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How to avoid foreign currency exchange fees when travelling

Are you going overseas? Avoid foreign transaction fees with the right travel money option and save on your vacation costs.

Using a credit card while travelling overseas may be convenient, but it can get quite costly when you factor in rates and fees. Learning how to get the most favourable rates and how to avoid unnecessary fees can go a long way towards saving you cash that could be better spent on your travels.

Compare credit cards with 0% foreign transaction fee and other travel money products

Rates last updated November 21st, 2017
Name Product Foreign Currency Conversion Fee Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Overseas Cash Advance Fee Annual fee Product Description
Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
The greater of 2% or $4
$0 p.a.
Receive complimentary international travel insurance, access to a 24/7 concierge service and 0% foreign transaction fees.
Bankwest Breeze Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
Greater of 2% or $4.00
$99 p.a.
Offers an introductory balance transfer rate of 0% p.a. for 13 months with a 2% BT fee, plus platinum perks.
ANZ Rewards Travel Adventures card
0% of transaction value
$0
$0
$225 p.a.
Receive 40,000 bonus Velocity Points when you spend $500 on eligible purchases in the first three months.
28 Degrees Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
3% of the cash advance or $4 (whichever is greater)
$0 p.a.
Designed for travel, benefit from no international transaction fees on purchases and no currency conversion fees.
Westpac Lite Card
0% of transaction value
$0
$108 p.a.
Keep credit card costs low with a maximum credit limit of $4,000 and no foreign transaction fees.
Bankwest Qantas Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
2% or $4, whichever is greater
$160 p.a.
Enjoy a high credit limit with complimentary travel insurances and earn 0.5 Qantas Points per $1 spent on eligible purchases.
Bankwest More Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
2% or $4, whichever is greater
$160 p.a.
No fees on overseas ATM withdrawal, no foreign transaction fees and earn 75,000 bonus More rewards points.

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated November 21st, 2017
Name Product Description Available Currencies ATM Withdrawal Fee Reload Fee Initial Load Fee
You can load and hold up to eleven currencies on the Qantas Cash Mastercard with a locked-in exchange rate. A travel card to be used at home as well as overseas, rack up Qantas Points on all eligible purchases. Debit cards incur a 1% reload fee.
AUD, AED, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD
AUD 1.95, CAD 2.00, EUR 1.50, GBP 1.25, HKD 15.00, JPY 160, NZD 2.50, SGD 2.50, USD 1.95, THB 70.00, AED 6.50
$0
$0
The NAB Traveller Card allows you to load up and lock in up to 10 currencies. Benefit from no fees for reloading funds. Comes with a secondary card for added security.
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD

Overseas: $0 per withdrawal via international ATMs

Domestic: $3.75 fee applies

$0
$0

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated November 21st, 2017
$
Name Product Product Description Debit Card Access ATM Withdrawal Fee Monthly Account Fee Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Overseas Eftpos Fee
Bankwest Qantas Transaction Account
Earn Qantas Points on Debit Mastercard transactions, overseas ATM withdrawals and your account balance and get to travelling sooner.
Mastercard
$0
$0
2.95%
ING Orange Everyday Account
Receive an international ATM withdrawal fee rebate and an international transaction fee waiver when you meet the deposit and purchase criteria.
Visa
$0
$2.50
$2.50
Westpac Choice
Take advantage of Westpac's Global Alliance and save on overseas ATM fees at over 50,000 locations worldwide with fee-free cash withdrawals.
Mastercard
$0
$5
3%
St.George Complete Freedom Account
Part of the Westpac Global Alliance, save on overseas ATM fees at over 50,000 locations worldwide with fee-free cash withdrawals.
Visa
$0
$5
3%

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated November 21st, 2017
Name Product Foreign Currency Conversion Fee Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Overseas Cash Advance Fee Annual fee Product Description
Bankwest Qantas Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
2% or $4, whichever is greater
$160 p.a.
Enjoy a high credit limit with complimentary travel insurances and earn 0.5 Qantas Points per $1 spent on eligible purchases.
Bankwest Qantas World Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
$270 p.a.
Earn uncapped Qantas Points per $1 spent on eligible purchases and receive complimentary travel insurance.
Bankwest More Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
2% or $4, whichever is greater
$160 p.a.
No foreign transaction fees plus complimentary insurance cover.

