Travel Money card reviews - How do you get money when travelling overseas?

Hi, We are doing some research in to travel money cards. If you have ever used a travel money card we’d love to hear your experiences. We are also very interested in other financial products you used to get money overseas and how those worked for you - such as credit cards, debit cards or even transferring money to overseas relatives or your own overseas accounts?


We have used both Visa Debit and also a 28 Degrees Credit Card when travelling overseas. We use the Visa Debit for cash withdrawals (as additional fees are cheaper than the 28 Degrees Credit card - we have found the exchange rates similar)…

The 28 Degrees Credit Card for purchases (meals, accommodation, clothing, other shopping etc) as it is lower in fees that the Visa Debit for such purchases.

We also take some cash (AUDs) to exchange if we see good rates. Cash is also king in many Asian counties, such as China, as connection to external/foreign credit card system is limited or can cause problems (e.g. losing card in a ATM).

AUDs are changes almost universally now and many currency exchangers in other countries offer rates similar to that posted internationally. We never take USD due to poor exchange rates in Australia and also having potentially additional losses through a second exchange when travelling (where USD is not the local currency).

We also haven’t used traveller’s cheques since 2003…and these were to bring currency back into Australia rather than taking currency overseas. The last time for travellers cheques for travelling (taking from Australia) was in 2001.

We have investigated travel cards but found the costs greater than any benefit and other options. Likewise never transferred money to relatives/friends, but have made payment for travel services overseas using money wired to the contracted company (e.g. when engaging a local travel agency overseas for payment of some of the land component).


When I started traveling overseas, a few years ago, I let my Bank talk me into
getting a travel money card.

In a souvenir shop in the Vatican City
they added a Mark-up on Excange Rate
of 3,00%.
As I had already made someone they were addressing as Princess apologise for holding up the line, and had stood-up for my Afro-American friend who was being overlooked, I was afraid they would throw me in a Castel Sant’Angelo cell never to be seen again if I questioned the transaction :wink:.

Travelling with a tour means that Hotel
accomodation, domestic transport, entrance to places of interest, are all included in the price. Just in case of any emergency, I carry the travel card and a debit and a credit card, but I take with me and use local cash for small personal expenses. I also keep with me AU money.

If I still have any local currency before I leave, I buy souvenirs and I also like to keep a small amount of foreign coins as souvenirs.


Rely on:

  1. 28 Degrees mastercard card for as many transactions as possible. (uses the basic mastercard fx rate and no further fees)
  2. ING Everyday card for ATM cash withdrawals. (uses the Visa fx rate and no further fees. *Conditions apply. Refunds third party ATM fees.) EDIT: *minimum deposit and transaction conditions.

Haven’t used travellers cheques this century.
Last used a CBA multi-currency card 10-15 years ago.

Not often, but enough to mention is a claim from foreign outlets like ‘our machine only offers in your card’s home currency’ and you have to make them find the right button for local currency.


Per @Kanga2, if you are an ING customer and play their game ($1,000 deposit per month and 5 charges/debit purchases) They waive the foreign exchange hit as well as refund ATM fees EFFECTIVE FOR THE FOLLOWING MONTH. It is very difficult to do better! Some people prefer buying currency at a known xrate rather than the day to day visa rates, but that usually works against the customer rather than for him, especially since those ‘travel money cards’ usually have fees in small print, often very small print.

A rip off one sometimes sees is that when buying in a currency other than that which a credit card is issued in, the terminal will offer a guaranteed xrate. It will be the worst xrate you could obtain if you actively sought it. In many cases the presentation the terminal uses is ‘cancel’ to reject accepting the ripoff rate so as to look like that will cancel the charge - it will not cancel the charge, it will just reject the ripoff xrate and use the standard spot visa/mastercard rate that will be to your advantage. I have a $USD card and a few local merchants have terminals that offer to process the $AUD charge in $USD. They add a motza to the transaction and bank it as good xrate business for the bank.


I have always avoided Travel Money cards as they seem to have high fees and poor exchange rates.

