This article was updated on June 20th, 2019 – all rates and information mentioned is correct as of June 11th, 2019 when this information was sourced to ensure 100% accuracy in my recommendations.  

Travel money cards are a real headache – there are fees to watch, currency conversions to understand and then there is the question of how much cash you take overseas? Or do you take a travel credit card or debit card – one without international transaction fees, for your next vacation?

I have been both traveling and living overseas off and on for over a decade now. I have used so many of these different options – so you can trust in my insights over a lot of what is out there. Now you don’t have to follow what I advise, but I hope I can help you make decisions that are the best offering for you, and highlight the ones that may not be very good – even when others rave about them as being great, or something seems “easier” because you already bank with that company.

Ultimately, pre-loading money onto a travel card is not the only option you have these days. This industry is far more competitive now in offering people the best deals and that is great for those needing currency for their holidays. But what are the best currency options for Australians that you should consider when buying your travel currency? Read on about all the travel cards – pre-paid, debit and credit cards – and also buying cash – and which ones I rate over others. There are some real bad options out there! Ideally, you want the best rate in comparison to the live market rates. Don’t get sold on earning points with airlines if they aren’t a good deal.

If you’re traveling to the USA or Canada soon – be sure to join my community USA & Canada Travel Planning so you can gain more tips just like this. It is full of American locals, seasoned travelers, travel bloggers and people who know the USA and Canada well.

What Are The Best Travel Currency Cards To Use?

Pre-Loaded Cards, Debit Cards Or Credit Cards?

It’s easy to get confused and overwhelmed with trying to find the best travel money cards out there, because there is so much on offer. All Aussie travelers want is a fair product and the best rates.

Since 2008, things have become far more competitive, which is why I have used different prepaid travel cards, debit cards and credit cards since I started traveling over a decade ago. Because of this, I have worked out which travel currency cards are the best in 2019 – particularly if you want to take a pre-paid travel card with funds; or wish to use a debit or credit card which doesn’t charge you the end of the earth to use and access your own money!

This guide is written from an Australian traveler’s perspective because I am Australian, my cards are based in Australia and we really do have some of the best options available globally. I have lived in the UK and Canada and had to convert money over there when I was paid in the local currency. Let me tell you – we have far better deals here, which should also highlight to you NOT to convert money overseas, in airports or at foreign banks. You will LOSE so much. Work out what you are doing before you go – and don’t leave it too late.

What To Remember About Using Currency On Your Vacation

Always have a BACKUP.

Picture this: Your travel card is skimmed and you lose all or most of your money. Or you lose your debit/credit card, or maybe it has been stolen. Maybe you put your cash in your checked luggage – and it has been stolen after you checked your bag in (yes, people actually have done this, and have been robbed). Or maybe you have a pre-paid card or fee free debit card which doesn’t work for some reason. Or your credit card is temporarily blocked by your bank for suspicious activity. No matter what the case, you must travel with a backup option – do not take just cash. Things happen to all of us! Do not take just one card. Err on the side of caution. Have a few options to fall back on, so you have money while you are away – and can deal with it later if need be.

You should ALWAYS travel with the following currency options:

*Cash ($1000 – no more) – If you were robbed or lost your cash, limiting the amount you carry is vital. Use ATMs if you need more. For the US, make sure you hold on to your $1 notes so you can use these for tipping.

*A fee free credit card with at least $5000 available in your home currency (to ensure you have enough on there when converting) – This card can be your backup that you only use in emergencies if need be. But a credit card is a great backup if you have nothing else. But, always pay the minimum off BEFORE the month is over to avoid those high fees. I use the 28 Degrees Mastercard.

*A pre-loaded card or fee free debit card that has no international transaction fees or ATM fees ideally. For pre-paid cards I would use Travel Money Oz, for fee free debit though I have both the Citibank and ING debit cards. Best cards ever.

*Optional – Take a separate credit/debit card just for hotel and car hire holds (which usually remain pending, they don’t go through as a transaction). The reason I say to use an additional card for this ensures you can keep track of what you are spending without getting confused with different transactions. Do not use a pre-paid card for holds as you will end up going home with money on your card (which you can transfer back to AUD) once your pending transactions are actually cancelled and you get the money back as being “available” on your card. Avoid that headache altogether.

Pre-Paid Travel Card Options For Australian Travelers

Pre-paid cards are a great option, because you can lock in your currency and know how much you have to play with. If you are taking a very long holiday, sometimes this is a necessary option for most of your money so you know what you have. There are a number of options out there for Australian travelers to consider when shopping for the best pre-paid travel card. However, you really need to crunch the numbers and ask yourself “is this a good deal?” in comparison to other pre-paid cards and of course, all other currency options at your disposal.

Questions To Ask When Purchasing A Pre-Paid Travel Card

*What rate will I be able to get? And is this the best they will offer?