Compare up to 4 providers

What rates and fees should I be watching out for?

Whether you're spending overseas or shopping online with an international merchant, you'll usually encounter a foreign currency exchange rate and a foreign currency fee. If you're using a credit card or travel card, you may find that the card exchange rate is less favourite than the listed interbank rates.

The foreign transaction fee is usually a percentage (such as 3%) of the transaction amount, which can add up if you're using the card regularly or paying for big-ticket items.

These fees can be avoided though. It’s all about choosing the right travel money product. You can compare some of your options in the table above.

How can you avoid foreign currency exchange fees?

No foreign transaction fee credit cards

If you’re a frequent traveller to faraway lands, it is advisable to seek out credit cards designed for travelling. These cards advertise low or no fees on foreign transactions, are connected to extensive worldwide ATM networks, and in some cases will even waive any extra fees for currency conversion. You may pay a slightly higher annual fee for this type of credit card, but the money you’ll save on overseas spending might balance that out.

Prepaid travel money cards

Prepaid travel money cards provide a happy compromise between credit card and cash. You can load these cards with Australian dollars, then convert the funds you’ve loaded into any of the foreign currencies supported by the card. Then if you use your card to spend anywhere the loaded foreign currencies are the local currency, you’ll save on currency conversion fees.

These cards can come with fees including purchase fees, loading or reloading costs and ATM withdrawal charges. Weigh these fees up against how much you could save on currency conversion fees to determine whether it’s a valuable option.

Using debit cards

Most Australian debit cards will charge foreign currency exchange fees when used overseas. To save costs on your next holiday, look for a debit card with low or no foreign transaction fees. Unlike a credit card, debit card transactions don’t incur interest and you can withdraw funds without being charged a cash advance fee. If your card belongs to an international ATM alliance, you can also save on ATM withdrawal costs. You can compare debit cards designed for travel here.

Rewards and frequent flyer credit cards

Rewards and frequent flyer credit cards allow you to earn points for every $1 you spend on eligible purchases. While these cards usually come with higher annual fees and interest rates, you can find some that come with no foreign transaction fees. If you’re usually able to repay your balance each month, a rewards credit card with no foreign transaction fees could be a great way to get rewarded for your holiday expenses.

Using cash

Carrying the local currency in cash is another way you can avoid foreign transaction fees on day-to-day holiday expenses. It’s not exactly safe to carry all of your travel budget in cash though, so look for a card that has low ATM withdrawal fees and make sure that you have more than one way to access your funds.

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What are the other costs and features to consider?

Even if your travel money card or strategy helps you avoid currency conversion fees, there are still other costs and factors to consider. When you’re comparing your travel money options, keep the following in mind as well:

  • ATM fees. If you’re not careful, you could end up paying fees for using an overseas ATM twice. Unless your bank has a global ATM alliance that allows you to make international withdrawals for free, you could be charged by your bank and the issuing bank for withdrawals and even account balance enquiries when travelling.
  • Annual fee. The price for paying low or no foreign transaction fees on your credit card is often a high annual fee. Before committing to any one card, make sure that the savings and rewards you’ll reap outweigh the annual fees for the card. You can compare cards with no annual fee or foreign transaction fee here.
  • Supported currencies and global acceptance. Make sure the card you’re using will work in your holiday destination. Make sure that your credit card is accepted worldwide, as you can expect with a Visa, Mastercard or American Express. If you’re using a travel money card, make sure it supports the local currency you’ll be using or doesn’t charge a currency conversion fee.
  • Merchant fees. You might find in some places that the merchant adds a surcharge to your transaction for using a foreign issued credit card. It's smart to check your bill before paying to avoid these fees and have backup travel money options (such as cash or a travel card) on hand in those events.
  • Exchange rates. Check to see how often exchange rates are updated and if there are additional fees for currency conversion. A good way to avoid negative exchange rate movements is to lock in the rates with a travel money card.
  • Additional travel perks. Complimentary travel insurance, a 24/7 global emergency customer service line and frequent flyer rewards programs are all extras that could offer some added value to your card.

