Travel money tips for teenagers

Explore the travel money options for young people and get peace of mind with these tips for going overseas.

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Whether it's an exchange program, a gap year or a school excursion, going overseas is an exciting adventure when you're a teenager. But it can also be overwhelming to try and work out everything you need before you go. For your parents, there's also a level of concern around safety and communication.

So to help keep things simple, we've rounded up some of the top tips on travel money, including the different money options available and how to keep it safe. There's also a checklist that you can use to help organise documents, details and other essentials before the trip.

What you'll find in this guide

Travel money options for teenagers

Depending on the destination that you're travelling to, you could use any or all of these different ways to pay:

  • Foreign currency

Cash is still king in most places around the world, so having some notes and coins in the currency of where you're going will make it easy to pay for anything from taxis to meals to souvenirs.

Generally, it's a good idea to have at least a small amount of foreign currency before you go overseas so that you can pay for what you need when you land. Cash can also help you save on the ATM fees and foreign transaction fees charged by many cards.

  • Travel money cards

These prepaid debit cards let you load and spend money in a range of different currencies, which can make it easier to keep track of how much you have left to spend. In terms of security, these cards are not linked to a bank account and provide zero liability against fraud. Some travel cards also come with a second, backup card in case anything happens to the main one.

  • Debit cards

If you have a debit card linked to your teen, student or everyday bank account, you can take this with you overseas. Regular debit cards can be used anywhere Mastercard or Visa is accepted and offer protection against fraud.

But make sure you find out what fees will apply, as many debit cards will charge a currency conversion fee and overseas ATM transaction fees that can quickly eat into your balance. It's also a good idea to let your bank know where the card will be used, so they don't block or cancel it when they see unfamiliar transactions being made.

What about credit cards?

While Australian credit cards are accepted around the world, you have to be at least 18 years old to apply for one. You also have to meet other eligibility requirements that relate to your income and credit history, which could be difficult if you're still young.

If you want your teenager to have access to a credit card when they're overseas, another option is to add them as a secondary cardholder on your account. You can usually request a secondary or additional card for anyone over the age of 16. If the request is approved, they'll get a card linked to your account, which they can take with them overseas. Just keep in mind that you'll be responsible for all the transactions made on your account.

Top 3 travel money tips for teens

1. Take more than one form of travel money

Even if you think you'll mainly use cash or a single travel card when you're overseas, it's important to have other options available just in case something happens. For example, if you lose some cash but you also have a card, you'll be able to use it for payments or find an ATM to withdraw more money.

The mix of cash and cards you take is up to you, but generally, it's good to have at least a small amount of cash and one or two cards that you can use for different types of payments.

2. Watch out for debit card or credit card fees

Regular debit cards and credit cards usually charge a foreign transaction fee worth around 1-3% of your transaction each time they're used overseas. Many cards also charge foreign ATM fees of around $3-$5. Some cards also charge an overseas EFTPOS fee of around 3% of your transaction.

These costs can quickly add up if you're regularly using the card overseas. As an example, if you use a debit card to take out $500 cash, it could cost you up to $20 in fees (a 3% foreign transaction fee and a $5 ATM fee). You'll also usually be charged a fee by the overseas ATM company or operator every time you withdraw cash (or even check your balance), adding even more to the cost.

How can I avoid overseas ATM transaction fees?

The first step is to find out what fees your bank charges. Then, you can reduce or avoid these fees by:

  • Withdrawing large amounts of cash at one time. This helps keep the fees down and also helps protect you against card fraud issues, such as ATM skimming.
  • Looking at travel cards instead. If the cost seems high with your current bank, get a travel money card that lets you load and spend in foreign currency (meaning you can avoid foreign transaction charges).
  • Considering a new card. You could also compare debit cards with $0 overseas fees or get a 0% foreign fee credit card and request an additional card for your teenager. Just remember that cash advance fees and charges will apply if they use a credit card to withdraw money from an ATM.

3. Keep your travel money in a few different places

Having all your foreign currency and cards in a wallet makes you an easy target for pickpockets and scammers. It also means you'll have no backup if you lose your wallet. Instead, consider keeping some of your travel money in a separate place.

