Travel credit cards

The article in March 2023 highlighting fees charged for overseas transactions missed the point that the real issue affecting the cost of overseas transactions is not the fee but the exchange rate applied. I use a Wise debit (not credit) card. If I changed $A1000 into USD today on Wise, I would get $US654.30 (taking into account the Wise fee).
Bendigo Bank would give me $US630.50.
Bankwest $US628.
(I couldnt find the 28 Degrees rate online).
Those are significant differences: $US24-26 - around $A38 in a $A1000 transaction.
Forget the fees and focus on the exchange rates.

On a related topic, many foreign merchants now offer to transact in $A and folk agree on the assumption that there is magically no exchange rate loss. If the merchant is receiving, say, $US and you are paying $A, then there must be a conversion at some unstated exchange rate - and in this system the exchange rate is always bad.


I don’t follow you. If you buy something in AUD and you pay the agreed dollars. How do you have to pay more than that due to some hidden exchange taking place?

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A reality is that each travel money provider may or may not have the best xrate for any given currency on any given day - they change by the minute. Fees are constants.

One bit of advice that is consistent is that Australian banks seem to offer the worst exchange rates of any, often by a large percent.

An excellent point. Another rort for travellers is when a merchant terminal recognises a foreign card (eg a $USD card used in Australia or an $AUD card used in the US, etc) and offers the card’s home currency in lieu of the local currency for the transaction. This applies to credit/debit, not the multi currency travel cards that have their own often significant pitfalls. Those who accept those offered rates get surety of the transactional charge but also get what is predictably the worst possible xrate by a goodly margin.

Many web sites show current xrate conversion amounts rather than actually pricing in $AUD. It is not always clear but often the $AUD amount comes with a caveat it is not fixed, and other times the pricing is indeed in $AUD so the international seller is taking an xrate risk.


US merchants price their goods/services in $US. In order for you to be quoted a price in $A there has to be a conversion. Invariably that conversion will have been made at a worse rate than you will get using a credit/debit card with a better exchange rate. There’s no additional conversion to be made after you have the $A price - but that’s because the conversion has already been made and invariably at an unfavourable (and probably undisclosed) rate.


Assuming that this is true (I don’t know I have to take your word for it) it also requires you to be able to find the goods or service that you want elsewhere so that the total you pay is less.

I think we’re getting away from the topic which was travel cards - the ones you use while travelling overseas. Shopping overseas online is something else

Choice has provided two guides recently.
Travel ‘money’ Cards which are a special product.

And on using your Aussie issued Credit/Debit Card while travelling OS.

Note payment for on line shopping is an option with either.
CBA Travel ‘money’ Cards use VISA. It’s not surprising the cards can be used for online purchases. There are no restrictions other than the merchant accepting VISA.

Whether one would want to use a Travel money Card for online shopping with overseas suppliers, there are alternatives, it is an option? It’s a slightly different discussion of the use of the cards, but similar to using them OS to make any purchase at a store counter.

Yes i agree with freddo that you really need to compare the exchange rate that will be provided as well to get an accurate comparison between travel cards and between travel card and using a bank issued card. The rates are all over the place and invariably a travel card has a worse one (not always granted) than the rate you get from VISA in an overseas transaction conversion. You need to dig around a bit to find these rates. We used to use a travel card but over time using my VISA debit card overseas has become a better option when comparing fees and exchange rates given. Another option for large payments overseas (payment for accommodation in advance, for example) is a reputable money transfer service to pay straight into the accommodation provider’s bank account at a very good rate with low fees.

Exchange rates do change on a daily basis but that’s not a reason to ignore rates and focus on fees. There are some cards that consistently offer much better rates than others. I set out the results of my comparison in my original post. Do the exercise for yourself. I am confident that the Wise debit card will still offer much better exchange rates.