debit card travel

Which Debit Card is Best to Use When Travelling Overseas?

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

Westpac Choice

Westpac Choice Account

No ATM fees on withdrawals via Westpac's Global partners.

  • $0 Account keeping fee if you deposit $2,000 per month
  • Linked Debit MasterCard
  • No foreign ATM withdrawal fee when using a Global Alliance ATM
    Rates last updated April 26th, 2017
    Monthly Account Fee Debit Card Access Overseas Eftpos Fee Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee
    St.George Complete Freedom Account
    $0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
    Visa 3% $5 Go to site More
    Westpac Choice
    $0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
    Mastercard 3% $5 Go to site More
    Bank of Melbourne Express Freedom
    $0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
    Visa 3% $5 Go to site More
    Bankwest Qantas Transaction Account
    No overseas ATM withdrawal fees (charged by Bankwest), 3rd party ATM fees and international transaction fees may still apply.
    Mastercard 2.95% $0 Go to site More
    Bankwest Platinum Debit MasterCard
    Link to an eligible Bankwest transaction account. Plus no overseas ATM withdrawal fees
    Mastercard 2.99% $0 More
    Citibank Plus Everyday Account
    No international transaction fees and no overseas ATM withdrawals fees if you use a Citibank ATM overseas.
    Mastercard 0% $0 More

    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 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:

    You can access your own funds and not worry about interest

    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.

    You can look forward to 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.

    There's 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

    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.

    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.

    Are you searching for travel cards instead?

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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.

    PrintIs 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.

    Why is a foreign transaction fee charged?

    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.

    PrintHow do I open a bank account in Vanuatu?

    Contact a bank that operates in Vanuatu, for example ANZ, and see if you are eligible to apply online for an account. However, keep in mind that you may need to satisfy certain criteria, such as holding a residency permit card. Compare offshore accounts here.

    How do I get complimentary travel insurance on my credit card?

    Complimentary travel insurance is typically offered with high-end rewards credit cards. These cards usually require you to pay an annual fee and you may also have to satisfy certain requirements in order to activate cover, such as paying for your holiday with your card. See this page for credit cards that offer free travel insurance.

    Is it possible to deposit HKD into my everyday bank account?

    Yes it is, as long as you have a foreign currency or multi-currency account.

    Do you have any information about the EUR vs AUD?

    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.

    Is there a debit card that lets you load EUR into it?

    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.

    What’s the best* travel card to bring to Malaysia?

    Look for a card that can be loaded with Malaysian Ringgit and that also offers minimal fees on foreign transactions.

    Can I use my Qantas Cash card to withdraw money overseas?

    Yes, you can use your card wherever MasterCard is accepted and it can be loaded with multiple currencies.

    I’m travelling to Fiji – should I exchange currency here or in Fiji?

    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.

    What happens if I think my account has been scammed overseas?

    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.

    How do I move money overseas to and from accounts?

    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.

    Can I use Australian chipped cards when travelling to other countries?

    Yes, chip cards are widely accepted around the world.

    How do I send funds to someone overseas?

    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.

    Can I still access Australian bank websites when overseas?

    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.

    Can I send money overseas to India using a bank account?

    Yes your traditional bank account should be able to send money to loved ones in India. However, you may be hit with expensive fees and a low exchange rates. You may want to consider using an international money transfer instead.

    Back to top

    What are the benefits and drawbacks of using a travel debit card?

    The benefits

    • 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 the right ATM. If you use a partner ATM, you don’t have to pay any additional ATM fees.
    • 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. If you use a suitable debit card, you don’t have to worry about paying international transaction fees.
    • 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.

    The drawbacks

    • 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.

    Wait, I need some extra help!

    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.

    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.

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    8 Responses to Which Debit Card is Best to Use When Travelling Overseas?

    1. Default Gravatar
      Kieran | February 8, 2017


      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?

      • Staff
        Anndy | February 8, 2017

        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.


    2. Default Gravatar
      Richard | October 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

      • Staff
        Clarizza | October 26, 2016

        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 operate 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 so you may find the 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.

    3. Default Gravatar
      Julie-Ann | October 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 :)

      • Staff
        Clarizza | October 5, 2016

        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.


    4. Default Gravatar
      Maureen | June 24, 2016

      Which debit card charges no atm fees while in uk..

      • Staff
        Clarizza | June 28, 2016

        Hi Maureen,

        Thanks for your question. We are an Australian comparison site and as such provide general advice only. Our Travel Debit Card page might be of assistance – you can compare travel debit cards direct on the page. The Citibank Plus Everyday Account featured on this page does not charge ATM withdrawal fees at any Citibank branded ATMs around the world, including the UK.

        Hope this helps.


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