In most cases I have taken AUD cash and a debit card. AUD is changed as needed after arrival (except for Japan as the rates are better if you change AUD to yen in Australia). I use a Citibank Plus debit card and tend to use cash for daily expenses such as food and transport and use the Citibank card to pay hotel bills and other big expenses.

The Citibank card has worked well in India, USA, Japan but I find that transfers are a bit slow and payments can take a while to appear on the statement, so it’s not always clear how much you have to spend. I may change to using the ING Everyday card as their app is much easier to use and your can transfer from savings instantly. Just have to make sure you comply with their conditions to get fee-free international payments.

I always take a credit card as well as back-up in an emergency and to pay large deposits for hotels/car hire (instead of locking away my own money on the debit card).

And others have said - make sure to choose the option to pay in local currency when presented with a bill.


In hindsight the best option is not always evident until you have been to a particular destination. Research and finding reliable advice for the destination might be the first consideration.

Taking as much cash as we are prepared to carry local vs AUD is our first option.

For some destinations, PNG might be one, it is perhaps the best and worst option at the same time. Like some other nations CC are really only usable in a limited numbers of businesses in the larger centres. You take a hit on exchange rate both ways, so perhaps having a travel card or Visa debit etc that can be used to withdraw cash may be a better option. Aside from locating a suitable working ATM, breaking down large notes is an even bigger challenge.

With cash the biggest challenge is determining whether to exchange in Australia or at the destination. The best option seems to have changed over time with several destinations. We have resorted to trying to find online rates and commissions for FEX in the destination before leaving Aus.

We have used Travel Cards on our previous trips to Japan. We still had travellers cheque’s in Yen with the last few cashed around 2012.

For NZ if it’s considered OS, we just take some local currency, and rely on ATM withdrawals from an ANZ account. We also carry a ViSA debit card and a bank issued CC.

We often prepay most of the larger expenses, hence the need for currency in country is minimised.


I havent travelled for many years but when I did, I was using Visa Debit cards. It worked. The exchange rate was horrendous though, the last time it was less than it is today.


Hello, my partner and I travelled through southern Europe this time last year. We started in Spain, then went through Portugal (Oporto), southern France, Croatia and Greece. Thanks to articles on Choice, I used a Cash Passport card to access cash and a 360 Degrees Mastercard for credit purchases. I had the Cash Passport app and the Newcastle Permanent app loaded on my phone to check balances and access my savings to top-up the Cash Passport. I could access the 360 D Mcard account directly through the browser on the phone. The only glitch I had is that the auto-bank machines in Portugal would not recognise the Cash Passport. Email correspondence to them was a waste of time. I asked a guy in a Tourist Info office and he pointed me to a “Euronet” cash machine near their office. These were the only machines that recognised the Cash Passport in Portugal (I had tried all the major banks). I did not try it in Spain, and looked for Euronet machines in the other countries we visited, which were common. Accessing accounts and transferring funds was no problem with the phone apps.


When I first traveled to Europe I was a bit unprepared and opted for the Australia Post travel card and preloaded with Euro. The card was widely accepted which was a plus. However, I found that the preload exchange rates did not compare favourably with those offered by on-line foreign exchange companies (eg. Torfx among others). Additionally the ATM fees for cash withdrawal and fees for purchases using the card seemed high. That said there were no fees for top-ups and the exchange rates and fees were all much better than those on my CBA Mastercard!
When I traveled to Europe last year I used an HSBC Everyday Global VISA debit card. I pre-loaded the card with Euro and found the exchange rates offered were much better than the competition and even comparable to the on-line foreign exchange businesses. A further bonus was that there were no ATM fees or other fees charged, including for further top-ups. I just wish that I had learned of this card sooner - I could have saved a lot of money. The card also offers all the usual 10 or 11 main foreign currencies.
I would be very keen to know if anyone has had a better experience.


