Foreign Currency Transactions Using Debit Cards

Information verified correct on December 8th, 2016

These cards could offer you flexibility and savings by letting you use your own money overseas with limited fees.

Debit cards are becoming an increasingly competitive option for Australians making foreign transactions. Some debit card providers are matching offers of credit cards and travel money cards by offering low transactions fees, low interest rates and international money transfer options. Take a look at the finder.com.au guide to debit cards for foreign transactions to see if they might be an option for.

Rates last updated December 8th, 2016
$
Monthly Account Fee Debit Card Access ATM Withdrawal Fee Fee Free Deposit p.m. Details
St.George Complete Freedom Account
10% Cash back for online gaming purchases.
Waived account keeping fees when minimum deposit is met with no minimum balance.
Visa $0 $2,000 No account keeping fees, if you deposit $2,000 per month plus no minimum balance required. No ATM fees when using St.George, Westpac and BankSA ATMs. Open More
Citibank Plus Everyday Account
Free international money transfers and free overseas Citibank ATM withdrawals.
Visa $0 $0 No ATM fees using Citibank, Westpac, BankSA and St.George branded ATMs in Australia. Use overseas Citibank ATMs for free. More
Rates last updated December 8th, 2016
$
Monthly Account Fee Debit Card Access ATM Withdrawal Fee Fee Free Deposit p.m. Details
St.George Complete Freedom Account
$0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
Visa $0 $2,000 No account keeping fees, if you deposit $2,000 per month plus no minimum balance required. No ATM fees when using St.George, Westpac and BankSA ATMs. Open More
Westpac Choice
$0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
Mastercard $0 $2,000 No ATM fees when using St.George, Westpac, BankSA or Bank of Melbourne ATMs in Australia. Deposit at least $2,000 per month and enjoy no monthly service fee. Open More
Bank of Melbourne Express Freedom
$0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
Visa $0 $1,000 No ATM fees when you use Bank of Melbourne, St.George, Westpac and BankSA ATMs. No monthly fees if you deposit $1000 into your account each month. Open 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 $0 $2,000 No monthly fees when you deposit at least $2,000 into your account each month. Free access to Bankwest and CommBank ATMs in Australia. No overseas ATM withdrawal fees (charged by Bankwest) though third party fees may apply. Open More
Citibank Plus Everyday Account
No international transaction fees and no overseas ATM withdrawals fees if you use a Citibank ATM overseas.
Visa $0 $0 No ATM fees using Citibank, Westpac, BankSA and St.George branded ATMs in Australia. Use overseas Citibank ATMs for free. More

What are the features of debit cards for foreign transactions?

Now you can use your own money and also take advantage of the following features:

  • Low foreign transaction fees. When you make a foreign transaction with any debit card you will be charged certain fees, but some debit cards have low fees or waive these fees altogether.
  • Prepaid options. Card providers have come out with various prepaid debit card options for travellers that allow you to load your card with the money you want to spend. These cards let you save on currency conversions and also some foreign transaction fees.
  • Low ATM fees. Some cards do not charge you to use foreign ATMs, which can save you a considerable amount of money when travelling.
  • Low interest rates. Debit cards generally charge very low interest rates or no interest rates at all, which make them a competitive option when compared to what you could be charged for using some credit cards.

Other benefits

  • Global money transfers. If you regularly make foreign purchases or payments then you can take advantage of free transfers to global banking locations, a service offered by some debit cards.
  • Rewards programs. Some debit cards let you earn rewards points for eligible purchases which you can use to claim travel benefits. Take a look at whether your card is linked to a frequent flyer program or a dedicated provider rewards program.
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A guide to foreign transaction fees

Foreign transactions come with additional fees and charges that are not applicable for ordinary transactions. It's important to understand all fees involved with these transactions so you can compare your debit card options and find one that will cost you the least money. Think about what kind of foreign transactions you will be making and then pick a card that suits how you'll be using it. Here are some fees to look out for:

  • ATM fees

When you are using a credit card or debit card overseas you can expect to be charged for using an ATM. Some providers will charge you a fee as high as $5 for using a foreign ATM, and you have to pay that on top of the fee you are charged from the ATM provider. Make sure you check the fees charged for using your card and then work out how much you will have to pay for each ATM transaction, which includes checking your balance, transferring and withdrawing money. To save on these fees try and withdraw a large amount of money when you visit a foreign ATM to limit the amount of times you will be charged.

  • International money transfers

International money transfers are where you send money overseas through an international transfer system using different currencies. Some debit cards allow you to transfer money to partner banks in various countries and charge you no fees. Using other methods, such as online money transfers, you may be charged fees as high as $30. If you often need to make foreign money transfers then a debit card that offers this for free may be worth considering.

  • Currency conversion fees

Currency conversion fees are charged each time you make a transaction and the bank needs to convert your money into a different currency. Depending on how you go about converting your money you could be charged fees as high as 3.4% of your transaction amount. If you make this transaction at an ATM or at an airport then you can be charged extra fees on top of the interest you are charged, and you can also lose money through unfavourable foreign transaction rates.

Other considerations

When you are comparing your travel money options, there are a few things to consider before you make your decision. If you are thinking about using a debit card on your trip then you should check the areas you will be travelling in and think about what access you will have to your money, and also what you will be charged for this access. Check to see if your bank has any partner ATMs that will not charge you fees to help you save money.

You should also consider what you will be using your card for. If you are travelling around and will be using multiple currencies and want to use a debit card, you can limit your transaction fees by only withdrawing money once or twice for each place you visit so you do not have to pay multiple currency conversions. Although if this is the case, you may benefit from a travel money card that allows multiple currencies to be uploaded to the card.

To make sure you get the best travel money option for you, you should compare cards online and pick the one that best suits your travel needs.

What are the pros and cons to using a low currency conversion fee debit card?

Pros

  • Use your own money. Debit cards allow you to use only your own money when travelling so you can limit your chance of overspending.
  • Accessibility. Most debit cards are linked to providers such as Visa and MasterCard so you can enjoy the same access to your money as you have with a credit card.
  • Savings. Debit cards can offer low foreign transaction fees, no ATM fees, low interest rates and prepaid options which all give you opportunities to save money.
  • Linked to your bank account. Using a card that is directly linked to your transaction account makes it quick and easy to transfer money onto your card without being charged reload fees.

Cons

  • No extra funds. You have no access to emergency funds like you do with credit cards, which may be limiting while you are overseas.
  • Limited special benefits. Debit cards do not offer the same travel benefits that come with some credit cards, for example some do not offer complimentary travel insurance.
  • Cannot lock in exchange rates. Other travel money options allow you to lock in exchange rates, but this is not an option for debit cards and as such you may lose out on money.

How do I apply?

To apply for a debit card for foreign transactions simply follow the secure link on this page which will take you through to the card provider's online application form. The application process differs between providers, but generally you will need to provide the following:

  • Personal details such as your name and address
  • Forms of identification ie. driver's license, medicare, passport, birth certificate etc.
  • In some cases you may need to provide financial details

Eligibility criteria

The eligibility criteria for debit cards is generally not as strict as it is with credit cards. Card providers do not usually require a good credit rating because these cards only allow you to use your own money, not theirs. Debit cards also offer options for people who are looking for joint applications, which is great for you if you are travelling with a partner or a card option if you have children under 18.

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