*What fees are involved – ATM fees, card purchase fee, cash loading fees etc

*What is the daily limit I can spend on this card? – how does it differ to a fee free debit card’s limit?

*How much money should I put on the card? – I budget to have $100 in the local currency, per person, per day. $80 if you get free breakfast, or will be driving a lot that day.

*What do I do if I lose the cards and/or I get robbed? How do I access my money if something happens? Do any of the cards have a Western Union or Moneygram option so you can receive money somehow?

*Is my name printed on the card? – Some companies can offer you this if you do it early enough.

*How much money do I need to take? – Is putting all my currency on this one card the best option for me? Do I have a BACKUP option?

*Do I plan to use the card at hotels and restaurants? Pre-paid cards can encounter holds when checking in, paying for a meal (prior to the tip being added) and so forth. You need to ensure you have enough funds on top of all these “holds” to pay for what you do buy until that money is returned to your card.

Some places will not accept pre-paid cards. Especially if your name is not on it – though I have never been knocked back from using one. Hire car companies and hotels may or may not accept these cards for holds as they only have a set amount on them – but you should never use these cards for holds anyway, as the money they temporarily “take” will be returned to you after a number of days or even weeks after your stay is completed – which makes the whole point of pre-loading cash before you go a waste of time. If you’re due back home within 2 weeks of these transactions, you will likely come back with money still on your card because of such holds. But remember – how do you pay for things when money you thought you would have for accommodation or food…you may not be able to actually access over there? Therefore, it is wise to only use pre-paid cards if you are making a one time payment – no holds.

IF YOU’RE TRAVELING TO THE USA OR CANADA:

When eating at a restaurant – if you pay for your meal with a pre-paid card in the US or Canada, the server will swipe your card first with a “hold” and have you sign the receipt to leave a tip. If you write a tip on the receipt – your bill total will change and the server will re-swipe your card to add the tip to it – which creates a second transaction. So if your total doesn’t change you won’t have any issues. But it is customary to tip 15-20% (read more about tipping here).You should leave a cash tip if using a pre-paid card like this to avoid incurring these temporary “hold” transactions. This way the only transactions you have going on these cards are ones which immediately go through. Or use a fee free credit card for these meals – or just pay in cash. Whatever you do, just don’t pay for tips or restaurant meals using a pre-paid card if you want access to all of your money, all of the time.

In case this still confuses you – here are examples of how pre-paid cards can go wrong. 

The time a “hold” temporarily took some of our money

Back when I first started traveling, my family and I went to Vegas and used our pre-paid card when checking in as we were paying for the accommodation with this card. This was back before we knew better. We had $5000 USD on the card. But the hotel only put a hold on the card which was around $1400 and then we were charged the hotel stay of about $1000 upon checking out. That hold amount of $1400 was inaccessible for about a week until it was returned to the card, which was very annoying and had it only been a 2 week trip – we would have been unable to access $1400 USD of our own money because it wasn’t on our card as ‘available’. All we had access to was the remaining $2500, even though we really had $4000 on this card. These are things we don’t always think about. So don’t get caught in that trap. We learnt our lesson pretty quickly there. It can be problematic if you are using this pre-paid card for your accommodation.

The time an ATM didn’t disperse our $500 USD cash

Another time, we used an ATM at a hotel in Florida, and our $500 USD did not come out of the machine! Luckily it was 8 hours before we had to fly to our next city and hotel staff called a technician who counted the money and saw that our cash hadn’t come out. But it was very stressful not knowing. By using a fee free debit card, you can at least call your bank and tell them what happened and possibly get a resolution if no one is there to help you. If you use a pre-paid card though and this kind of thing happens – how do you prove the money never came out if you’re on your own? And how will you get that money back? A proper debit card is therefore more desirable in these cases. But, don’t withdraw large amounts ever. Thankfully, we were at our hotel and someone could help us to get our money back! Now, I only use bank ATMs where staff are on site in case it happens again.

The following 11 pre-paid travel cards I will be looking at for the purpose of this article:

Commonwealth Bank Travel Money Card; ANZ Travel Card; NAB Traveller Card; Westpac Global Currency Card; Travelex Money Card; Travel Money Oz Currency Pass; Qantas Travel Card; Australia Post Cash Passport; Foreign Xchange; HSBC Global Account Card and Velocity Global Wallet.

How Do These Pre-Paid Cards Compare To Each Other?

This is the big question – what travel card do you buy to ensure that you are getting the BEST deal?

Here is where data matters and can help you make that judgement.

Bear in mind that there are a few cards listed here that I cannot give you data on. Why? Because they don’t list their rates. So their information won’t be included in the tables for each currency. But, I will still give you a run-down of each card so you know they are available to use should you want to. I personally don’t like when companies aren’t flexible in offering their rates to the public – even if they have a fee added that we won’t see unless we are customers. It makes me use others that do.

