When travelling overseas, use your own funds through a debit card with low foreign transaction fees and save some money in the process.
Aussies love to travel, so it’s no surprise that many are on the lookout for travel money options that help them save money. If you don’t like the idea of using travellers cheques, travel money cards or a credit card, you could consider a debit card with low foreign transaction fees. While these fees may be low, it’s good to keep in mind that some Australian debit cards may charge slighter higher conversion rates. Begin comparing your options to find the most valuable option for you.
What are debit cards with low foreign transaction fees?
A debit card gives you the ability to access funds from your everyday or transaction account using an ATM or an EFTPOS terminal. This type of debit card works the same as a regular card, though it offers low foreign transaction fees to keep costs to a minimum when spending overseas. Most Australian debit cards come affiliated with Visa or MasterCard, so you can look forward to using these internationally.Back to top
What are the benefits of using a debit card with low foreign transaction fees?
Here are some of the benefits you can expect from using a debit card with low foreign transaction fees while overseas:
- Save money on international transaction fees. Debit card international transaction fees typically vary between two to three percent of the transaction value. As such, a card that charges no foreign transaction fees could lead to significant savings.
- Global and easy. If you have a MasterCard or Visa debit card you can look forward to using your card in over 200 countries and territories across the world, at ATMs and EFTPOS terminals alike. You can also use your card for online transactions on international websites, from within Australia and when you’re travelling.
- No overspending and no interest accruing. Unlike a credit card, a debit card only allows you to access the cash in your transaction account. This can help keep your spending in check.
- Keeping it simple. A debit card gives you a simple way to access your own money, no matter where you go. You don’t have to worry about loading foreign currency on to your card, you don’t have to exchange cheques for cash, and you don’t have to worry about currency conversion.
What fees are usually involved when using a debit card with low foreign transaction fees?
While using your debit card when overseas gives you quick and easy access to money, it pays to find out just how much you’ll end up paying in other fees and costs:
- Foreign currency conversion fee. This fee is a combination of what your card provider charges along with what the payment processor charges. For example, if you have an ANZ Visa card, its foreign currency conversion fee would be a combination of fees charged by ANZ and Visa. You have to pay this fee when you use your card to pay in foreign currency, which your card provider converts into Australian dollars.
- Overseas ATM fees. You would, in all likelihood, end up paying this fee twice every time you use an overseas ATM. This is because the ATM owner charges a fee, as does your card provider. You can lower your ATM-related costs by withdrawing funds from your provider’s international ATM partners or withdrawing large sums to reduce your ATM visits.
- Outward international money transfers. You can make certain payments through international money transfers, which normally attract fees of around $20 per transfer, but again, this is not always the case.
How do these debit cards compare to travel money cards or credit cards?
You get multiple options when it comes spending money overseas, and here’s how debit cards compare to popular alternatives like travel money cards and credit cards:
Credit cards, like debit cards, attract international transaction fees and ATM fees. Credit cards can give you access to extra funds outside of your available debit balance, which can come in handy during emergencies. Since a credit card gives you access to money you don’t really have, overspending can become a problem and you could end up accruing high amounts of interest if you’re unable to pay your balance in full.
Travel money cards
A travel money card gives you the ability to load multiple currencies onto a single card to avoid currency conversion fees, and you can lock exchange rates in place before you travel. Depending on the card you’re using, you may be charged a fee when loading funds on the card or withdrawing money from ATMs.Back to top
What are the pros and cons of using a debit card with low foreign transaction fees?
- Access your own money. Since you’re accessing money from your own bank account, you don’t have to worry about repayments, paying interest, or overspending.
- Low or no foreign transaction fees. If you’re outside Australia for a considerable duration and end up using your debit card regularly, low or no foreign transaction fees can lead to noticeable savings.
- No transfers required. Since your debit card gives you direct access to money in your bank account, you don’t have to worry about transferring money from your account to another account or card.
- No conversion required. Using your debit card to pay in foreign currency is easy, and does not require you to carry out complicated calculations. Your card provider does this for you, and uses current exchange rates for the same.
- No access to emergency funds. You can only access funds in your bank account, and no more, so in case of an emergency a credit card could work better.
- Limited choice of providers. While a number of Australian financial institutions provide debit cards, not many offer debit cards with low foreign transaction fees, so your choices remain limited.
What options are available?
If you’re considering getting a new debit card that you can use when travelling overseas, take a look at what the following have to offer:
- Citibank Plus Transaction Account. This account does not charge international transaction fees, international ATM withdrawal fees,and outward international money transfers fees, and it comes with a linked Visa debit card.
- Westpac Global Alliance. Using your Westpac debit card overseas requires that you pay foreign transaction fees, but you can use ATMs that are part of its Global Alliance for free. Some of the banks that are part of this alliance include Bank of America, Barclays Bank, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, and ScotiaBank.
- ING Direct Orange Everyday Account. While you have to pay foreign transaction fees when you use the Visa debit card linked to this account, its ATM withdrawal fee of $2.50 per withdrawal is considerably lower than what most other debit cards charge.
- NAB Gold Visa Debit Card. This debit card is only available to those with the NAB Private Tailored Package, and provides complimentary insurances and other extras when you’re overseas. It also waives fees for overseas ATMs and foreign transaction fees.
Using your debit card when travelling overseas gives you a simple way to use your money. If you’re keen on sticking to using your debit card outside Australia, it is best that you use one that charges low foreign transaction fees. There are a few options available on the market though, so make sure to compare your options before making a final decision.Back to top
Citibank Everyday Plus vs. Westpac Choice
Below we take a look at the fees charged on Citibank Everyday Plus and Westpac Choice debit cards. These fees are important to consider when withdrawing cash from overseas.
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Frequently asked questions
Will I have to pay a foreign transaction fee if I use my debit card to make a purchase through an international website?
Yes, you would. This is because your bank would convert Australian dollars to the currency the website charges you.
If I use my card to book an airline ticket through an international carrier’s Australian website would I have to pay foreign transaction fees?
You would, in all likelihood, have to pay foreign transaction fees in such a case, even if you’re making a payment in Australian dollars, because this fee applies in instances when the merchant accepting the payment is overseas.
Can I get a replacement card if I lose my card when overseas?
Yes. Both Visa and MasterCard offer overseas debit card replacements.