Travel Money Guide: Southeast Asia

Cash, credit or debit? What's the best travel money option for your Southeast Asia adventure.

We give you the skinny on how to best take and use money in Southeast Asia, so you can make the most of the region's tropical beaches, delicious food and unbeatable cultural experiences.

Compare travel cards for Southeast Asia

Rates last updated October 19th, 2018
Name Product Description Available Currencies ATM Withdrawal Fee Reload Fee Initial Load Fee
Hold up to 10 currencies and lock in your exchange rate. No load, reload or transaction fees on purchases and part of a worldwide ATM alliance.
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

0%
$0
Earn up to 15,000 bonus Qantas Points when you load foreign currency onto your Qantas Travel Money card before 31 October 2018.
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

1%
$0

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated October 19th, 2018
Name Product Foreign Currency Conversion Fee Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Overseas Cash Advance Fee Annual fee Product Description
Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
2% of transaction amount or $4 (whichever is greater)
$0 p.a.
Offers a $0 annual fee, 0% foreign transaction fees, complimentary international travel insurance and a balance transfer offer.
28 Degrees Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
3% of the cash advance or $4 (whichever is greater)
$0 p.a.
No foreign transaction fees on international purchases including international purchases online, together with a no annual fee.
Bankwest Breeze Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
2% of transaction amount or $4 (whichever is greater)
$99 p.a.
Receive a 0% p.a. interest rate on purchases and balance transfers for 13 months, complimentary travel insurance and 0% foreign transaction fees.
ANZ Rewards Travel Adventures card
0% of transaction value
$5
$0
$225 p.a.
Receive 40,000 bonus Velocity Points, 2 yearly Virgin Australia lounge passes, plus enjoy $0 overseas purchase transaction fees.

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated October 19th, 2018
$
Name Product Product Description Debit Card Access ATM Withdrawal Fee Monthly Account Fee Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Overseas Eftpos Fee
ING Orange Everyday Account
Receive a rebate on any international transaction fees and international ATM fees when you deposit at least $1,000 a month and make at least 5 card purchases.
Visa
$0
$2.50
2.5%
NAB Classic Banking with Platinum Visa Debit Card
$10 cashback on contactless purchases, $0 foreign transaction fee and complimentary travel insurance.
$10 monthly account fee.
Receive $10 cashback when you spend $1000 on contactless purchases. Complimentary travel insurance, transport accident insurance, purchase protection insurance and more when you meet eligibility criteria.
Visa
$0
$5
0%
HSBC Everyday Global Account
No foreign ATM or transaction fees.
$0 monthly account fee.
Enjoy no minimum ongoing balance or transaction requirements and the flexibility to hold up to 10 currencies. Apple Pay and Google Pay available.
Visa
$0
$0
$0
Citi Global Currency Account
Hold up to 10 currencies.
$0 monthly account fee.
Enjoy one linked debit card to hold up to 10 currencies and receive foreign currencies for free. Earn up to 2.25% p.a. interest on your AUD balance.
Mastercard
$0
$0
$0

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated October 19th, 2018
Name Product Description Minimum Order Amount Maximum Order Amount Delivery/Pickup Method Commission Fees
Order over 60 currencies online at the best price against the Australian dollar and collect at one of over 130 locations across Australia.
$500
$10,000
In Store or At Airport
$0
Travelex makes it easy to exchange and get the best rate on over 40 currencies so you can be prepared for your next holiday.
$500
$5,000
In Store or At Airport
$0
Order multiple currencies in one transaction and have it delivered directly to your door anywhere in Australia.
$9,000
In Store or Home Delivery
$0

Compare up to 4 providers

Which travel card, debit card or credit card?

Visa and Mastercard branded credit cards, debit cards and travel cards have wide acceptance in Southeast Asia. If you have an American Express, you’ll need to take a Visa or Mastercard card too. In the cities, you’ll find ATMs are easy to find, but in smaller towns and off the beaten track there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get cash from an ATM (ATMs can be scarce and frequently run out of cash). Card acceptance in these areas is also sketchy at best, so make sure you have enough cash to cover you for the times you’re venturing outside of urban centres.

