Where are Australians travelling to and how should we manage our travel money?
Australians love to travel, but there are some places we like to visit more than others. These preferred destinations come and go like trends, but knowing how to manage your money overseas never goes out of style. Here we've looked at some of these trends and highlighted the different ways Australian vacationers can manage their money in our top favourite overseas destinations.
Top 10 travel destinations for Australian residents
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), our 10 most popular international destinations based on trend estimates and their percentage changes over the last decade, are as follows:
SHORT-TERM RESIDENT DEPARTURES (2005-2015) Trend Series
|Destination countries||('000)||Destination countries||('000)||Trend % change|
|New Zealand||832.3||New Zealand||1 237.5||48.7|
|United States of America||396.3||United States of America||980.8||147.5|
|Total||4 576.9||Total||9 221.5||125.7|
Based on these statistics, short-term departures have more than doubled over the last 10 years, rising from under 4.6 million to over 9.2 million. This can probably be attributed to the strengthening Australian dollar during that time, as well as the increase in budget air travel.
Of those surveyed in 2015, 59% cited their reason for travel was holiday, followed by 24% who were visiting friends and relatives and 9% who were on business. Indonesia and Thailand climbed in popularity among travellers, and India and Japan replaced Hong Kong and Malaysia as preferred destinations.
Based on the top 10 destinations last year, here are some travel money tips and location guides you may find useful.
1. New Zealand
Still the number one favourite among Aussie jetsetters, New Zealand saw a trend increase of 48.7% in the survey. New Zealand still offers good value for the Aussie dollar and remains an accessible land of wonder for us.
The good thing about New Zealand when it comes to cash is how easy it is to withdraw from a machine you recognise. Westpac, ANZ (represented by The National Bank) and Commonwealth Bank (in partnership with ASB) have strong ATM alliances there, so it's a matter of checking where you can make an ATM withdrawal for free or at a reduced rate. Checking with your bank what alliances and fees apply before you head to New Zealand will help you keep the cost of your trip affordable.
Credit cards and debit cards are also good for use in New Zealand, but make sure you take the ones without international transaction fees or currency conversion fees. If you'd like further peace of mind from foreign exchange rate fluctuations, travel cards may be the way to go. Almost all Australian travel money cards support New Zealand dollars, so this is one way to avoid currency conversion fees and spend your cash with convenience.
Indonesia saw tremendous growth in terms of percentage trend increase. Australian visitors to the country jumped from 346,400 to 1,118,700, resulting in a massive 223% spike. This could reflect Bali's reputation as a perennial escape for teenage and young adult school leavers, but also its growing popularity among family vacationers.
If you're off to Indonesia, it's usually a good idea to prepare a healthy mix of travel money for your trip. Note however that your cards will only serve you well in the big cities like Bali or Jakarta. Also, travel money cards do not support the Indonesian Rupiah, so using those would be expensive if you tried. Consider credit cards and debit cards without currency conversion fees instead, and make sure you have enough cash to last you at least a few days.
America has kept its ranking as third favourite due to a remarkable trend increase of 147.5%, possibly owing to the favourable exchange rate then. Although the dollar has weakened with respect to the US dollar since, Hawaii is still expected to remain a popular vacation spot.
The great thing about the US currency is that it's widely accepted around the world and supported by all travel money cards. Also, because the country is so credit-friendly, you should have no trouble carding anytime while there. Just be careful that in the land of the free, you don't get overcharged for currency conversion fees, ATM fees or cash advance fees.
UK saw a modest rise in Australian visitors of 37.4%, which explains its displacement in standing by Indonesia and fall in ranks from second to fourth. Since it's where we get automatic 6-month visas, and where some of us still call on friends and family, the UK will likely never cease as a common destination.
For money, take a good mix of cash and cards. All travel cards load the British Pound, and you may find that your Westpac, St.George, Bank of Melbourne or BankSA card enjoys free withdrawals from Barclays Bank ATMS. Some credit and debit cards also waive their international transaction and ATM fees there.
