How to pick the right travel money product to take with you to Turkey
Which option is right for your next trip?
Compare travel cards for Turkey
The Turkish currency - Lira
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.
How much lira do I need to bring to Turkey?
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.
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)|
Which 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.Back to top
Should you take a travel card, a debit card or a credit card?
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.
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 cards, credit cards, debit cards and more work in Turkey?
Using debit cards
Much like a prepaid travel money card, a travel debit card lets you spend your own money. You can use a debit card over the counter and to withdraw money from ATM where Visa and Mastercard are accepted throughout the country, which is most places. The Citibank Plus Transaction Account is the only travel debit card on offer. This product lets you spend your own money without paying extra for currency conversion, and you won’t pay for international ATM withdrawals either.
- Tip: Citibank no longer have a presence in Turkey. You can use your Citibank Plus Visa Debit Card to make free ATM withdrawals from Denizbank ATMs (and most ATMs from Turkish banks), the company which purchased Citibank’s Turkish operation.
Using credit cards
Credit cards give you a line of credit to use for emergencies, large purchases or over the counter transactions. Remember that your purchases will collect interest though, so either make use of interest-free days by paying your account in full each month or take up a card with a low or 0% purchase rate. Using your credit card at an ATM will cost you a high cash advance fee, as well as interest and international ATM fees. You’ll also want to pick a card that doesn’t charge currency conversion fees, as these will add up each time you use your card to pay in a foreign currency. Credit cards designed for overseas use often come with additional perks such as complimentary travel insurance and rewards programs that could come in handy.
- Tip: Some no currency conversion fee credit cards also offer travel insurance when you pay for your return travel ticket, which is a further saving.
Using prepaid travel cards
No travel cards support Turkish lira, look for a card which waives the currency conversion fee (Commonwealth Bank Travel Card, Qantas Cash and the American Express Global Travel Card) if you’re set on taking a travel card when you visit Turkey. These products won’t apply the additional charge for currency conversion when you spend in lira, which can be higher than what you’d pay if you use your regular debit or credit card. The compromise is these cards will charge you to use an international ATM withdrawal in Turkey, which is a couple of dollars for each withdrawal. You can load these cards with euros, and some merchants in Turkey will accept euros — but don’t count on it — and you’ll pay an unfavourable exchange rate too.
- Tip: Travel cards are dual card accounts, so you’ll get two cards. This can come in handy if your first card is lost or stolen, so make sure to keep the second card in a safe place.
Using traveller's cheques
It’s far more convenient (and it can be cheaper) to use your travel friendly debit card or prepaid travel card to make ATM withdrawals rather than a traveller's cheque when you need cash. Traveller’s cheques must be cashed at banks and they are not accepted at exchange offices or businesses.
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.
- Tip: Avoid carrying large amounts of cash on your, tourists are often the target of criminals, especially in areas of Istanbul. Common sense is the best approach.
Why did you take these cards to Turkey? Luke says he took the St.George cards because St.George are his Australian banking institution. He applied for the Citibank account specifically for this trip so he could use it to make purchases and withdrawals without paying the currency conversion fee as well as the international ATM withdrawal fee. Were there any places where you had trouble using any of your cards? Luke says in Istanbul card acceptance wasn’t a problem. There were a large number of local and international bank ATMs where he could withdraw cash and major retailers and large restaurants (not the kebab shops on the side of the road) where he could use his card. In Gallipoli, he made sure he had enough cash to cover the cost of purchasing snacks and drinks, he says there are limited facilities at ANZAC Cove. Do you have any travel money tips for Turkey? Luke says take note of the following:
Luke’s trip to Turkey Luke visited Turkey in 2014, he spent a week in Istanbul before joining a TopDeck tour which took him to the Gallipoli dawn service at Lone Pine. He left the tour early as it finished in Istanbul. He went to Greece instead. What cards did you take with you?
Buying lira in Australia
Why did you take these cards to Turkey?
Luke says he took the St.George cards because St.George are his Australian banking institution. He applied for the Citibank account specifically for this trip so he could use it to make purchases and withdrawals without paying the currency conversion fee as well as the international ATM withdrawal fee.
Were there any places where you had trouble using any of your cards?
Luke says in Istanbul card acceptance wasn’t a problem. There were a large number of local and international bank ATMs where he could withdraw cash and major retailers and large restaurants (not the kebab shops on the side of the road) where he could use his card. In Gallipoli, he made sure he had enough cash to cover the cost of purchasing snacks and drinks, he says there are limited facilities at ANZAC Cove.
Do you have any travel money tips for Turkey?
Luke says take note of the following:
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.
Finding cash and ATMs in Turkey
Why you’ll need 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. Meanwhile, 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. Travel cards are not the best product to take to Turkey; however, if you’re travelling to the eurozone as well, these products may be worth comparing. Use the right product for the right situation and you’ll save yourself enough for an extra beer, meals, souvenir or even a night out by the end of your trip. Turkey is the gateway to Europe and the meeting point between the East and the West. Compare travel money products which let you spend in foreign currencies and make cheap ATM withdrawals so you can avoid giving your bank a slice of your budget which should be spent enjoying yourself.Back to top
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