The NAB travel card has improved a lot since it was first introduced, originally it could take days for money to load and you were charged a fee for the privilege, now I believe that those issues are mostly gone. My daughter used it in Germany last year, emailing or texting us for occasional top-ups to the card as required. She got cash from ATMs as required and also did shopping with it. One particular flavour of ATM did a double conversion which cost us a little extra in exchange rate fees, but fundamentally we were happy with it. One of our family members travels regularly OS for conferences and also takes one.

I have heard there are different rate tiers available for different customers, so it is possibly worth asking if you are requesting one.

Ten years ago NAB had a fantastic fee free (no ATM fee, no conversion fee, decent exchange rate) Visa Debit card for international transactions. They said they were losing money on it so axed it, we happened to be in Europe at the time it was active so used it to get money from ATMs and paid cash for almost everything. It has come back as Visa Platinum Debit card now, but there is either a monthly charge, or you have to transact $X per month. This may be worth looking at.

We also try to take a bit of local cash (a couple of hundred Australian dollars converted to preferable small denomination bills) for the first day or two.

We also have a 28 Degrees card, which has no fees and a decent conversion rate (at least when comparing it to other cards).

So long as you have a card or two with decent exchange rates and low or no fees, then you via the joys of Internet banking you can top them up or pay them off over time from your normal bank accounts (somewhere with trusted Internet access of course).

If going on a long trip (i.e. many months - I WISH) we would certainly investigate opening an account overseas. If it wasn’t a long trip, I doubt that this would be worth the hassle.


Several of our friends from work have dual citizenship. An OS accessible account was a preferred option given they understand the banking systems (more about confidence and local knowledge) in their home region. Preferences remained cash and low fee ATM cards appropriate to the destination.

Rather than the big Australian banks they favoured big international banks with an Aussie presence.

Outside a number of very western destinations.
One paradigm was that if they take cash only, the business exits competitively to service locals.
If the business accepts international credit cards, the business is there primarily to provide premium services to tourists. For the latter competition may be subject to agreements that maximise profits.


One also mustn’t assume that since an overseas bank is present in Australia, it is easy or cost effective to transfer to an account with the same bank in another country. Or assume that banking which could readily be done in Australia, can be done in an overseas branch of the same bank.

Many banks which operate in Australia and also in other countries (whether being Australian or a foreign multinational) don’t have a single banking and software system which covers banks operations in all countries. As a result, transferring at times can seem like it is a different bank in a different country…with associated fees and transfer delays.

It is suggested that if anyone decides to look at such an option, to check with its Australian operations first before assuming that it will be a cost effective and easier solution.


Hi Uta, timely subject: I just got a promotional email from Transferwise this morning spruiking their new debit card that is designed to store and convert up to forty currencies. We’ve used Transferwise frequently for currency transfers to/from our daughter in the UK - and their charges are by far the lowest available (that we can determine). This debit card is a kind of super-charged version of this online transfer scheme. They claim the card incurs NO currency conversion fees, and minimal admin fee. Worth a look, I think.
Michael (Perth)


I have used two Travel Money card products - Commonwealth Bank and Travelex. No problems with the CBA one, but I am trying to close down the Travelex one. If you don’t use the card for 12 months there is a $4 fee per month thereafter. I have used Travelex for foreign currency cash as well and found their rates are good when buying currency from them but an absolute rip-off when selling unused currency back to them. The situation with their card is similar - withdrawing unused currency in Australia incurs a terrible rate to convert to AUD. I’ve tried waiting until the rate is favourable and transferring foreign currency to AUD within the card and then withdrawing the AUD at a domestic ATM but that incurs a 2.95% Travelex fee. You can close down the card at one of their offices but you can’t make a partial withdrawal to reduce the balance, only withdraw all funds with a $10 fee and any foreign currency conversions required (at their aforementioned terrible rates).


