Finding the best travel money card for your trip
Going overseas, whether it's to Europe to experience amazing new cultures or just across the ditch for a ramble in the New Zealand wilderness, is always exciting. There are so many places out there to explore it's hard to know where to start!
Once you've made the big decision of where to go, there's plenty more to be made. Of all the aspects of planning an overseas trip, organising your travel funds is possibly the most confusing and where you are most likely to occur unexpected fees. But with a little bit of research and planning - and Mozo's expert advice - you can choose the right travel money option for you.
If you are looking for information on transferring money overseas, this section isn’t for you. Instead head on over to our international money transfer page where you can compare rates and providers that offer money transfers from Australia.
Let’s start by running you through the different breeds of travel money cards in the market:
Types of travel money cards
Prepaid travel cards:
A popular choice for many Aussies who are jetsetting overseas is purchasing a prepaid travel card, which as the name suggests is when you load foreign money onto the card before you jetset overseas.
Prepaid travel cards have the advantage of being a convenient source of money when you're overseas as you can use them just like you use a credit or debit card - they also have credit card-like security usually coming with either Visa or MasterCard’s zero liability policy, which means you are protected against any fraudulent activity if your card is lost or stolen. Plus you’ll also get the peace of mind of pin number access.
Another advantage is you can also choose the best time to purchase foreign currencies to lock in a great currency exchange rate in the lead up to your trip. If you’re heading on a major globetrot to multiple countries, you’ll be happy to hear that many prepaid cards also allow you to load up to five different currencies onto the card.
The disadvantage of travel money cards is the associated purchase and reload fees can be quite high and it can be difficult and/or expensive to get back any 'unused' funds at the end of your trip. Also be mindful that there can be high penalties for cross currency purchases, so it’s wise to only pay using the currency you have loaded onto the card. In summary: they give you globe-trotting ease, but may come at a price.
Mozo tip: Look for a prepaid travel card that has a wide overseas ATM network, so you can avoid the cost of high ATM withdrawal fees overseas. For instance, users of Westpac’s Global Currency Card have fee free cash withdrawals at two million ATMs worldwide from any of Westpac's Global ATM Alliance partners.
Travel credit cards:
Credit cards are many people's' go-to answer for travel money, as an alternative of carrying around cash. When choosing a credit card to pack for your holiday there are three main types of travel friendly cards:
Travel credit card: A popular choice for jetsetters is going for a credit card that is specifically designed for overseas travel, with a low or no currency conversion fee that is widely accepted around the world. While travel credit cards are great as you’ll avoid the slap of a high currency conversion fee, be mindful that credit cards aren’t made for ATM withdrawals as you’ll be charged the cash advance rate which is often over the 20% mark and to make matters worse the interest free period doesn’t apply to cash withdrawals.
0% purchase rate credit card: Another option is going for some plastic free of interest for an introductory period. While a 0% credit card deal can be a good choice if you want to shop up a storm overseas and pay back those purchases over a longer timeframe, make sure you can repay the balance in full before the honeymoon period comes to an end because many interest free cards revert to much higher rates.
Rewards credit card: For those regular jetsetters, there’s also the option of racking up points fast with a rewards credit card, as many come with extra bonus points per $1 spent in overseas countries. Plus to top things off many rewards cards are packed with complimentary features, such as travel insurance and concierge. But keep in mind, rewards credit cards are notorious for having high annual fees attached, so you’ll need to make sure the value of the rewards and freebies outweigh this cost.
Before you decide to go down the travel credit card path, make sure you have a read of our credit card survival guide, which reveals the potential traps to avoid when using a credit card overseas.
Travel debit cards:
Also known as travel cash cards, a travel debit card is a way of taking your everyday bank account into the big wide world. They share many of the advantages of credit cards, in that they're pin secured and accepted in most places (since they're secured by the same companies e.g MasterCard or Visa), but you’re spending your own money not the banks. So with a debit card, you can avoid coming home to a massive amount of debt.
Many of the better travel card providers also offer fee-free ATM withdrawals around the world and no foreign currency conversion fees, compared to standard debit cards with a 2-3% rate.
The only downsides of travel debit cards is that you generally won't earn the same rewards that credit cards can offer.
To learn more about the difference between travel prepaid, credit and debit cards, read our travel money 101 guide here.
Kicking off your travel card comparison
With all of these alternatives, it's hard to know what's the best travel money option for you and your holiday. This is where Mozo comes to the rescue! You can compare all of your travel money card options right here on the one site in our prepaid travel card, travel credit card and travel debit card comparison sections - no need to waste time trawling to each provider’s website! Mozo lists all the fees and hidden costs, so you can make an accurate travel card comparison.
We also have a great foreign exchange calculator which lets you see what rates the Australian currency converters are offering on four of the major currencies that are popular with Australian travellers - US dollars, British Pounds, Euros and New Zealand dollars. And all this information is presented in an easy to operate chart, so you can quickly know if today's the day you should exchange your mighty Australian dollars for another currency.
And don’t forget Mozo’s top travel money tips…
- Let your card provider know you’re heading overseas. Card providers are constantly on the lookout for any fraudulent activity. So if they suddenly see transactions on your account in an overseas country, they could decide to deactivate your card. To avoid being left without access to your cash, give your provider a quick buzz before you leave.
- Take more than one travel money option with you. You’ve probably heard the disaster travel stories where a traveller is left cashless due to a lost or stolen card. So make sure this isn’t you, by packing at least two travel money options with you. For instance, you could consider bringing a travel credit card with you for all those big purchases over the counter and a prepaid travel money card for your ATM withdrawals. This will give you the peace of mind that if you lost one of your cards, you’ll have a back up travel money card at hand.
- Report any unauthorised transactions immediately. While most travel money cards come with the protection of Visa, MasterCard or AMEX’s zero liability policy, to ensure you’re covered against any fraudulent activity you need to ensure you contact your card provider within a “reasonable period of time.”
- Always pay in the local currency. When you’re overseas and a merchant asks if you would like to pay in AUD, always say no because when you have the currency converted into your local currency you will generally be charged a higher currency conversion rate than your banks.
Want more helpful advice for using a travel money card like a pro? Then reading our handy guide on the top 5 travel money tips should be your next stop.