How to pick the right travel money product to take with you to Turkey
Straddling Europe and Asia, Turkey is a feast for the eyes, the mouth and the senses - all of which you'll need local dosh to feed. While compared to Australia Turkey is relatively cheap to travel in, paying for your meals, accommodation and attractions isn't free and isn't as basic as tapping your debit card as you go.
We've rounded up our top picks for the travel money, debit and credit cards to use on your trip to Turkey and have covered off the basics for spending 101 while visiting the country.
What should I know about money for Turkey?
Compare your travel money options for Turkey
If you prefer not to carry cash, there are travel-friendly options out there including credit cards with no foreign transaction fees, debit cards that give you rebates on international transaction and ATM fees and pre-paid travel money cards that don't connect directly to your everyday bank account for added security.
We've laid out the options for each below:
While these options don't allow you to lock in a rate of Turkish lira before you depart, you are able to use these cards like you would any credit or debit card. Depending on the card, you may be charged a small fee as it's an unsupported currency.
If you're paying somewhere you have the option to use euro, or another supported currency, you won't be charged this fee.
Should you take a travel card, a debit card, a credit card or cash?
Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in Turkey. American Express cardholders may have issues with card acceptance, especially outside the major cities. There is an abundance of ATMs in Turkey, and if you think you're going to have an issue using your card in a particular destination, make a withdrawal and use cash instead.
There are debit cards which waive the currency conversion fee as well as the international ATM fee, this is preferable to using a travel card in Turkey as no prepaid travel cards support Turkish lira.
Which card's exchange rate is the best?
Transactions on Visa, Mastercard and American Express-branded credit cards and debit cards use the card scheme exchange rate. This is as close to the market rate as you’re likely to get when you exchange funds from Australian dollars to Turkish lira.
Travel cards use a different rate. The financial institution which provides the travel card applies a margin when you exchange funds between currency wallets.
Why we recommend a combination of travel money options to take to Turkey
You won’t have any problems using your Visa and Mastercard credit card and debit card in Turkey, but a thousands things could happen to your card when you’re away. So you should always have more than one way to access your money in Turkey, or anywhere for that matter.
- A debit card is ideal for ATM withdrawals, especially so if the product waives the international ATM fee.
- A a credit card gives you a line of credit that can come in handy for large or emergency purchases. Remember that most credit card purchases will incur interest though, which can heighten your expenses.
- Having a bit of cash on arrival, especially if you arrive early or late, can be a lifesaver if you need to pay upfront for a taxi to your accommodation or a quick meal at a local restaurant
- Travel cards are not the best product to take to Turkey as lira isn't a supported currency on most cards; however, if you’re travelling to the euro-zone as well, these products may be worth comparing.
A quick summary of travel money options for Turkey
|Travel money option||Pros||Considerations|
|Debit cards for travel||
|Prepaid travel money cards||
|Credit cards for travel||
This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.
How do travel money cards, credit cards, debit cards and more work in Turkey?
Using debit cards
Using a debit card in Turkey works similarly to using it in Australia, but if you don't have a card that gives you a rebate on international transactions or has no foreign transaction fees, like the ones we mention above, you could find yourself paying for a lot more than just the goods you're purchasing.
Using credit cards
Unlike debit cards, credit cards give you a bit more security if you're on the road and it gets stolen or you lose it and you find yourself with unauthorised charges. There's also cards in the market that are traveller-friendly offering $0 overseas ATM withdrawals and low or no overseas cash advance fees. But it's important to remember your statement's due date. If you're travelling for a long time, don't forget to factor in the interest rate that'll kick in if you miss a credit card payment.
Using prepaid travel cards
No travel cards support Turkish lira, but there are cards out there like Qantas Cash that waive the currency conversion fees that other cards charge. Pre-paid travel cards also work in a similar way to gift cards - you can only spend the amount of money you've added to the card, not everything that's in your bank account. Plus, it comes with the added security of being able to get a replacement card if something doesn't go according to plan. Do keep in mind that if you decide on a card thar doesn't support lira, you may end up with extra fees when charging purchases to the card or when withdrawing cash.
Using traveller's cheques
Generally being phased out just about everywhere, traveller's cheques are much more difficult to use than cash or cards in Turkey. You'll most likely need to find a bank branch to exchange them, which isn't ideal if you arrive late to your destination or it's after hours and you're in a bind.
Paying with cash in Turkey
Always have lira on you when you’re out and about in Turkey, as you’re bound to run into situations where a business won’t accept your card. Cafes, small eateries and tea houses are all cash only. Larger stores are likely to take cards but some of the best experiences, like shopping in the Grand Bazaar, are a cash affair.Back to top
Turkey uses the lira and although you can pay with euros in some places, you’re always going to get a better deal if you transact in the local currency. You can get lira from ATMs using your debit card or travel card — withdrawing cash on credit is not advised — Visa and Mastercard cards will work all medium to large businesses throughout the country.
To get a rough idea of how much lira you'll get for each Australian dollar, check out the latest rates. Rates do change slightly depending on what bank your card is issued through and where you get your cash from, but this figure should help you get a better understanding of how much lira to get and budget for your upcoming trip.
Exchange rate history
The Australian dollar has strengthened against the Turkish lira in recent years. If you believe this trend is set to continue, you can take advantage of weakening lira by using your card to take advantage of the card scheme exchange rate, which is close to the market rate.
|Year||Average annual exchange Australian Dollar (AUD) to Turkish lira (TRY)|
*Exchange rates are accurate as of 4 September 2017Back to top
Turkey is a value destination for Australian travellers. Like all places in the world, Turkey is as cheap or expensive as you want it to be.
|Istanbul||Budget||Midrange||A royal experience|
|Dürüm kebab (street) $5||At a mid-range restaurant 10 - $20 per dish||5 star restaurant, mains from $40+ per dish|
|Hostel dorm $10+ per night||2 star hotel $40+ per night||5 star hotel $150 - $800 per night|
|Stroll through the Grand Bazar free||One day sightseeing tour $100 per person (includes lunch)||Private photo tour of Istanbul $400 per person for 4 hours|
*Prices are approximate and based on summer seasonality and are subject to change.Back to top
Buying lira in Australia
You will get a better deal if you wait to purchase lira in Turkey. Not all foreign cash services can sell you lira in Australia, and the rate is likely to be worse than what you’ll get from an exchange office or ATM when you arrive. The following companies will sell your Turkish lira in Australia, and businesses like Travelex have convenient cash pickup locations at Australian international airports:
If you have a no currency conversion fee and no international ATM fee card, ATMs are the best way to get lira in Turkey. When you use your card to withdraw cash, you’ll get the card scheme foreign exchange rate, which is a better rate than what you’ll get at exchange offices or banks. If you have cash to exchange, most exchange offices will buy Australian dollars and sell you lira. You can find these businesses in tourist areas, for example Taksim in Istanbul, and unlike banks you may not pay a commission. Avoid exchange cash at the airport, the rates are poor.
ATM withdrawals in Turkey
You can use a Visa or Mastercard debit card, credit card and travel card to get cash from Turkish ATMs. Most ATMs give you the choice of withdrawing Turkish lira or euros. Lira is the currency of Turkey, so you’ll need to use lira for cash purchases to avoid losing out by ‘over the counter’ foreign currency exchange rates.
- Tip: Turkish bank ATMs do not charge a local ATM operator fee. There are instances when the transaction times out, if this is the case, try a different ATM. If charges are applied for a transaction and you don’t get cash, contact your bank to have the situation rectified.