Are you going overseas? Avoid foreign transaction fees with the right travel money, so you can save more on your holiday.
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 ideal rates and how to avoid unnecessary fees can go a long way towards saving you cash that could be better spent on your travels.
What rates and fees should I be watching out for?
When spending abroad with your card, you will encounter one or both of these—the foreign currency exchange rate and the foreign currency conversion fee. You may notice first of all, that your card exchange rate is less favourable than the listed interbank rates. This may be to incorporate a wee profit margin for your card company. Next, you’ll be charged a foreign transaction fee or currency conversion fee on each overseas transaction. This is typically 3% of the transaction amount, which can amount to hundreds of dollars if you consistently swipe your card 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 below.
Comparison of travel money products
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.
Frequent flyer credit cards
Rewards are typically more expensive when it comes to annual fees and interest rates, but you can find some 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.
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 if you’re considering paying in cash.Back to top
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 would be prudent to check your bill before paying to avoid that fee wherever possible, and to have alternative travel money options 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.Back to top