Whether you're looking to spend in multiple currencies, avoid foreign transaction fees or spend with your own cash, compare your travel card options for your next holiday today.
There are plenty of ways to take your cash overseas, but the right option will depend on your finances, travel plans and spending habits. To help narrow down your options, this guide will compare the three main travel card options: prepaid travel cards, credit cards and debit cards. For example, you could enjoy complimentary insurances, reward points and $0 currency conversion fees with a credit card designed for use overseas. If you'd prefer to use your own funds rather than a line of credit but want to spend in multiple currencies, a prepaid travel card could come in handy. Otherwise, you might want to consider a debit card with no foreign transaction fees and no ATM withdrawal costs to access your cash with ease on your next holiday.
Use this guide to weigh up the features, fees and benefits of the available options to help you find the best* travel card for your next overseas trip.
Compare prepaid travel cards
Guide to Prepaid Travel Cards
How do prepaid travel cards work?
A travel money card is a convenient way to access your travel cash while you’re on holiday. There are three main types of travel cards available in Australia: prepaid travel cards, credit cards and debit cards. This guide focuses on prepaid travel cards and their benefits.
Prepaid travel cards
How it works: Prepaid travel cards let you lock-in exchange rates before you travel. This type of travel card allows you to budget more effectively, by knowing exactly what exchange rate you have secured and how much money you have on the card.
Why you should consider a prepaid travel card.
- Lock-in exchange rates. Preload and secure your exchange rate before you travel
- Multiple currencies. Load up to 10 popular currencies for with prepaid cards
- Less fees.
- Avoid fees for currency conversion
- Avoid fees for ATM withdrawals
Things to consider when choosing a prepaid travel card.
- Currency availability. If you are travelling to multiple destinations, some of your currencies might not be supported
- Lower exchange rates. Lock-in exchange rate from the bank is lower compared to physical foreign exchange (cash) and credit cards
What additional benefits come with prepaid travel cards?
There are a number of different prepaid travel cards on the market. They can be broken down into the following categories.
Prepaid travel cards with frequent flyer points.
The Qantas Cash travel money card allows you to earn Qantas Points when you use the card to make an eligible purchase. The Global Wallet® from Velocity, functions in the same way, only rewarding you with Velocity Points instead of Qantas Points.
Points are reward for eligible purchases, which are your everyday type of transaction, you won’t earn points on cash transactions like ATM withdrawals.
These cards couple the convenience of being able to spend without international fees with rewards points earning. There are other products on the market that offer rewards and frequent flyer points when you spend, but these cards also attract currency conversion fees, which negate any real value of rewards or frequent flyer points.
How to compare prepaid travel money cards
The main fees to look out for include:
- Initial load fee. Depending on the card, you might be charged a fee (such as a percentage of the loading amount) when you first load funds on the card.
- Reload fees. If the card doesn't charge an initial load fee, it may charge another fee each time you load funds on the card. If this is the case, you might want to reconsider how often you reload the card.
- ATM withdrawal fees. Some cards will charge a different ATM withdrawal fee depending on where you're withdrawing your cash. If the bank provider belongs to an ATM alliance, you might be able to avoid ATM withdrawal fees. It's also important to note that local ATM fees may still apply.
- Inactivity fee. An inactivity fee is charged if you don’t use the card (usually after 12 months) and there’s money remaining on the account.
- Currency conversion fees. Charged when you complete a purchase overseas.
When comparing travel money cards to find the right one for you, check the available currencies on the card. Find a card that will allow you to load the currencies of the places you plan to visit. If you spend on a currency not loaded onto the card, you will be charged for currency conversion. Remember that each type of travel card has its own pros and cons to accessing currencies, so travellers often take a combination of prepaid, credit and debit cards for convenience.
In terms of receiving the best exchange rate you can either pre-load currency or withdraw when you arrive at your destination.
- Prepaid travel cards. Allow you to pre-load and secure your currency. Whilst the exchange rate may be considerably lower than the market rate, you are safeguarding yourself from receiving a worse exchange rate closer to your trip.
- Credit and debit cards. Provides you with the exchange rate provided by the card network (MasterCard, Visa) when you withdraw. This exchange rate is much closer to the market rate compared to prepaid travel card rates. To find out the exchange rate provided by your network on the day, simply google the "network + exchange rate" e.g. MasterCard exchange rate.
Pros and cons of prepaid travel money cards
- Spend like a local. Prepaid travel cards allow you to preload multiple foreign currencies onto the card at a time. Spend in a currency loaded onto the card and you avoid a fee for currency conversion.
- Backup card. Designed specifically for travel (and the mishaps that happen when you’re travelling), prepaid travel cards come with a backup in case the first card is lost or stolen.
- Manage your travel budget. Reload the card when you need funds. The exchange rate is locked in. This protects you from movements in the exchange rate and also allows you to budget down to the last dollar.
- Travel card fees. As convenient as these accounts are, they do come with fees and charges. Fees are charged when the card is first issued, when you first load the account with funds or when you reload the card with funds. Inactivity fees and ATM fees are also common among different travel money cards.
- Exchange rates. It’s worth having a look at the exchange rates offered through travel card products. Often, travel card issuers will have a different exchange rate for travel cards.
- Reloading time. Typically, BPAY is the easiest way to reload your account with funds. BPAY transactions can take up to three business days for the transaction to process. It can take up to six days for the funds to clear in your account when you factor in Australian bank holidays and weekends.
Frequently asked questions about prepaid travel money cards
What's the best travel money card?
This all depends on where you're going and how you plan to spend. In some destinations, you can use your plastic like you would in Australia. In other places, cash is king — so ATM withdrawals fees will factor into your comparison. Compare travel money cards to find the best one for your holiday.
How do I load funds onto my travel card?
This will depend on the card itself, however, BPAY is generally an accepted method for reloading your travel card with funds. Some cards use different systems, however, the card can be reloaded through your online banking facility. Make sure you can get internet access while you’re travelling.
What is a currency conversion fee?
A currency conversion fee is an additional charge (expressed as a percentage of the total value of the transaction — usually about 3.00%) which is applied when you make a purchase or withdrawal in a currency which is not loaded onto the card.
Travel cards have a ‘default currency order’. This is the order available currencies will be debited from your account if you do not have the currency of the transaction.
How do I use my travel money card?
When you want to use your travel money card to make a purchase or withdrawal, press ‘credit’ when you want to complete the transaction. Travel cards use the Visa and MasterCard international payment networks and are accepted in most places where Visa and MasterCard are accepted.
Will an inactivity fee be charged if I do not have any money left on my card?
Some of these accounts will charge you a fee if your account is inactive for a period of time. A monthly charge will deduct the remaining balance on the card until the account has no funds remaining. Inactivity fees are listed within our travel card comparison and reviews.