Travel money options for Southeast Asia at a glance

Travel Money Option Pros Considerations
Debit Cards for Travel
  • Visa and Mastercard provides money back guarantee if victim of card fraud overseas
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Debit cards will not incur an interest rate as it uses your own money from your transaction account
  • International ATM withdrawal fees may apply
  • Most of the debit cards will charge an additional currency conversion fees
  • Not a credit product. No emergency funds available though a cash advance facility.
Prepaid Travel Money Cards
  • Holds multiple foreign currencies at the same time
  • Currency conversion fees can be avoided if you spend in the currency of your destination
  • Ability to lock in the exchange rate for the funds that you 'load' on to the card before you go
  • Secured by PIN & chip technology
  • Emergency card replacement and backup cards
  • Easily reloadable via a secure online platform
  • Cards which don’t charge for currency conversion might charge for international ATM use
  • Travel cards are fee-heavy products — card issue fees, initial load fees and reload fees may apply
  • Travel cards without names embossed on the front may cause issues with acceptance in Southeast Asia
Credit Cards for Travel
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Accepted worldwide
  • Some credit cards offer complimentary travel insurance
  • Interest-free days when you pay your account in full
  • Emergency card replacement
  • Withdrawing cash can be considered a "cash advance" and can charge you fees and high interests
  • Card scheme anti-fraud guarantees don’t apply in a credit card with a positive balance
  • Higher spending limit (depends on your approved credit limit)
  • Attracts an annual fee
Traveller's Cheques
  • Can be cashed in Thailand and Cambodia
  • Have the added security of needing ID to be cashed
  • Availability to cash at banks
  • Secure and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen
  • Card schemes such as Mastercard give you a money back guarantee if you’re a victim of card fraud
  • You can't cash any cheques in the Philippines
  • Expect to be charged a commission when cashing your cheques
  • Currency exchange rate varies over time
Cash
  • US dollars can be used throughout Southeast Asia
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
  • Exchange rates are to look out for
  • More difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft

This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

Why we recommend a combination of travel money options

Make sure you’ve spread your travel budget across a couple of cards. For example a travel card, debit card or credit card. Carry Australian dollars and US dollars cash too. This will give you more options if you’re travelling between countries, conditions can change between countries and ATM availability is not guaranteed outside Southeast Asian cities.

If you have any questions about travel money for Southeast Asia, get in touch with us using the form at the bottom of the page.

How each travel money option works in given country

Using travel money cards

A travel card allows you to hold a number of different foreign currencies at the same time. Spend in the currency of your destination and you can avoid the fee for currency conversion. Thai baht and Singapore dollars are supported currencies on a number of products, and the Commonwealth Bank Travel Card lets you load Vietnamese dong as well. Brunei dollars, Cambodian riels, Indonesian rupiah, East Timor dollars, Laos kip, Malaysian ringgits, Philippine pesos and Burmese kyats are not supported currencies.

If you’re travelling to the aforementioned countries, a travel card with no currency conversion fee (eg, Qantas Cash) is suited. However, travel cards are fee-heavy products, so you’re going to pay for international transactions one way or another. For example, cards which don’t charge for currency conversion might charge for international ATM use. You’ll also have to pay front end fees when you purchase, load or reload the card.

  • Tip: These accounts are dual card accounts. You get a backup card to use incase your lose the first card or it’s stolen.
  • Tip: If you purchase a travel card at a branch, there’s a chance it won’t have your name embossed on the front. This may cause issues with acceptance in Southeast Asia.

Using debit cards

The Citibank Plus Transaction Account is the only travel friendly debit card on the market. The Citibank Plus comes with a Visa Debit card which can be used all over the world without paying the additional fee for currency conversion and Citibank do not charge international ATM fees for making withdrawals at overseas ATMs. And the best part? It costs nothing to open the account and there’s no monthly charge either.

  • Tip: Visa (Mastercard too) provide a money back guarantee if you’re the victim of card fraud overseas.

