Travel Money Guide: Southeast Asia

Rates and Fees verified correct on October 26th, 2016

Baht, riels, dollars and kip: a travel money guide to take the confusion out of taking and spending your money on a Southeast Asian adventures

Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Singapore are among the most popular holiday destinations for Australians. But there’s more to Southeast Asia than these tourist meccas: hands up if you’ve ever visited Brunei? Different travel money rules apply depending on where you’re going, so use this guide to take some of the confusion out of organising your Southeast Asian holiday.

While US dollars are widely accepted in Southeast Asia, each country in the region has its own currency. Card payments are common in the capital cities, especially in Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Philippines but you will need cash if you’re going off the beaten track. We give you the skinny on how to take and use money in Southeast Asia, a region of tropical beaches, delicious food at affordable prices.

Which option is right for your next trip?

Flight Centre Key to the World Currency Card

Flight Centre Key to the World Currency Card

The Key to the World Currency Card is a prepaid travel card from Flight Centre, which lets you load up to 10 currencies in just one card.

  • Pay no card issue fees, initial load fees and inactivity fees.
  • This card lets you transfer between currencies, load more funds and check your balance and transactions online.
  • You can choose up to 10 currencies to load onto your card.

    Compare travel cards for Southeast Asia

    Rates last updated October 26th, 2016
    Available Currencies ATM Withdrawal Fee Reload Fee Initial Load Fee
    Flight Centre Key to the World Currency Card
    Flight Centre Key to the World Currency Card
    AUD, USD, SGD, NZD, JPY, THB, GBP, EUR, HKD, CAD 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 1.1% of the total amount $0 Go to site More
    Travelex Travel Card
    Travelex Travel Card
    AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD Travelex does not charge an ATM withdrawal fee when you use your Travelex Multi-currency Cash Passport to withdraw currencies that are loaded on the card at overseas ATMs where MasterCard is accepted. The greater of 1.1% of the initial load / reload amount or AU$15.00 $0 Go to site More
    Rates last updated October 26th, 2016
    Purchase rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Annual fee
    Bankwest Zero Platinum MasterCard
    An introductory offer on balance transfers with $0 annual fee. Complimentary travel insurance & 24/7 Concierge service and $0 foreign transaction fees.
    17.99% p.a. 2.99% p.a. for 9 months $0 p.a. Go to site More info
    28 Degrees Platinum MasterCard
    Benefit from no international transaction fees on purchases, no currency conversion fees and no annual fee.
    21.99% p.a. 4.99% p.a. for 6 months $0 p.a. Go to site More info
    Bankwest Qantas Platinum MasterCard
    Receive 50,000 introductory bonus Qantas Points when you apply before 30 November 2016. Earn 0.50 rewards points per $1 spent on eligible purchases.
    20.49% p.a. 2.99% p.a. for 9 months $160 p.a. Go to site More info
    Rates last updated October 26th, 2016
    Monthly Account Fee Debit Card Access ATM Withdrawal Fee Fee Free Deposit p.m. Details
    Westpac Choice
    $0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
    Mastercard $0 $2,000 No ATM fees when using St.George, Westpac, BankSA or Bank of Melbourne ATMs in Australia. Deposit at least $2,000 per month and enjoy no monthly service fee. Open More
    St.George Complete Freedom Account
    $0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
    Visa $0 $2,000 No account keeping fees, if you deposit $2,000 per month plus no minimum balance required. No ATM fees when using St.George, Westpac and BankSA ATMs. Open More
    Bank of Melbourne Express Freedom
    $0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
    Visa $0 $1,000 No ATM fees when you use Bank of Melbourne, St.George, Westpac and BankSA ATMs. No monthly fees if you deposit $1000 into your account each month. Open More
    Bankwest Qantas Transaction Account
    No overseas ATM withdrawal fees (charged by Bankwest), 3rd party ATM fees and international transaction fees may still apply.
    Mastercard $0 $2,000 No monthly fees when you deposit at least $2,000 into your account each month. Free access to Bankwest and CommBank ATMs in Australia. No overseas ATM withdrawal fees (charged by Bankwest) though third party fees may apply. Open More
    Citibank Plus Everyday Account
    No international transaction fees and no overseas ATM withdrawals fees if you use a Citibank ATM overseas.
    Visa $0 $0 No ATM fees using Citibank, Westpac, BankSA and St.George branded ATMs in Australia. Use overseas Citibank ATMs for free. More

    How much dollars 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)SingaporeVientiane (Laos)Hanoi (Vietnam)

    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)


    Lao Sausage / Sai Oua (streetfood)


    Budget meals at a cafeteria


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

    Visit the Lao People’s Army Museum

    $0.80 admission fee

    Sightseeing at Hoan Kiem Lake and Turtle tower


    *Prices are approximate and are subject to change.

    Exchange rate history

    YearAverage annual exchange Australian Dollar (AUD) to US Dollar (USD)

    Some of the major Southeast Asian currencies include:

    east-timor-smlEast TimorDollarUSD
    myanmar-smlMyanmarBurmese kyatMMK
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    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 OptionProsConsiderations
    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
    • 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
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    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 (Commonwealth Bank, American Express GlobalTravel & 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.
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    Interview with Kelly Vieira about travel money for Southeast Asia

    Kelly visited Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Singapore on her one month trip to Southeast Asia. In Laos, she visited Luang Prabang, Vientiane and Vang Vieng. She was in Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam and visited Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Thailand.