Important Information About Converting Currency To A Pre-paid Travel Card

Before I start any comparison, it’s important to remember what the live market rates actually are so you know what value you’re really getting. Do note that things can change. It will rise and fall – so strike while the iron is hot if this is a concern to you.

This information is my analysis of what I see being the best value pre-paid travel card options right now – which I have been consistently watching for the past year. So although the rates here may differ to today’s actual rates – the analysis for which travel cards are good or bad will relatively be the same 99% of the time. Bear in mind that new travel cards can appear on the market, and travel cards with horrible rates can choose to become more competitive. Research is the key like anything. But these are the main players people will use. I will always endeavor to update this data – so be sure to bookmark this article and check back anytime you plan to travel abroad.Or if you find out about something I haven’t covered here, let me know and I can aim to put it in as well.

It will ultimately be up to you to investigate whether the options listed below are the best for you. But really factor in the rate you’re getting and the incentives being offered on top of this when deciding.

Live Currency Conversion Rates Against the AUD

The following rates were the standard live market rates offered on the afternoon of June 11, 2019 against the Australian Dollar (AUD) as provided by XE – Foreign Exchange Company – which is my go to website/ app that I use for checking live currency rates. Download it immediately – it’s a livesaver!

Each of the below 7 currencies will be analyzed to ensure a broad analysis is occurring for global travelers – not just the major ones like the USD. These are the currencies which Australians are most known to buy, which is why I am looking at these predominately.

Currencies

United States Dollar (USD) – 0.695324; Canadian Dollar (CAD) – 0.921888; Pound Sterling (GBP) – 0.547554; Euro (EUR) – 0.614647; New Zealand Dollar (NZD) – 1.05789; Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) – 9,796.03 and Thailand Baht (THB) – 21.4489

Visa & Mastercard Currency Conversion Rates

Once you see what the live market rates are for converting AUD currency, you now need to look at what the VISA and MASTERCARD rates are in comparison to this live rate – as most debit, credit and pre-paid cards will use one of these rates as a baseline for how much their card holders will be charged in AUD. The Visa and Mastercard rates are almost what the live rates are, with a little margin of difference – but not much off them as you will see below. So, the closest you can get to the live rate the better off you are.

On the afternoon of June 11th, 2019 the Visa currency rates (with 0% fees)  and the Mastercard currency rates (with 0% fees) were:

VISA

USD: 0.702430; CAD: 0.929679; GBP: 0.552396; EURO: 0.620383; NZD: 1.054403; IDR: 9,885.299; THB: 21.616036.

MASTERCARD

USD: 0.700777; CAD: 0.92828; GBP: 0.550358; EURO: 0.618965; NZD: 1.05312; IDR: 9,867.5241; THB: 21.566225

Which is the best value company to have a pre-paid card or debit/credit card with? It changes. When I checked it last week Mastercard had the better rate. But when I officially took my data down for this article, Visa had the better rates by a fraction – that it’s often too close to call between them. Everything changes daily. It really doesn’t matter which one you use as both offer the best baseline rates anyway. As the VISA and MASTERCARD rates are somewhat “locked in” per day, it can often mean that their rates may appear to be “better” than the XE LIVE RATE. However, when the rates were locked in, the XE RATE was actually a little higher than what they both offered at the time – which is why sometimes you appear to “gain” rather than lose on these rates for these examples.

Currency Rates Against the Australian Dollar (AUD)

AUD To USD For Pre-Paid Travel Cards

The Verdict

With a Live rate of 0.6952 – the best value options that convert against AUD into USD for pre-paid travel cards remains Citibank’s Global Currency Account. In fact, this card blows all other cards that pre-load out of the water for so many reasons. The rate of 0.6816 means it’s closest rival is 0.73 behind dollar for dollar. If you were converting $1,000 AUD with the Citi card, it would mean an extra $7.30 USD in your pocket which adds up if you were to convert $10,000 AUD, making you $70.30 USD better off with the Citi card.

While Travellex’s Cash passport is the next best card, followed by ANZ’s Travel Card, it pays to note that the Travel Money Oz Currency Pass and Foreign Xchange Travel Card rates are both “price beat guarantees” which means they will match all of these rates – including Citibank, so these are companies you can look at in getting the best rates. Do bear in mind that Travellex have free ATM withdrawals on most ATMs, but Travel Money Oz do not. Foreign Xchange is an Australian company based out of Adelaide – but they don’t have as many locations as Travel Money Oz so you will have to receive your card via the post if you go with them if you don’t live in Adelaide. But at least they are a competitive option for Aussies.