List of Citibank ATM locations worldwide

Using credit cards

Both Bankwest (platinum credit cards only) and GE Money (28 Degrees) don’t charge for currency conversion and international ATM withdrawals. It’s generally not a good idea to use your credit card to withdraw cash from an ATM — cash advance interest and the cash advance fees apply when these products are used for this purpose. These fees can be avoided by preloading these products with your own money. Note that a local ATM operator fee may still apply and GE Money will charge a cash advance fee regardless. Using a credit card with a positive balance also voids the anti-fraud guarantees from Mastercard and Visa.

  • Tip: Some credit cards provide complimentary international travel insurance when you charge the cost of your return overseas travel ticket to the account.
  • Tip: Make sure you tell your bank about your travel plans if you don’t travel frequently, they may block your card if they see a ‘suspicious’ overseas transaction.

Using traveller's cheques

An almost obsolete form of travel money, traveller’s cheques can be cashed in more places in Thailand and Cambodia compared to other parts of the world. In Thailand, traveller’s cheques may be cheaper to cash at a bank than when withdrawing baht from an ATM. A number of Thai banks will cash cheques for a fee of 33 baht (compared to 150 - 200 THB for ATM withdrawals). If you’re travelling to the Philippines, anecdotal evidence suggests cheques can not be cashed at any place.

Taking cash with you

Although each country in the region uses different currencies, US dollars can be used throughout Southeast Asia. In some places (Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos especially) you’ll see prices quoted in US dollars, and some businesses such as hotels may prefer payment in US dollars. If you do take US dollars to Southeast Asia, make sure you have an eye on the exchange rates so you know how much you should be paying. In the rural areas of Southeast Asia, debit, credit and travel cards will not be accepted. Make sure you have enough cash to cover your planned expenses (and then some).

Using an ATM

Cities in Southeast Asia are well serviced by ATMs. You won’t have a problem using Visa and Mastercard branded products. Be prepared to pay an ATM operator fee, the vast majority of ATMs in Southeast Asia charge a fee when you make a withdrawal.

  • Tip: Pick an odd number when you withdraw cash from an ATM. This will give you smaller bills which are easier to use.
Exchange cash

It’s best to get the currency of the destination you’re visiting. Australian dollars can be easily changed to the local currency in tourist centres and international airports throughout the region. In Cambodia and Burma, and to a lesser extent Laos, where US dollars are the currency of the street, you’ll get the local currency in change when you pay with US dollars.

  • Tip: If you have the opportunity to withdraw US dollars from an ATM, get some extra cash to use throughout the region as you travel to different countries.
  • Tip: Thai baht is accepted in areas of Laos.

Some of the major Southeast Asian currencies include:

Country Currency Code
brunei-sml Brunei Dollar BND
cambodia-sml Cambodia Riel KHR
east-timor-sml East Timor Dollar USD
indonesia-sml Indonesia Rupiah IDR
laos-sml Laos Kip LAK
malaysia-sml Malaysia Ringgit MYR
myanmar-sml Myanmar Burmese kyat MMK
philippines-sml Philippines Peso PHP
singapore-sml Singapore Dollar SGD
thailand-sml Thailand Baht THB
vietnam-sml Vietnam Dong VND

Buying currency in Australia

If getting the best rate is your main concern, it’s better to wait to exchange your Australian dollars till you arrive at your destination — you’ll get more for your dollar exchanging money at a bank or exchange office in Southeast Asia. Laos kip (LAK) and Burmese kyat (MMK) are difficult to find in Australia. The following financial institutions can sell you foreign cash.

Bank Currencies
BND IDR MYR PHP SGD THB VND USD
American Express Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
ANZ Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Australia Post No No Yes No Yes Yes No Yes
Commonwealth Bank No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
NAB Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Travelex Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Westpac No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes

How much money do I need to bring to Southeast Asia?

Southeast Asia is a budget holiday destination compared to Australia and other parts of the world. You’ll find that developed economies such as Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and especially Singapore are more expensive than emerging destinations such as Cambodia, Burma and Laos. You will be able to spend as much money as you can afford in Southeast Asia, you can get an idea about budget prices in the table below.

