Travel Money Guide: Southeast Asia

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

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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

Name Product Available Currencies ATM Withdrawal Fee Initial Load Fee Reload fee
Cash Passport Platinum Mastercard
AUD,USD,CAD,EUR,GBP,HKD,JPY,NZD,SGD,THB,AED
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
$0
$5
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
Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard
0%
Up to 55 days on purchases
14.99% p.a.
$0
Get 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 26 months (with a 2% BT fee), ​an ongoing $0 annual fee and 0% foreign transaction fees.
Coles Rewards Mastercard
0%
Up to 55 days on purchases
19.99% p.a.
$0 annual fee for the first year ($99 p.a. thereafter)
Get 40,000 bonus Flybuys Points or $200 off a Coles Supermarket shop, a $0 first-year annual fee and a 14-month balance transfer.
Bankwest Breeze Platinum Mastercard
0%
Up to 55 days on purchases
0% p.a. for 15 months, reverts to 9.9% p.a.
$0 annual fee for the first year ($69 p.a. thereafter)
Get 0% interest on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, a $0 first-year annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.
NAB StraightUp Card
0%
N/A
$0
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
Visa
$0
$0
0%
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.

Great Southern Bank Everyday Snap Account
Visa
$0
$4.50
2.95%
Refund of international ATM withdrawal fees and international card transaction fees (conditions apply).
$0 monthly account fee. Unlimited fee-free everyday transactions.
Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay available. Savings Top Up tool automatically transfers to linked savings account.
Citi Global Currency Account
Mastercard
$0
$0
0%
Earn up to 0.75% 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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Name Product Minimum Order Amount Maximum Order Amount Delivery/Pickup Method Commission Fee
Foreign Xchange Travel Money
$0
$9,999
In Store,Home Delivery
$0
Order multiple currencies in one transaction and have it delivered directly to your door anywhere in Australia. No delivery fee for orders over $1,000. A $10 flat fee applies to orders less than $1,000.
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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
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 Money 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.

Using credit cards

Both Bankwest (platinum credit cards only) and Latitude 28° Global Platinum Mastercard 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.

Today's exchange rate AUD to PHP

Some of the major Southeast Asian currencies include:

CountryCurrencyCode
brunei-smlBruneiDollarBND
cambodia-smlCambodiaRielKHR
east-timor-smlEast TimorDollarUSD
indonesia-smlIndonesiaRupiahIDR
laos-smlLaosKipLAK
malaysia-smlMalaysiaRinggitMYR
myanmar-smlMyanmarBurmese kyatMMK
philippines-smlPhilippinesPesoPHP
singapore-smlSingaporeDollarSGD
thailand-smlThailandBahtTHB
vietnam-smlVietnamDongVND

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.

BankCurrencies
BNDIDRMYRPHPSGDTHBVNDUSD
American ExpressYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
ANZYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Australia PostNoNoYesNoYesYesNoYes
Commonwealth BankNoYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
NABYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
TravelexYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
WestpacNoYesYesYesYesYesNoYes

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)SingaporeVientiane (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 - $7.50Visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens TripFree

Visit the Lao People's Army Museum

$0.80 admission fee

Sightseeing at Hoan Kiem Lake and Turtle tower

Free

*Prices are approximate and are subject to changes.

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30 Responses

    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?

      Avatarfinder 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

    Default Gravatar
    maccaMay 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 ?

      Avatarfinder 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 in more details by checking our Qantas Cash card review page.

      I hope this has helped.

      Cheers,

      Sally

      Default Gravatar
      MaccaMay 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.

      Avatarfinder 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

    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?

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      SallyDecember 18, 2015Staff

      Hi Will,

      Thanks for your question.

      The “best” option will depend on exactly where you are traveling, your financial situation, and your travel spending habits.

      Yes, it does sounds a like a plan to use these cards. The Commonwealth Bank Travel Money Card does not charge currency conversion fees and the Citibank debit card does not 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 are the right choice for you.

      Please ensure to read through the relevant product disclosure statement and terms and conditions of the card to ensure that you got everything covered before you travel.

      Cheers,

      Sally

    Default Gravatar
    monMay 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.

      Avatarfinder 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

    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.

      Avatarfinder 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

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