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How to prepare for travel money emergencies

Rates and fees last updated on

While none of us expect the worst to happen on our holiday, things don’t always go to plan. To avoid any major dramas, make sure your finances are in order before you jump on the plane.

On August 3 2015, Commonwealth Bank Travel Money cardholders found themselves temporarily stranded when they could no longer access their funds while overseas. From around 12am AEST, bewildered cardholders began flooding social media when they realised that upon accessing their NetBank, their accounts were empty. CommBank encouraged cardholders to get in contact with the customer service team to organise emergency cash advances. While this was OK for some travellers, others didn’t have any backup funds and were therefore unable to pay for Skype or phone calls they needed to get in touch with CommBank.

Although CommBank had the issue resolved for these cardholders in a few hours, that kind of stress is enough to ruin a trip. Read through our travel money emergency guide to make sure you’re not caught without funds on your next holiday.

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How can I prepare myself for a travel money emergency?

Thinking about what could possibly go wrong is probably the last thing you want to be doing while planning for a trip, but making sure you’ve prepared yourself financially could save you a lot of grief in the long run. Here are a few simple tips you should consider before and during your trip to ensure a drama-free holiday:

  • Notify your provider that you’re travelling

If you’re using your regular debit or credit card overseas, make sure to inform your financial institution that you’ll be travelling overseas before you leave. If your card issuer notices irregular behaviour on your card, such as a large purchase in a Parisian boutique for example, they may decline the payment or block your account as a security precaution. Giving your provider a heads up before you leave is a good way to ensure your holiday spending goes uninterrupted.

  • Organise more than one travel money option

The saying “never put all of your eggs in one basket” applies here. Organising more than one source of funds is a good way to avoid getting caught out while on holiday. Depending on what works for you, you might be interested in organising, say, both a prepaid travel card and a credit card to take with you. That way, the prepaid travel card can be used for everyday purchases and the credit card reserved for larger purchases or emergency situations. Storing cash in a secure area, such as your hotel safe or luggage, is another way to ensure that you have an emergency stash should you need it.

Compare travel money cards, travel credit cards, foreign exchange options

  • Have your provider’s contact numbers on hand

To reduce any potential stress if you’re confronted with a financial emergency, make sure you have your provider’s contact details noted down (preferably in more than one place, for example in both your phone and wallet). Online storage (think Evernote, Dropbox or web-based email) is also a sensible idea.

You should also familiarise yourself with the emergency reporting protocol before you leave. Make sure you know who to call, what the process is and what options are available to you, such as whether you can apply for an emergency cash transfer or a replacement card. All of this information should be available in the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS), though you may wish to contact the customer service team directly to confirm relevant details.

  • If you notice something’s wrong, report it immediately

If you notice suspicious transactions in your account history or if you’re unable to access your funds, you should contact your provider immediately. Resolving the issue or organising an emergency cash transfer or replacement card could take some time, so the sooner you report it, the sooner your provider can fix the problem. Remember, most PDS documents include a clause about taking reasonable steps to protecting your account and notifying the bank as soon as you notice suspicious behaviour on your account. If you fail to take such precautions, you may find yourself unable to claim the emergency cash advance or card replacement from your provider.

While it doesn't seem like much fun to prepare yourself for any unexpected emergencies that could occur overseas, it’s a surefire way to reduce stress and minimise further issues should you run into a monetary emergency. The best strategy to use will always depend on your individual financial circumstances, so make sure to consider your own unique needs before making a decision.

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A comparison of travel money cards

Rates last updated July 26th, 2017
Available Currencies ATM Withdrawal Fee Reload Fee Initial Load Fee
ANZ Travel Card
ANZ Travel Card
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD AUD 3.50, USD 2.50, GBP 2.00, EUR 2.20, NZD 4.50, CAD 3.00, HKD 20.00, SGD 4.00, THB 95, JPY 260 1.1% of the value purchased $0 Go to site More
NAB Traveller Card
NAB Traveller Card
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD

Overseas: $0 per withdrawal via international ATMs

Domestic: $3.75 fee applies

$0 $0 Go to site More
Qantas Cash
Qantas Cash
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 Go to site More
Velocity Global Wallet® Card
Velocity Global Wallet® Card
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD, ZAR AUD 0.00, CAD 2.00, EUR 1.50, GBP 1.25, HKD 15.00, JPY 160, NZD 2.50, SGD 2.50, THB 60, USD 1.95, ZAR 20, Other than above: AUD 1.95 $0 $0 Go to site More
Westpac Global Currency Card
Westpac Global Currency Card
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD, ZAR

Non-Westpac Group ATM in Australia / non-Global Alliance ATM overseas: AUD 2.00, USD 2.00, GBP 1.50, EUR 2.00. NZD 3.00, CAD 2.50, HKD 15.00, SGD 3.00, JPY 200, THB 75.00, ZAR 20.00

Over 50k ATMs (Global ATM Alliance network & Westpac): $0

Transferring through another financial institution (BPAY) may attract a transaction fee. $0 Go to site More
St.George Global Currency Card
St.George Global Currency Card
AUD, HKD, USD, SGD, GBP, JPY, EUR, THB, NZD, ZAR, CAD AUD 2.00 USD 2.00 GBP 1.50 EUR 2.00 NZD 3.00 CAD 2.50 HKD 15.00 SGD 3.00 JPY 200 THB 75.00 ZAR 20.00 $0 $0 Go to site More
Rates last updated July 26th, 2017
Currency Conversion Fee Monthly Inactivity Fee Multiple Currencies on One Card Maximum Load Amount
ANZ Travel Card
ANZ Travel Card
3% $3 Yes $80,000 Go to site More
NAB Traveller Card
NAB Traveller Card
4% $0 Yes $45,000 Go to site More
Qantas Cash
Qantas Cash
0% $0 Yes $20,000 Go to site More
Velocity Global Wallet® Card
Velocity Global Wallet® Card
3% $1 Yes $25,000 Go to site More
Westpac Global Currency Card
Westpac Global Currency Card
3% Yes $50,000 Go to site More
St.George Global Currency Card
St.George Global Currency Card
Yes $50,000 Go to site More

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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