Thailand jumped up two spots on the ranking with a robust 194% increase in Australian visitors. Its cheap shopping, unspoilt beaches and friendly natives continue to draw countless Australian tourists to its shores.
Several travel cards support the Thai Baht, so make sure you choose those ones. Also take note of ATM fees if you plan to be making withdrawals often—for example, the NAB Traveller Card waives ATM fees for withdrawing preloaded local currency.
For backup, take an emergency credit card that waives currency conversion fees, or one that doesn't charge an international ATM withdrawal fee; but do note that the local ATM operator fee may still apply, and be very cautious about cash advance fees and interest accrual.
China dropped one on the ranking from 5th place to 6th with a 92.6% increase. Nevertheless it should continue to see frequent traffic from Australian visitors and business partners, for both reasons of culture and commerce.
The trouble with the Chinese Yuan Renminbi is a lack of support by travel cards, which reduces your travel money options there. Preloading your funds in Hong Kong dollars makes little sense since the 3% currency conversion fee on each transaction alone makes it a pretty bad idea.
Credit cards are also an expensive option because the currency conversion fees, ATM withdrawal fees and cash advance fees can amount to quite a lot. The Latitude 28° Global Platinum Mastercard waives its ATM and foreign transaction fees, but interest rates still apply. To avoid paying interest, consider a debit card. Citibank Plus Transaction account holders can use Citi ATMs (which are fairly common in China) without paying currency conversion or ATM fees.
Singapore did a slow climb from 8th to 7th with a respectable 112.7% trend growth. Proximity, cleanliness and bustling activity secures its place in the hearts of many a wandering Australian.
Singapore is also hailed for its safety and efficiency, which makes your travel money decisions there relatively simple. Prepaid travel money card, credit card, debit card and cash. Most travel money cards preload the Singapore dollar, and cards are widely accepted by Singaporean merchants. Just make sure your credit and debit cards are free of international ATM withdrawal or international transaction fees.
Fiji fell from 6th to 8th place in the ranking with its moderate trend increase of 76.3%. Despite its crystal clear waters and luxe hotels, Fiji appears to be losing heat to the beaches in Thailand.
Travel money cards are generally not great for Fiji since the Fijian dollar is not a supported currency. The upside of using one of these would be for the sake of security, but note that you will be paying currency conversion fees on each transaction. Should you wish to use a travel card, opt for the one with the lowest foreign transaction fee.
Some credit cards waive their foreign transaction fees, but may charge international ATM withdrawal and cash advance fees. Taking your debit card will eliminate the hefty interest rates on cash advances. Citibank Plus Transaction account holders enjoy zero foreign transaction fees and free ATM withdrawals, while Westpac debit cardholders can withdraw for free from Westpac Pacific Banking ATMs.
India came out of nowhere with its 228.5% trend spike, which was the most rapid growth on the chart. The diversity of this vast nation holds much promise for the Aussie adventurer, in terms of food, colour and culture. Also, its low currency definitely makes it an attractive destination.
Cash is a must here. It is important that you have cash reserves or access to cash on your trip. Look for cards that do not charge foreign transaction fees or international ATM withdrawal fees. Unfortunately the Indian Rupee is not supported by travel cards, and credit cards charge cash advance fees and high interest rates that you'd rather avoid. Again, the Citibank Plus Transaction account may be a useful option, because cardholders enjoy zero foreign transaction fees and free ATM withdrawals.
Japan made top 10 with its respectable 177.3% growth in Australian visitors, probably due to its weak Yen and appealing ski slopes. Surrounded by natural beauty, perfect packaging and the ultra-polite, this is one country you should visit at least once in your life.
Japan is a cash-happy culture, so be sure to have lots of cash on you. If you prefer to travel light, take cards without currency conversion or international ATM fees. Also try to steer clear of local ATM operator fees. If you can't avoid the fees, try limiting the frequency of your withdrawals by taking out larger amounts each time. Several travel cards support the Japanese Yen, so make sure to compare them to see which one suits you best.
As always, the ideal travel money option for you depends on your personal travel and spending habits. The above recommendations can be used a guide, but more research and consideration should factor into deciding what will suit your specific needs best.