We travelled for 3 months last year. Prior to leaving I researched the cheapest option for accessing funds while away. There was a lot of negativity with the travel money cards, regardless of which one was used. In the end I opened an ING Orange Everyday account, with access via a Visa debit card. There is no 3% currency conversion fee and no ATM fees for cash withdrawals anywhere. If you do get charged a fee at an ATM it is automatically reimbursed. It was brilliant, never failed and saved a small fortune over the 3 months. To get these no fee benefits each month, you have to deposit $1000. each month from a non ING account and use the EFTPOS 5 times in the month. Cashout doesn’t count towards the use, but its not difficult to use your card 5 times… even if its a coffee or whatever, there is no minimum amount. So to get the benefit when you are travelling you would have to meet the requirement the month before you leave (doesn’t have to be a full month… as long as you do the deposit and EFTPOS before the last day of the month it will be ready to go.) It is explained very clearly on their website. For those times you must present a Credit Card I used the Westpac Visa Lite… No 3% currency conversion fee, but a $9.00 monthly fee, which I used maybe twice in 3 months. Ended up cancelling the card when I returned as I refuse to pay for a Credit card.


Recent 5+/- years travel has been NZ, Japan, Canada/Alaska. We used travel cards a couple of times way back for NZ & quickly learned they were just a pain & not cheap or really even competitive. For all the spiel of no fees they just margin the ex rates to get the $. In the end we just get whatever cash we expect to need ahead - finding Aussie Post to usually be competitive & then use our mastercard over there. MC seems to usually have competitive rates plus the banks 3% & in the end that works out quite good. Japan is very CASH is King & so again take mostly cash & if needed fallback on our CBA/NAB debit ATM card from a 7/11 over there.
The other big downside of the travel cards I found was trying to get money to it quickly - BPAY ? you have to be kidding me & then the hassle of getting any surplus back if you need it.


A corollary – Currently in Ireland I found all the ATMs I used and most of the merchant terminals offered to process cash withdrawals or charges in Euros or the card’s home currency - the latter being a rip off ( or at least favourable for the bank, unfavourable for the customer) exchange rate. As posted by a few of us, NEVER accept the offered exchange rate. It provides certainty but at a price. A few of our domestic merchants have such terminals to do over foreigners and those with foreign issued cards, but I had not previously seen a locale where it was common. Having a few transactions with ATMs and a few merchants in Northern Ireland (UK), we did not experience the rip offer at all.

edit: after withdrawing from one of the above friendly ATMs in Ireland and then checking my accounts for my e400 withdrawal I was $AUD42 (!!) better off by rejecting the offered xrate from the ATM. Beware.


Very happy using our CBA credit card at home but way too expensive overseas.
Happily used 28 Degrees MasterCard for several years while travelling overseas for both cash withdrawals and credit purchases. No international transaction or conversion fees and very reasonable exchange rate.
For cash at ATM’s, select “credit” as your account and set your PIN to 6-digits before you leave home as some overseas ATM’s can’t handle 4-digit PIN’s. 3% or $4 (whichever is greater) cash withdrawal fee + local ATM fee so we only withdraw one large amount per currency if possible. A lot more tap-n-go available around the world so far less reliant on cash these days.
22% interest charged immediately on cash withdrawals so will transfer funds online from savings account to 28 Degrees account when back at the hotel to cover cash withdrawal and eliminate interest fees.
We keep our every day (at home) credit card in our luggage as a backup in case our wallet/carry-on is stolen.
Often asked at purchase time whether charge in local currency or convert to AUD. NEVER choose the latter, as the exchange rate the merchant charges is extremely unfavourable.
Let your credit card issuer know where you’re travelling, and on what dates, as a further security measure.
Don’t forget to ensure you can access your usual at home mobile service overseas for SMS bank codes for online purchases you might make while away.


I travel a fair bit in different parts of the world. Being more than irritated by the gouging done by the banks and others on international transaction fees I scouted as many banks as I could find. Ultimately I chose the Bankwest Mastercard as the best option and am fairly happy. Just “fairly” because while it might be the best solution now available for Australians it would still be seen as an unacceptable rort in the European Union and many other places. Let’s hope the current ACCC enquiry helps us all with this.