How often you travel, the length of your stay, and the way that you spend money abroad all factor into your decision about the type of credit, debit or travel card to use abroad. Be sure to consider your typical expenses and everyday spending needs when choosing a card that will offer you the most value.

Ways to avoid travel money fees and charges

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Sally McMullen

Sally McMullen is a journalist at finder.com.au who is a credit cards, frequent flyer and travel money expert by day and music maven by night.

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33 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    shainzJune 28, 2017

    I’m going overseas soon and considering getting a credit card that charges no currency conversion fees. However, looking back on my current credit card records, it seems I have been charged the conversion fee at times and not others. For example, all transactions I made in a previous US trip did not have a fee attached but most (but not all) of my online purchases in online stores do. What is the logic here? Wouldn’t the transactions made in the US need to be converted in the same way? Thanks.

    • Staff
      MayJune 28, 2017Staff

      Hi Shainz,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      Typically, when you’re shopping online or travelling overseas, credit cards charge fees of 2% to 3% for your transaction in a foreign currency. Although some there are some credit cards that waive this foreign transaction fee. If you’d like to compare the credit cards that do not charge foreign conversion fee, please click this link.

      Cheers,
      May

  2. Default Gravatar
    matthewMay 20, 2016

    The company that I work for has told me that they can pay me in USD at the current exchange rate eliminating the need to convert AUD to foreign currency at the banks exchange rate. Is there any travel card that I can get that I can load foreign currency directly on to.

    • Staff
      MayMay 23, 2016Staff

      Hi Matthew,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      Yes, there are actually travel money cards that you’ll be able to load and reload multiple currencies onto. You can find them here.

      I hope this has helped.

      Cheers,
      May

    • Default Gravatar
      matthewMay 23, 2016

      Yes, I know but are there travel cards that I can load USD directly on to them not by converting AUD to USD at the banks exchange rates. I can get paid in USD so this would save me a lot of money with conversion fee’s and lost money due to banks low currency exchange rates on these cards.

    • Staff
      MayMay 23, 2016Staff

      Hi Matthew,

      Thanks for you reply.

      Yes, there are travel cards that will allow you to load USD directly onto the card. In fact, all Australian travel money card issuers allow you to do that. You can lock in an exchange rate when you convert AUD to USD and spend without paying the extra 3% for currency conversion. Please feel free to visit this page for more information.

      I hope this has helped.

      Cheers,
      May

  3. Default Gravatar
    KayeMay 17, 2016

    We have a Bankwest Platinum credit card which we plan to use when travelling overseas. Some people are saying that if you pre-load this card with your own money, any cash withdrawal using your own money has ‘no’ cash withdrawal fee applied because it is the platinum card. Is this the case?

    • Staff
      MayMay 17, 2016Staff

      Hi Kaye,

      Thanks for your question.

      Unfortunately, that is not the case. However, you can load your Bankwest Platinum credit card with funds. Please find the two circumstances below when loading your account with funds:

      1. If your account is current and has no outstanding balance – it will make your card in a positive balance. If you withdraw cash at any ATMs abroad, you will be charged with $4 fee every time you withdraw but, you will not be charged with a foreign transaction fee.

      In the meantime, if you withdraw money that is more than your loaded funds (money from your credit limit), that transaction is considered as a cash advance and fees/interests as well as foreign transaction fees will be charged to your account.

      2. If your account has outstanding balance – any amount you load onto your credit card will clear the debt first and be regarded as a Credit Card Payment. As an example, you have $10,000 credit limit and you have a current outstanding balance of $6,000 (spent), that means you only have $4,000 left on the account (credit limit). Once you load your card with $8,000, the $6,000 will be treated as a payment and you only have $2,000 left to use your own funds.

      I hope this has answered your question.

      Cheers,
      May

  4. Default Gravatar
    AnnMay 1, 2016

    I’m going to Europe and I’m confused re the pre loaded card. There seems to be a fee to have it also a fee for transactions. I’m consider ing just convert my money before I go. But I’ll also have money in my own debit card, how do I access this money without paying excess fees??? All confusing????????

    • Staff
      YsaMay 4, 2016Staff

      Hi Ann,

      Thanks for your question.

      Pre-loaded cards or prepaid travel cards lets you hold multiple currencies in Europe. However, in some cases, spending in a currency not loaded on the card will incur you currency conversion fees.

