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**Disclaimer: We’re not financially trained, and this is not financial advice. You should seek independent professional advice before using any of the products mentioned in this post or its links.**
Organising a strategy as to how you’re going to pay for things when you’re overseas can save you a huge amount of money. We like to travel cheaply, so it’s something we always research quite a lot before we leave.
In this post we’ll look at the best Australian credit, debit and travel cards that we use when overseas. There’s also a few tips on exchange rates and avoiding fees when you’re overseas.
Credit Cards, Travel Cash Cards, Cash Exchanges… What’s Best?
There are quite a few options when it comes to paying for things when you go overseas. There are a lot of different credit cards. Heaps of travel cash cards. Some people exchange cash. And of course there are normal bank debit cards. We’ll break each of them down below and let you know what we do to save money.
Travel Credit Cards
When we go overseas, we look for a travel credit card that has
- No annual fees
- No international transaction fees, AND
- A good exchange rate
There’s essentially no difference between the two when you use them overseas. They both use the MasterCard exchange rate, which is generally far better than what the banks offer. The Bankwest card offers complimentary travel insurance when you travel, but it’s also slightly harder to apply for and has higher limits.
We usually travel with the 28 degrees MasterCard. While it’s not as good as it used to be (it also used to let you withdraw from ATM’s for free), it works well, the customer service is great, and we’ve never had an issue with it.
**These credit cards will charge you a cash advance fee if you withdraw from an ATM, so we’d only use them when paying by card**
Travel Debit Cards
When it comes to using debit cards overseas, we quickly found out that we couldn’t just use our own without being charged huge international transaction fees and getting a terrible exchange rate.
However, there are some cards that offer no fees on international transactions, no ATM withdrawal fees (at most ATMs) and offer the Visa or MasterCard exchange rate, a much better rate than the banks.
The card that we use is the Citibank Plus card that goes with the Citibank Plus Transaction Account. It fits all the above criteria, and in our opinion is the number one card we have in our wallet when we go overseas.
If you do enough searching online, you’ll see this card mentioned again and again when it comes to overseas travel. Here’s a huge thread on whirlpool with detailed information about the card and how to apply.
The other card that we’ve just become aware of that fits these criteria is the ING Orange Everyday Visa. ING Orange will waive international transaction fees and overseas ATM withdrawal fees, provided you meet the criteria that they have set out (see them here). It seems like a good option, although with a little more to think about than the Citibank card.
In the future, we’ll continue travelling with the Citibank Plus card
Travel Cash Cards
Travel cash cards are another common way to use money overseas. These cards work by being preloaded with money before you go, which you can then spend when you are overseas.
We have rarely used any of these cards. Even the best of them, the Travelex Cash Passport and Nab Traveller Card, both charge some sort of international transaction fee, whether it be a currency conversion fee, purchase fee or opening/closing fees.
Lots of these cards are also loaded with set exchange rates, which are consistently a lot worse than the Visa or MasterCard rates offered by the cards we’ve mentioned above.
They’re definitely something that we’ll continue to avoid if we can.
This is just really not a good idea at all. The exchange rates are horrible and you usually pay some sort of commission too.
The only time any of us has exchanged money successfully was in Argentina, where between 2010 and 2015 it was common practice to take US dollars and exchange them on the black market for a much better rate than you would get at a bank or ATM. Even that’s now changed, and you’ll get around the same rates as you would at an ATM.
If we do want to exchange cash before we go somewhere (as some people like to do, for security), we exchange as little as possible – there are always ATMs as soon as you arrive wherever you’re going which are going to be much better to use.
It’s not something that we’ll do if we can avoid it.
We usually travel with two cards when going overseas.
- One travel debit card, the Citibank Plus card, to use at ATMs and for general purchases.
- One travel credit card, the 28 degrees MasterCard, to use for any credit purchases and for holds on any hotels or other bookings we have.
Two cards. We keep them separate so that if we lose one we’ll always have a backup. We avoid exchanging cash, and avoid travel cash cards. That way we save a lot of $$ that can be better spent on food, drink and whatever else you we up to while we’re away!
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