There are still losses with every one of the pre-paid travel cards though which the table highlights for $100, $1000 and $10,000 AUD spent. Make sure you scroll across to see all columns If if you are looking at this on a mobile device. If you were to convert $10,000 AUD for your holiday, Citibank will still lead you to a $136 USD loss in conversion compared to the live market rate. However, Australia Post’s Platinum Mastercard which comes in even further down has a $397 USD loss for the same $10,000 conversion and Qantas’s Travel Money Card isn’t very far behind! So as you can see, the rates do matter because that alone is a $195-$261 USD difference! Before deciding, check what the free incentives are for the cards, as well as the rates on offer. Also bear in mind that PRICES CHANGE. Some cards can improve and be better as the year progresses. So use my guide as a base to see what CURRENT offerings are when you plan to convert.

EDITOR’S NOTE: When it comes to the USA, your money will go further there than in Australia. Most good meals are $15-20 or less – and the meals are huge – often they can be shared or taken home. A lot of people say the meals aren’t big, but it means that they haven’t found the non-touristy places. Local eateries will serve proper portions. You can find them! Don’t forget to tip around 15 – 20% or more if you have good service. Convenience stores don’t price gouge like they do in Australia – so you can find snacks and drinks for $1-2 (and pay by card for them!), or just hit up a Walmart if you’re on a roadtrip or need small meals or snacks. Even theme parks aren’t too expensive with food and snacks compared to what I am used to back home. You may pay more with the dollar dropping below the great rates we once had; but honestly, it still takes you really far – even if you’re on a budget. I really don’t understand why people worry so much about the rate dipping when this is the reality I have when I travel there. If you are unsure about Tipping – please click here to read everything you need to know about it for hotels, airports, restaurants and so forth. It’s very comprehensive!

AUD To CAD For Pre-Paid Travel Cards

The Verdict

With a Live rate of 0.921888 – the best value options that convert against the CAD for pre-paid travel cards remains ANZ (who knew!?) followed by Westpac and Foreign Xchange. However, because Foreign Xchange and Travel Money Oz price beat guarantee (and the others do not), this gives them both an edge over ANZ because they will always BEAT their rates. Luckily for us, the CAD is one of the closest currencies dollar for dollar that we can buy. Which helps because some Canadian cities are expensive! (I used to live in Vancouver, and simple things like a block of cheese, spices like Mixed Herbs and the like and things like this were more than TRIPLE the price we pay in Australia!) I am not even joking!

There are still losses with every one of the pre-paid travel cards which the table highlights. (Make sure you scroll across to see all columns If if you are looking at this on a mobile.) If you were to convert $10,000 AUD, ANZ will still lead you to a $311 CAD loss in conversion compared to the live market rate. However, Australia Post which comes in even further down has a $575 CAD loss for the same $10,000 conversion! That is actually ridiculous! So as you can see, the rates really do matter  when it comes to converting AUD to CAD because that alone is a $264 CAD difference. Before deciding, check what the free incentives are for the cards, as well as the rates on offer.

For most currency options, the USD is the most competitive so currencies like the CAD really do take a back seat to the more competitive rates offered against the USD. But, it is still within 10 cents of our dollar so your money will go far in Canada when converting from AUD – depending on what you purchase though.

AUD To GBP For Pre-Paid Travel Cards

 

The Verdict

With a Live rate of 0.547554 – the best value options that convert against the GBP for pre-paid travel cards remains Travellex followed by Westpac and Foreign Xchange. However, because Foreign Xchange and Travel Money Oz price beat guarantee (and the others do not), this gives them both an edge over Travellex because they will always BEAT their rates. The GBP is not kind and never has been – it is expensive to travel to the UK so I would suggest purchasing as much as possible in AUD as possible, or use a fee free credit card or debit card when booking accommodation, flights and trains.

There are still losses with every one of the pre-paid travel cards which the table highlights. (Make sure you scroll across to see all columns If if you are looking at this on a mobile.) If you were to convert $10,000 AUD, Travelex will still lead you to a 178 GBP loss in conversion compared to the live market rate. However, Australia Post which comes in even further down has a 338 GBP loss for the same $10,000 conversion! That is huge! So as you can see, the rates really do matter when it comes to converting AUD to GBP because that alone is a 160 GBP difference – which is almost double the AUD figures. Before deciding, check what the free incentives are for the cards, as well as the rates on offer.

For most currency options, the USD is the most competitive so currencies like the GBP really do take a back seat to the more competitive rates offered against the USD. Considering the GBP is almost 50% to the AUD, getting the best rate is the most important option for those converting this currency.

 

The Pros & Cons Of Pre-Paid Travel Cards

Commonwealth Bank Travel Money Card

Commonwealth Bank Travel Card

The Commonwealth Bank Travel Money Card is a fair option for those who have loyalty for Commonwealth Bank. But given it is a big 4, Commonwealth Bank don’t offer the best rates or options for travelers compared to others – they are among one of the worst for their conversions!

Here’s what you get:

FEATURES

-A free travel money card (if you order it online in Netbank). It will cost $15 AUD if you purchase it at a branch.