Bangkok (Thailand) Singapore Vientiane (Laos) Hanoi (Vietnam)
sleep

Hostel dorm bed

$10 - $20 per night

Hostel dorm bed

$10 - $25 per night

Hostel dorm bed

$7 - $15 per night

Hostel dorm bed

$5 - $15 per night

street food

Khao Gang (curried rice / street food)

$1 - $3

Chicken and fish dumpling noodles (street stall)

$8

Lao Sausage / Sai Oua (street food)

$3

Budget meals at a cafeteria

$1.50

Marketing shopping on Koh Sahn Road$0.50 - $7.50 Visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens TripFree

Visit the Lao People’s Army Museum

$0.80 admission fee

Sightseeing at Hoan Kiem Lake and Turtle tower

Free

*Prices are approximate and are subject to changes.

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30 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    TomHMay 8, 2017

    Is there an Australian travel card that is guaranteed to work on ATMs in Myanmar and is there a source of fresh, new, unfolded and unmarked $US in Australia?

    • finder Customer Care
      HaroldMay 9, 2017Staff

      Hi TomH,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      At present, we don’t have specific travel money for Myanmar. However, you may want to consider checking the offer for Travel Money in Southeast Asia as they cover some of the major Southeast Asian currencies including Myanmar. Also, as you compare it would be nice to check directly with the provider if you can use the card in Myanmar.

      I hope this information has helped.

      Cheers,
      Harold

  2. Default Gravatar
    May 16, 2016

    i have a Qantas cash master card , i use it in vietnam , i have only Australian dollars on the card, i use it at ATM’S, and pay $1.95 fee plus local Vietnamese bank ATM fee of usually $3.oo, what are the fees Qantas cash master card are charging me for using this card , what are the currency conversion fees and any other fees I am paying, as I rang Qantas cash about these fees associated with the withdrawals and they were no help at all, I just feel im getting ripped off , but am I ?

    • finder Customer Care
      SallyMay 17, 2016Staff

      Hi Macca,

      Thanks for your question.

      The Qantas Cash card doesn’t charge a currency conversion fee, but it does charge ATM withdrawal fees. If you’re withdrawing in an unsupported currency (e.g. Vietnamese dong), you’ll incur an AUD 1.95 ATM withdrawal fee. How much you’ll be charged will depend on the currency you’re withdrawing in.

      You can compare the fees and costs of the Qantas Cash card using our review page.

      I hope this has helped.

      Cheers,

      Sally

    • Default Gravatar
      May 17, 2016

      On my Qantas cash card I use in Vietnam , what exchange rate is Qantas giving me, as all their exchange rates are all below the real rate. I use my card loaded with Australian dollars, but what exchange rate to the VND am I receiving, as they make no effort to even show me on my statement.

    • finder Customer Care
      MayMay 18, 2016Staff

      Hi Macca,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      When you used your Qantas Cash card which was loaded with AUD abroad, Qantas did not charge currency conversion fees but they applied the Qantas Cash Daily Rates used in the currency converter that can be found on their page. I’ve sent to your email the link to their converter for your reference.

      Please keep in mind though that the foreign exchange (FOREX) rate changes and varies daily. So the rate you got last time (AUD vs. VND) settled on the closing FOREX rate on the date you withdrew VND from your card.

      I hope this has answered your question.

      Cheers,
      May

  3. Default Gravatar
    willDecember 17, 2015

    Hi, I am going overseas to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines. I am going to use the Commonwealth Banks’ travel money card for Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia and I will use the Citibank debit card to withdraw cash in the Philippines. Does that sound like a good plan? Especially RE withdrawing cash in the phillipines at the lowest cost?

    • finder Customer Care
      SallyDecember 18, 2015Staff

      Hi Will,

      Thanks for your question.

      Just to confirm, as a financial comparison service we can’t provide specific recommendations as the ‘best’ option will depend on your financial situation, travel budget and spending habits.

      However, as the Commonwealth Bank Travel Money Card doesn’t charge currency conversion fees and the Citibank debit card doesn’t charge ATM or foreign transaction fees, so you could stand to avoid some costs by using both of these cards. Make sure to compare the other fees associated with both of the cards and consider how else you may need to use the cards to determine whether they’re the right choice for you.

      Cheers,

      Sally

  4. Default Gravatar
    May 20, 2015

    Hi, we are going to Vietnam and Cambodia, for 14 days on a tour, first time over there. What is the best form of currency to use, as there seems to be no travel cards available for these countries? thanking you.

