit card features that make them a good travel money option
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 when travelling
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. Plus, you don't need to worry about pre-loading your card with different currencies like you do with a foreign currency card.
Visa or Mastercard 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 apply for online
Getting a debit card is much easier than getting a credit card because you don’t have to meet minimum income requirements. You can apply for a debit card online in a matter of minutes and you'll receive your card in the mail a few days later.
There's world-class security and fraud protection
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.
You can take advantage of 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.
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.
Is there a Global ATM alliance so you can get fee-free withdrawals overseas?
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.
Does the card charge international transaction fees?
An international transaction fee is charged when you make a transaction in another currency that's not AUD. When you're shopping overseas, these will slowly add up so you may want to get a card that doesn't charge this fee.
Does the card come with linked 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.
Are there any international Visa and Mastercard benefits?
Visa and Mastercard debit cards give cardholders access to a range of special global offers and promotions.
What are the pros and cons of using a debit card for overseas travel?
You can 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. If you use a partner ATM, you don’t have to pay any additional ATM fees. Or, just opt for a debit card that charges no overseas ATM fees at all!
You can avoid international transaction fees. Opt for a debit card that has the option of waiving international transaction fees, so you don’t have to worry about paying international transaction fees with each purchase.
It's a safe way to spend your money with fraud protection. 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.
What's the best* debit card to use overseas?
This depends on what features are important to you and how you like to access your money when travelling. However, selecting a debit card with the following features is a great way to save money when you're overseas.
No overseas ATM fees (or access to an ATM network that charges no fees)
No foreign transaction fees (or the option to have these waived when the account conditions are met)
A good mobile banking app to keep track of your money when you're on the go exploring a new country
24/7 customer service: it's nice to know there will be someone available to help you if something happens to your card late at night or early in the morning.
*Definition: Best debit card for overseas travel
It's important to note that there is no one 'best' debit card for overseas travel, and what is best for you may not be best for someone else. Consider what features you need in a debit card including the fees, interest rates, ATM network, mobile app etc. before deciding what is right for you.
Wait, I need some extra help!
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.
Yes, there are multiple travel money cards available that allow you to load multiple currencies, including the Euro, onto them. These cards are offered by banks, foreign exchange specialists and even Australia Post. Compare prepaid travel debit cards here.
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.
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.
As a general rule, it's always better to exchange currency at your destination than in Australia as you will most likely receive a better exchange rate.
If you think you've been a victim of fraud, contact your bank or card issuer immediately to cancel the card and begin the process of recouping any lost funds.
You can send an international money transfer via your bank if you wish, although you will typically find a better exchange rate and cheaper transfer fees if you use an online transfer services such as OFX or Currency Fair.
Yes, chip cards are widely accepted around the world.
You have several options when you want to send an international money transfer. You can send a wire transfer through your bank, send an electronic transfer using an online money transfer company, use a service such as Western Union that offers a cash pickup option, send an international cheque or even transfer the funds using PayPal.
Yes, in most cases you will be able to access your internet banking account from just about anywhere in the world. Speak to your bank about accessing your money overseas before you begin your journey just to be sure that your funds will be available whenever you need them.
A foreign transaction fee is charged when you make a withdrawal, purchase or transaction in a currency other than Australian dollars. The fee is charged for converting currency into Australian Dollars.
The EUR/AUD exchange rate fluctuates on a daily basis and shows the worth of each currency relative to the other. Visit our international money transfer section to find up-to-date information about the EUR/AUD exchange rate.
Look for a card that can be loaded with Malaysian Ringgit and that also offers minimal fees on foreign transactions.
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.
Alison Banney is the banking and investments editor at Finder. She has written about finance for over six years, with her work featured on sites including Yahoo Finance, Money Magazine and Dynamic Business. She has previously worked at Westpac, and has written for several other major banks including BCU, Greater Bank and Gateway Credit Union. Alison has a Bachelor of Communications from Newcastle University, with a double major in Journalism and Public Relations. She has ASIC RG146 compliance certificates for Financial Advice, Securities and Managed Investments and Superannuation. Outside of Finder, you’ll likely find her somewhere near the ocean.
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