-Load up to 13 currencies on the one card at a locked in rate. The amount you have listed in your account, is the amount you have access to.

$0 reload fee which can be made through Netbank or the Commbank App – The CommBank Retail Foreign Exchange Rate is used for all currency conversions.

-No international transaction fees when using the card – the rate is locked in.

-Currency can be loaded via direct transfer (Netbank/ Comm bank App), BPAY, in branch or by phone.

-SMS alerts are free. You need to opt in to receive them though.

FEES

There are not many fees associated with this card except:

-When a purchase or ATM withdrawal is conducted in a currency that is not loaded on the card, or when a transfer of funds between the currencies on your card takes place; the purchase will be based on the rate set by either Mastercard or Visa (depending on which one your card is) plus 5.75%.

ATM fees are based on the currency you’re using (per transaction):

USD 2.50 – GBP 2.00 – EUR 2.20 – NZD 3.50 – CAD 3.00

ANZ Travel Card

ANZ Travel Money Card

The ANZ Travel Card is another fair option for those who have loyalty for ANZ. But again, given it is a big 4, ANZ don’t offer the best rates or options for travelers compared to others either – though they certainly are one of the better options if buying through a bank!

Here’s what you get:

FEATURES

-A free Visa travel card whether you order online (takes 5 business days) or at a branch.

-Load up to 10 currencies on the one card at a locked in rate. The amount you have listed in your account, is the amount you have access to.

$0 reload fee which can be made online or through the ANZ App – ANZ use their rate for all currency conversions based off the current live rates.

-No international transaction fees when using the card – the rate is locked in.

-Currency can be loaded via direct transfer, BPAY, in branch or by phone. (BPAY rate is confirmed once the money has been received – which can take 3 days.)

-They do offer Cash Packs – should you want smaller notes before you go in cash. Exchange rates for foreign cash look to be same as the travel card rates.

FEES

There are not many fees associated with this card except:

-SMS alerts are 0.35 cents.

-When a purchase or ATM withdrawal is conducted in a currency that is not loaded on the card, or when a transfer of funds between the currencies on your card takes place; the purchase will be based on the rate set by Visa, plus 4%.

ATM fees are based on the currency you’re using (per transaction):

USD 2.50 – GBP 2.00 – EUR 2.20 – NZD 4.50 – CAD 3.00

NAB Traveller Card

NAB Travel Card

NAB are another of the big 4 bank options. It is on par with the others, but does have some fee free options which helps its desirability.

Here’s what you get:

FEATURES

-A free Mastercard travel card whether you order online or at a branch.

-Load up to 10 currencies on the one card at a locked in rate. The amount you have listed in your account, is the amount you have access to.

$0 reload fee which can be made online or through the NAB App – NAB use their rate for all currency conversions based off the current live rates.

-No international transaction fees when using the card – the rate is locked in. No ATM fees for international withdrawals.

-Currency can be loaded via direct transfer, BPAY, in branch or by phone. (BPAY rate is confirmed once the money has been received – which can take 3 days.)

FEES

-When a purchase or ATM withdrawal is conducted in a currency that is not loaded on the card, or when a transfer of funds between the currencies on your card takes place; the purchase will be based on the rate set by Mastercard, plus 4%.

ATM fees – there are none. But, if an ATM charges a fee for use overseas – then you may not be exempt from these fees (even though your card has no ATM fees).

Westpac Global Currency Card

Westpac Travel Money Card

The Westpac Global Currency Card is the last of the big 4 banks to be analyzed. Like the other big 4’s, it’s a standard option but still on par with what the other 3 offer.

Here’s what you get:

FEATURES

-A free Visa travel card when you order online.

-Load up to 5 currencies on the one card at a locked in rate. The amount you have listed in your account, is the amount you have access to.

$0 reload fee – Westpac use their rate for all currency conversions based off the current live rates.

-No international transaction fees when using the card – the rate is locked in.

-Currency can be loaded via the Westpac Live Online Banking, direct transfer and BPAY.

FEES

-When a purchase or ATM withdrawal is conducted in a currency that is not loaded on the card, or when a transfer of funds between the currencies on your card takes place; the purchase will be based on the rate set by Mastercard, plus 3% of the total transaction.

ATM fees –  (including balance inquiries)

– USD 2.00 – GBP 1.50 – EUR 2.00 – NZD 3.00 – CAD 2.50

Travellex Money Card

Travellex Travel Card

Unlike the big 4, Travellex offer a great alternative to travelers wanting a pre-loaded card – with some of the most competitive rates around.

Here’s what you get:

FEATURES

-A free Mastercard travel card (online or in store).

-Load up to 10 currencies on the one card at a locked in rate with the Travellex Money Card. The amount you have listed in your account, is the amount you have access to.

$0 reload fee for all international currencies which can be made online or in store. Fees apply for AUD reloads. – Travellex use their rate for all currency conversions based off the current live rates.