For example, you could lock up most of your cash in a hotel safe or the locked part of your luggage and only take what you need for the day. Or, you could keep most of your cash and a backup card in a money belt under your clothes and just have a small amount of money in a wallet that's easily accessible whenever you want to make a payment.

Six ways to carry your currency while travelling

Teen travel checklist

Here are the essential tasks to get done before you or your teen heads overseas:

  • Confirm your travel details and bookings. Get an up-to-date copy of your itinerary, including your flight details and booking reference numbers. This will help you keep track of your plans, even if there are delays or changes later on. Also check that you have any required visas or visa waivers, as well as any travel vaccinations that may be required.
  • Get travel insurance. Travel insurance can give you peace of mind by covering the costs associated with medical issues, theft, loss or even serious travel delays. Make sure you get cover for the entire time you're travelling and check how much cover you'll get for issues like lost or stolen money. It's also a good idea to put some cash aside to cover any excess payment you'll need to make if you end up filing a claim.
  • Organise your travel money. Buy your foreign currency at least two weeks before you leave so that it arrives in time. If you've got a prepaid travel card, you'll need to load it with Australian dollars and then convert it to the foreign currency of your choice. This could take a few days to process, so make sure you do it before you need to leave.
  • Let your bank know that you'll be overseas. If you're taking a regular debit card or a secondary credit card, call the bank and let them know when and where you'll be travelling. This will help them protect your account without accidentally blocking or cancelling your cards when you try to use them overseas. It's also an opportunity to ask them what fees will apply.
  • Make copies of important documents. As well as your travel itinerary, make a copy of your passport, any student or travel IDs that you need, the cards you're taking with you and any visas required for the trip. If the travel is part of an exchange program, also make a copy of any forms required for it. Keep one copy of these details at home and one with you when you're travelling, in case anything happens to the originals.
  • Plan how you'll contact your family. Depending on where you're going, your options could include Wi-Fi, roaming SIMs (as long as your phone is unlocked), International Roaming on your current phone, prepaid phone cards or Internet cafes. Research different options so you can decide on what will be easiest for keeping in regular contact. Also check which locations may not offer much phone or Internet service to avoid any extra worry if there's radio silence.
  • Check for any known scams or warnings connected to your destination. Learning about the travel scams that you could face in different countries will help you avoid a lot of issues. As well as these common scams, you can find out about the latest risks for a particular country and get tips on staying safe by visiting

There's a lot to consider when you're travelling as a teen. Planning your travel money and other essentials ahead of time means you can stay safe and enjoy exploring new places around the world.

Compare travel cards, credit cards and debit cards

Name Product Available Currencies ATM Withdrawal Fee Initial Load Fee Reload fee
Cash Passport Platinum Mastercard
USD $2.50, EUR €2.50, GBP £2.00, NZD $3.50, THB ฿80.00, CAD $3.50, HKD $18.00, JPY ¥260.00, SGD $3.50, AUD $3.50, AED 10.00
Up to 11 currencies on 1 card locked in exchange rates and no load fees.

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Name Product Foreign currency conversion fee Interest-free period Purchase rate Annual fee
CommBank Ultimate Awards Credit Card with Qantas Points
Up to 55 days on purchases
20.24% p.a.
Receive 70,000 bonus Qantas Points when you apply and spend $5,000 in the first 90 days from card approval. Plus, 0% foreign fees.
NAB StraightUp Card
0% p.a.
Save with 0% interest charges and 0% foreign transaction fees. Plus, $0 monthly fees when you don't use the card or carry a balance.

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Name Product Card access ATM Withdrawal Fee Monthly Account Fee Internatonal ATM Fee Foreign transaction fee
HSBC Everyday Global Account
Special offer: $100 cash bonus for new HSBC customers.
Earn 2% cashback on tap and pay purchases (T&C's apply).
Enjoy no minimum ongoing balance or transaction requirements and the flexibility to hold up to 10 currencies. Apple Pay and Google Pay available.

Citi Global Currency Account
Earn up to 0.6% p.a. interest on your AUD balance.
$0 monthly account fee.
Enjoy one linked debit card to hold up to 10 currencies and receive foreign currencies for free.

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Pictures: Shutterstock

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