    • finder Customer Care
      SallyMay 21, 2015Staff

      Hi Mon,

      Thank you for your question.

      As well as Cambodian riel, US Dollars are also widely accepted throughout Cambodia. In the west of the country, Thai Baht is also widely used. Most travel cards accept US dollars and there are a select few that also support Thai Baht.

      Please visit our Travel Money Card comparison page to view your options.

      I hope this was helpful.

      Thanks,

      Sally

  5. Default Gravatar
    monMay 20, 2015

    hi,my husband and I are going to Vietnam for 7 days and Cambodia for 7 days holiday. Whats the best option for using their currency as I cannot find a travel card.

    • finder Customer Care
      SallyMay 22, 2015Staff

      Hi Mon,

      Thank you for your question.

      Unfortunately, as we do not know your current financial position or your travel plans, we cannot suggest a specific product for you.

      However, US Dollars are widely accepted in both Vietnam and Cambodia and could be used on your travel card. However, if you try to complete a purchase or transaction where US dollars are not accepted (such as ATMs in Vietnam), you will incur a currency conversion fee.

      A travel credit card is another option, however you will also be charged a currency conversion fee if you complete a purchase in a currency that is not supported by the card.

      I hope this has answered your question.

      Thanks,

      Sally

  6. Default Gravatar
    weeMarch 16, 2015

    If i use my malaysia’s bank master card, can i apply travel money card?

    • finder Customer Care
      ShirleyMarch 17, 2015Staff

      Hi Wee,

      Thanks for your question.

      Please note that finder.com.au is an Australian comparison site and we only compare products issued in Australia.

      In most cases you’ll need to be an Australian resident or hold a relevant Visa to be eligible for a credit or debit card, though you don’t need to be an resident to apply for the prepaid travel cards.

      Cheers,
      Shirley

  7. Default Gravatar
    lizFebruary 2, 2015

    I am going on a cruise from Singapore calling in at Malacca, Penang, Phuket,Rangoon, Langkaw, Ko Samui, Bangkok,Phu My, Nha Tang, Da Nang, Halong and Hong Kong, what is the best currency to take. I was thinking to take American Dollars.

    Thanks Liz

    • finder Customer Care
      ShirleyFebruary 2, 2015Staff

      Hi Liz,

      Thanks for your question.

      The decision is ultimately up to you regarding which currency you’d like to take. You may want to consider taking some SGD, THB and HKD as well.

      Cheers,
      Shirley

  8. Default Gravatar
    ElizaJune 23, 2014

    Hi,

    Why do you not recommend American Express Global Travel Card for cards in south east Asia? They have a deal at the moment with 0% cross currency conversion fee at the moment….

    Thanks

    • finder Customer Care
      ShirleyJune 24, 2014Staff

      Hi Eliza,

      Thanks for your question and bringing this to our attention.

      At the time of writing the information was different, but we have noted what you said and are preparing a new page to reflect this.

      Cheers,
      Shirley

  9. Default Gravatar
    KarenMay 23, 2014

    We are travelling to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma and Singapore. We are thinking about applying for a Citibank debit card. Problem is Burma where a lot of payment is expected in Us$ crisp notes. Should we purchase these in Thailand of Australia.

    • finder Customer Care
      ElizabethMay 27, 2014Staff

      Hi Karen,

      Thanks for your question.

      There’s no difference whether you choose to purchase US Dollars in Thailand or in Australia, as the exchange rate is all relative, so the choice is up to you.

      Hope this has helped.

      Thanks,

      Elizabeth

  10. Default Gravatar
    TrevorMarch 13, 2014

    Which card for use in Philippines

    • finder Customer Care
      MarcMarch 14, 2014Staff

      Hi Trevor,
      thanks for the question.

      I can’t recommend one particular account or card for use in the Philippines, but I recommend reading our guide and comparing the products on this page to find some options which might suit your travel plan, and the way you wish to spend your money while overseas. A good recommendation is to take more than one card option when travelling, and keep one as a backup.

      I hope this helps,
      Marc.

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