-No international transaction fees when using the card – the rate is locked in. No ATM fees at Travellex ATM’s and most ATM’s- unless operators charge their own. Fees apply for AUD withdrawals in Australia.

FEES

-Additional Card $5.00 AUD.

-When a purchase or ATM withdrawal is conducted in a currency that is not loaded on the card, or when a transfer of funds between the currencies on your card takes place; the fee will be based on the rate set by Mastercard, plus 2.95% of the total transaction.

-Inactivity fee after 12 months of no use – unless closed is $4 AUD a month.

$10 AUD to close account and cash it out.

Travel Money Oz Currency Pass

Travel Money Oz Travel Card

Travel Money Oz, is the main competitor against Travellex. They too offer a great alternative to travelers wanting a pre-loaded card – with competitive rates. However, Travel Money Oz will PRICE BEAT any advertised rate – as long as you show proof of the day’s rate. I use them when converting currency – as I know I will always get the best price available in Australia.

Here’s what you get:

FEATURES

-A free Mastercard travel card (online or in store).

-Load up to 10 currencies on the one card at a locked in rate with the Travel Money Oz Cash Passport. The amount you have listed in your account, is the amount you have access to.

$0 reload fee when reloading in store or via direct transfer. Fees apply for BPAY, debit and credit re-loads. Travel Money Oz use their rate for all currency conversions based off the current live rates. They do PRICE BEAT.

-No international transaction fees when using the card – the rate is locked in.

FEES

-When a purchase or ATM withdrawal is conducted in a currency that is not loaded on the card, or when a transfer of funds between the currencies on your card takes place; the fee will be based on the rate set by Mastercard.

ATM fees –

– USD 2.50 – GBP 2.00 – EUR 2.50 – NZD 3.50 – CAD 3.50

$10 AUD to close account and cash it out.

Qantas Cash

Qantas Cash Travel Card

When it comes to points, Qantas Cash allows Qantas Frequent Flyers to build points with their transactions. The rate earned varies if you are purchasing internationally (1.5 points per dollar) or domestically (4 points per dollar) – only with approved transactions. However, the rates on this card are still in line with the big 4 – so points aside it’s rates are not very competitive overall – which is a worry since many Aussies are using this card. Please do your research – most airlines offer sub par rates for conversion. There is better out there! But if you are wanting to build points, and don’t care about the rates being 3-4 cents lower than many of the rest, then this card is more than fine to use.

Here’s what you get:

FEATURES

-A free Mastercard travel card (online application only).

-Load up to 11 currencies on the one card at a locked in rate with the Qantas Cash card. The amount you have listed in your account, is the amount you have access to.

$0 reload fee when reloading via direct transfer or BPAY. Qantas Cash use their rate for all currency conversions based off the current live rates.

-No international transaction fees when using the card – the rate is locked in.

FEES

-Instant cash reloads incur a 0.5% fee of total transaction.

-Direct Debit reloads incur a 0.5% fee of total transaction.

-When a purchase or ATM withdrawal is conducted in a currency that is not loaded on the card, or when a transfer of funds between the currencies on your card takes place; the fee will be based on the rate set by Mastercard.

ATM fees –

– USD 1.95 – GBP 1.25 – EUR 1.50 – NZD 2.50 – CAD 2.00

What Debit / Credit Cards Are Best For Travel?

Pre-loaded cards are not the only option out there.

I will also be focusing on the following DEBIT/ CREDIT card offerings – the ones which you do not pre-load but take from your Australian bank account – cards that I have and ACTUALLY USE.

To some, this is a risky move. Why? Because there is nothing locked in and the rate can dip – but it can also go up. What is important to remember here is that these cards follow either the Visa or Mastercard rates – which upon review were practically the same as the LIVE rates.

Thus, if there is a 4 cent difference with USD for purchasing currency on a pre-loaded card – any dip that happens before you head away won’t actually matter as much as people think, even if its as much as 3-4 cents because you will still get the live rate – or as close to it as possible which is still 4 cents more than the best pre-loaded rate. If the Aussie dollar starts dramatically falling, then of course buy something as you notice it. But don’t stress about it too much. Just make sure you are getting the best rate on the day if you do pre-load. Based on our economy, it is good for us for the dollar to drop to strengthen our own tourism sector and value – so please don’t get too disheartened by dips in the rate. Your money will go much farther overseas in most cases than it will in Australia anyway.

But if you are ok with trusting the market, and prefer to get the BEST rate possibly available to you in Australia – then these options will be the best options overall for ALL travel cards – even better than pre-loaded cards.

So which debit/credit cards ones are worth considering?

Debit/ Credit Cards That Are Best For International Travel

-28 Degrees Mastercard

-Citibank Everyday Debit / Credit Card

-Bankwest Platinum Credit Card

-ING Debit /Credit Cards

-HSBC Everyday Global Account (Debit card – but you can also pre-load on the same card with currency.)