      On the other hand, there are also some charges associated with international debit card use, usually ATM and currency conversion fees. To avoid incurring these fees, take time to compare which debit card is right and suitable for your next holiday in Europe.

      You may wish to check our Travel Money Guide: Europe for a comprehensive guide and clear comparison on how each travel money option work in Europe.

      I hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Ysa

  5. Default Gravatar
    MarieApril 24, 2016

    I am travelling soon and will be using GBP, USD & euros. I don’t know how much of each I will need Do I have to load specific amounts of each denomination? Are they interchangeable?

    • Staff
      SallyMay 13, 2016Staff

      Hi Marie,

      Thanks for your question.

      If you get a travel money card, you can load Australian dollars on your card and then transfer them to the relevant currency wallets as you need to use the funds. So, say you’re visiting the UK first, you can move your funds into your UK currency wallet, then transfer the remaining funds into your Euros wallet or USD wallet as you need them.

      You can start comparing travel money cards here.

      I hope this has helped.

      Cheers,

      Sally

  6. Default Gravatar
    robertApril 7, 2016

    is there a conversion charge for using a debit card oversees

    • Staff
      SharonApril 8, 2016Staff

      Hi Robert, thanks for your inquiry.

      Australian debit cards when used overseas will require currency conversion fees. You may also refer to our best debit cards to use when travelling overseas* review to help you save money if you’re planning to use one.

      Cheers,

      Sharon

  7. Default Gravatar
    ronOctober 3, 2015

    what credit card will allow me to preload using my own money and then allow me to withdraw it overseas from an atm or bank without charging me the cash advance fees

    • Staff
      JonathanOctober 6, 2015Staff

      Hi Ron, thanks for your inquiry!

      Preloading a credit card can avoid the cash advance fees, however regular benefits such as fraud protection can be lost in such circumstances. We do not currently have a list of cards that allow this transaction, was there a specific bank/lender you had in mind today? You may like to refer to our guide on how to avoid foreign currency exchange fees when travelling.

      Cheers,

      Jonathan

  8. Default Gravatar
    September 4, 2015

    Some European merchants capitalizing on the fact that many Americans are intimidated by unusual currencies cheerfully charge you for converting their prices to dollars before running your credit card. So, how can a smart traveler avoid or at least reduce these fees?

  9. Default Gravatar
    NigelJanuary 19, 2015

    Hi, I have noted the cash advance fee from ATM’s overseas but can you confirm if interest in charged from the day you obtain that cash advance? Is this interest negated if the full outstanding balance is paid within the 55 day period?

    • Default Gravatar
      NigelJanuary 20, 2015

      Hi Jonathan,

      Thanks for your reply. Sorry I should have been more specific regarding which card I would be using. It would be a 28 degrees MasterCard with the 55 day interest free period. Given this info can you specify what charges would be payable and whether the interest on the cash advance only starts to be charged after the 55 day period or from the day the cash a advance is taken out. Thanks again for your help.

    • Staff
      JonathanJanuary 20, 2015Staff

      Hi Nigel,

      A cash advance fee of 3% of the cash advance or $4 (whichever is greater) will be charged to the account on each occasion on which you obtain a cash advance or make a cash equivalent transaction, interest will be charged on the cash advance fee on a daily basis from the date of the withdrawal. If your account is in credit, you will not be charged interest on the cash advance fee.

      I hope this helps!

      Cheers,

      Jonathan

    • Staff
      JonathanJanuary 20, 2015Staff

      Hi Nigel,

      Thanks for your question,

      Depending on the credit card you are using, on top of the normal interest rate and lack of interest free days, you can be imposed a $1-$10 / 1%-4% fee (whichever is higher) every time you carry out an overseas cash advance. You will also be charged the standard cash advance rate for your credit card (as well as the international cash advance fee).

      I hope this helps!

      Cheers,

      Jonathan

  10. Default Gravatar
    aengusJune 28, 2014

    I like 28 degrees but as they changed the rules on 1st of Jan 2014 and now charge 3% or $4 for cash-out from a preloaded card, I use it for online or credit transactions abroad only

    Cash out, at $2.50 per t transaction, I do via Ing orange everyday, a debit card.

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