    What cards did you take with you?

    Why did you take these cards?

    Kelly applied for the 28 Degrees MasterCard specifically for her trip to Southeast Asia. She chose this account because it has no annual fee and she didn’t get charged for currency conversion. The 28 Degrees MasterCard also doesn’t charge for international ATM withdrawals. She transferred her travel budget onto the card and used it to withdraw from ATMs each time she visited a new country.

    The Bankwest Easy Transaction Account is Kelly’s everyday transaction account in Australia. She used this card for a cash withdrawal once she used the money she originally transferred onto the 28 Degrees MasterCard.

    Where could you use these cards?

    Kelly says there were no issues with card acceptance, either at ATMs or over the counter. She says outside of Singapore she didn’t really use her card at the point of sale except when she used her 28 Degrees MasterCard to pay for her hotels and online at travel or booking agencies.

    Did you withdraw from ATMs? What were the fees?

    • Vietnam: $241.11AUD (5,000,000.00 VND) $7.20 AUD (cash advance fee) + $3.50 Citibank ATM fee
    • Thailand: $300AUD (8024.56 THB) $9 AUD (cash advance fee) + 150THB / approx. $5 AUD Aeon ATM fee
    • Laos: $50AUD - (310551.55 LAK) $4 AUD (cash advance fee) + 20,000 LAK / $3 AUD
    • Singapore: $40.69 (50.00 SGD) $4 AUD (cash advance fee) + local ATM fee

    What’s your travel money recommendation?

    Kelly says she should have applied for the Citibank Plus Transaction Account instead of using the 28 Degrees MasterCard preloaded with a positive balance. The cash advance fee ended up costing her about $20 in the end. She says this is $20 she could have saved by depositing funds on the Citibank account instead. She also says a travel card could have been useful, especially the Commonwealth Bank Travel Card as it allows cardholders to load Thai baht, Vietnamese dong and Singapore dollars.

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    A guide to Thai Baht

    Did you know?

    Thai banknotes all have the image of the king on them. It can be seen as disrespectful to put your wallet in your back pocket as you might end up sitting on the king!


    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.

    American ExpressYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
     Australia PostNoNoYesNoYesYesNoYes
     Commonwealth BankNoYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
    • Tip: Travelex and Australia Post have outlets at international airports. You can order your cash and collect it from the airport before you leave the country.

    Why you’ll need 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.

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    Find travel insurance for Southeast Asia

    Australians are lucky to be situated in the South Pacific and within spitting distance of Southeast Asia. In fact, six of Australia's top 10 favourite international destinations are located in Asia.

    However, even though these holiday destinations are in our backyard, it's important to make sure you are protected.

    Travel insurance is the best way to make sure that both you and your family are financially protected against the unknown while you're away. Travel insurance protects against situations such as:

    • Emergency medical and dental
    • Cancellations
    • Additional accommodation expenses
    • Repatriation
    • Personal liability
    • Lost travel documents

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    This page was last modified on 31 July 2016 at 22:02.

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    28 Responses to Travel Money Guide: Southeast Asia

    1. 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 withdrawls and they were no help at all, I just feel im getting ripped off , but am I ?

      • Staff
        Sally | May 17, 2016

        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.



      • 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.

      • Staff
        May | May 18, 2016

        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.


    2. Default Gravatar
      will | December 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?

      • Staff
        Sally | December 18, 2015

        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.



    3. 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.

      • Staff
        Sally | May 21, 2015

        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.



    4. Default Gravatar
      mon | May 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.

      • Staff
        Sally | May 22, 2015

        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.



    5. Default Gravatar
      wee | March 16, 2015

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

      • Staff
        Shirley | March 17, 2015

        Hi Wee,

        Thanks for your question.

        Please note that 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.


    6. Default Gravatar
      liz | February 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

      • Staff
        Shirley | February 2, 2015

        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.


    7. Default Gravatar
      Eliza | June 23, 2014


      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….


      • Staff
        Shirley | June 24, 2014

        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.


    8. Default Gravatar
      Karen | May 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.

      • Staff
        Elizabeth | May 27, 2014

        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.



    9. Default Gravatar
      Trevor | March 13, 2014

      Which card for use in Philippines

      • Staff
        Marc | March 14, 2014

        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,

    10. Default Gravatar
      Fiona | February 14, 2014

      Hi there, what do you think the reason is that no traveller cards will deal in Indonesian Rupiah? I was keen on using the NAB Traveller Card, do you think they will expand their list of currencies to include IND Rupiah at any stage?

      • Staff
        Marc | February 14, 2014

        Hi Fiona,
        thanks for the question.

        It’s surprising given the number of Australians traveling to Bali and the rest of Indonesia that no travel card currently allows rupiah to be loaded onto it. I have every confidence that travel cards will emerge with this currency loaded onto it in the future, but unfortunately there’s no news yet about the currency being added to the NAB Traveller Card. Travel friendly credit and debit cards like the ones shown on this page don’t require you to load funds on beforehand to avoid foreign transaction fees, and the CBA Travel Card charges no foreign transaction fee regardless of whether or not the currency being spent is loaded on the card or not, so you might want to check out these options.

        I hope this helps,

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