28 Degrees Mastercard

28 Degrees Mastercard Travel Card

Here’s what you get:

FEATURES

-A free Mastercard when you order online.

-No annual fees

-No international transaction fees

-55 days interest free

$6000 AUD minimum credit

INCLUSIONS

-Free worldwide card replacement 

-Free Global Wifi through Boingo hotspots worldwide

FEES

There are not many fees associated with this card except:

21.99% interest rate on purchases.

21.99% interest rate on cash advances.

-Payment service fees $2.50 AUD (in person), $0.95 (BPAY). You can avoid this fee by making your payments via mail, direct debit transfer or via the Online Service Centre.

-Late Fee $20 AUD

-Paper Statement $2.50 AUD

I use this card when I travel. I can vouch for it and I love what it offers me as an international traveler – especially with the Boingo complimentary wifi incentive. 

Citibank Plus Everyday Card

Citibank Everyday Travel Card

Here’s what you get:

FEATURES

-A free Mastercard when you order online or in person.

-You use your own money.

-No annual fees or monthly fees.

-No international transaction fees

-No ATM fees -Citibank ATM’s are available in many countries. These ATM’s will not charge you a fee to use. But, if an ATM charges a fee for use – then you may not be exempt from these fees (even though your card has no ATM fees).

-Citibank are a global brand – should you need a replacement it will be far easier to get than from an Australian company.

-Citibank Dining Program Offers

-Secure App – uses fingerprint technology to login on your phone.

FEES

There are no fees associated with this card beyond possible ATM fees with some operators.

I do use this card when I travel. I love what it offers me as an international traveler, because I know that the rate I am using is the best rate possible – and it’s my own money! Plus, no fees besides ‘possible’ ATM fees. This is a great backup option, especially if you use the ING card below as your primary card. Why wouldn’t you take both?

ING Orange Everyday Debit Card

ING Orange Everyday Travel Card

Here’s what you get:

FEATURES

-A free Visa card when you order online.

-You use your own money.

-No annual fees or monthly fees.

-No international transaction fees – if you meet the conditions. Otherwise the rate on purchases are 2.5% of the total.

-NO ATM fees.

FEES

There are not many fees associated with this card but there are conditions of USE.

To quality for a fee-free experience, you must:

Deposit $1000 AUD into the account every 30 days.

-Make 5 transactions with the card per month which are settled – not pending.

-All fees which are waived will still be listed on your transactions within your account – but these fees will then be rebated back into your account as long as you qualify under their terms of use. Please note – that if you do not meet the terms of use for 1 month, you will have to pay fees for that 30 day period; until you can resume a fee-free month the following month.

*If this card is being used as a travel card only, these conditions may not work for you.

Do Note – if you have a home loan with ING – you can qualify for this card – completely fee free (without the need to meet any additional conditions). So if you have a home loan with them – be sure to use this card when traveling.

Additionally to this debit card, there is an ING Orange One Credit Card and Orange One Platinum Card which both offer free fee options – as long as your Orange Everyday Debit account inclusions are met.

The Orange One Card is 11.99% on purchases at 45 days interest free. The Platinum card is 16.99% on purchases at 45 days interest free. So there are a few decent options with ING if you actually bank with them.

I know many people who use this card, and I also use it myself. The rebate option is a money saver – as ING will refund all fees if you meet the requirements. Most other cards are ATM free (if you use their ATM’s) but will still incur an operator fee on top of this. ING is a really strong card, particularly if you bank with them. Strong rates and no fees. Winner!

The Savings Maximiser that they have is also great, with a competitive interest rate so you can build your savings even more. 

Bankwest Platinum Credit Card

Bankwest Platinum Travel Card

Here’s what you get:

FEATURES

-A free Mastercard when you order online or in branch.

-No annual fees

-No international transaction fees

-55 days interest free

FEES

There are not many fees associated with this card except:

17.99% interest rate on purchases.

21.99% interest rate on cash advances.

INCLUSION

-Complimentary travel insurance (terms and conditions apply)

-Contactless travel ring (which you wear on your hand)

The Bankwest Card is a strong contender. No fees, a contactless ring for more secure payment choices, and solid rates based off Mastercard. The complimentary travel insurance is a real incentive for this card too.

HSBC EVERYDAY GLOBAL DEBIT CARD

HSBC Everyday Global Card

Visa

-No ATM, international transaction or account keeping fees. (No ATM fees unless the operator of the ATM you use charges one). There is no minimum deposits for using this card like others have.

-You use your own money at the HSBC conversion rate – but AUD is the controlled or default currency for this card.

-You can pre-load any amount on the card in another currency to lock in that currency for when you visit.

-This card allows for the loading of 10 selected currencies only – which may not work for all travelers that need/ travel using other currencies not included for this card. Other currencies are available for ATM cash withdrawals and purchases with the card, but these funds will be deducted from your AUD account and exchanged into the local currency at the HSBC rate.

-Competitive rates for currency conversion (whether debited or pre-loaded onto the card) –

-USD (2 cents off live Visa rates)
-GBP (2 cents off live Visa rates)
-EUR (2 cents off live Visa rates)
-CAD (3 cents off live Visa rates)
-NZD (3 cents off live Visa rates)

Which Of These Debit /Credit Cards Are The Best Options?

Some things to consider-

The Visa and Mastercard rates per each currency, which highlights that Mastercard is generally a fraction better against Visa – but BOTH are as close to LIVE rates unlike any other card on offer.

How Do They Compare If Their Rates Are Comparable?

28 DEGREES

Mastercard

21.99% at 55 days interest free.

-No ATM, international or account keeping fees.

BONUS – Boingo Complimentary Wifi Hotspot Account.

CITIBANK

Mastercard

-No ATM, international or account keeping fees.

-You use your own money.

-BONUS Citibank Dining Programfree bottle of wine at selected restaurants when using the card.

ING

Visa

-No ATM, international or account keeping fees.

-You use your own money.

-Everyday Debit$1000 AUD deposited in per month. 5 settled transactions to bypass fees.

-CreditOrange One – 11.99% at 45 days interest free. Orange One Platinum – 16.99% at 45 days interest free. Must adhere to conditions of Orange Everyday Card.

BANKWEST

Mastercard

-No ATM, international or account keeping fees.

17.99% at 55 days interest free

Complimentary travel insurance (conditions will apply)

17.99% interest rate on purchases.

21.99% interest rate on cash advances.

HSBC EVERYDAY GLOBAL DEBIT CARD

Visa

-No ATM,international transaction or account keeping fees. (No ATM fees unless the operator of the ATM you use charges one).

-There are no minimum deposits for using this card like others have.

-You use your own money at the Visa market rate. AUD is the controlled or default currency for this card.

-You can pre-load an amount on the card in another currency to lock in that currency.

-Competitive rates for currency conversion.

The Verdict

Based on all of this – and the most valuable incentives for each card, it is really hard to go past the Citibank Everyday Card and the ING Everyday Debit Card as a general debit/travel card option. You use your own money for both.

With Citi – they are a global bank, so if issues arise and you need to visit a branch you can do that. Plus there are no fees for using the card beyond ATM fees at non Citi locations. What separates it from ING’s debit travel card, is that there are no conditions of use. You can use this card whenever you travel – not be forced to use it everyday as a debit card if you bank with someone else.

With ING, I love that you can see the rebates given, and the conditions are not unrealistic. I have switched all my primary banking to ING – including my savings. I love them and what they offer their customers.

The HSBC Everyday Global Card allows users to have an AUD bank account alongside the multiple currencies that can be loaded at quite competitive rates. For ease this is a great option – but it is a few cents off the live Visa rates which allows Citi and ING to still be that more viable option – just.

The 28 degrees Mastercard is the best global travel credit card I have ever found. Thankfully us Aussies have access to it. No matter what card you use as a primary card, make sure you get this card as well. Just make sure you pay it off every month in full to avoid any high interest fees.

How Do These Cards Compare To Pre-Loaded Travel Cards?

Final Thoughts On Travel Cards

Ultimately, what you decide to use is up to you.

But based on this evidence and my strong knowledge of each institution the basics are clear – the big 4 banks are rarely the best options. Sure some have no international transaction fees or ATM fees – but the rates for some currencies are almost eye watering. The only exception to the rule here is ANZ – who are more often than not at least somewhat competitive with their overall rates.

The front runners for pre-loaded cards are Travellex and Travel Money Oz – don’t forget they price beat guarantee!

Regarding debit cards – ING and Citibank offer amazing deals to their customers. As for credit cards – 28 Degrees Mastercard have the best rates, and the most beneficial incentives that travelers would appreciate. If wifi is not a necessity for you – then the Bankwest Credit Card is the next one worth looking at through it’s travel insurance add on.

I truly hope this article has been helpful in at least opening your eyes to what your options are as an Australian traveler. If you are heading to the USA don’t forget to join my travel group here. I share all of this and more there to help people travel in a country I have explored over the past decade.

Do bear in mind information may change between publishing this and when you read it – but overall, things will remain pretty on par with what i’ve written as the trends have not really changed much at all. It will depend on the currency for how competitive companies get.

If you need any further tips be sure to message me or comment below. I am always here to help people if they ask for it!

If you are looking for advice on HOW TO TIP you can find this here

If you are wondering about ESTA’s (visa waiver’s) and general how-tos before you head to the USA, you can find this here

If you’re looking for an engaged, knowledgeable and helpful community to join on Facebook – click here to join my fast-growing US & Canada Travel Group.

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 Best Travel Cards For Aussies