Does this sound like you?
“Which travel card should I use?”
“Is it safe to travel with cash?”
“What is really the best way for me to travel with money?”
The last thing you want while travelling is for your money to be unavailable to you. Whether that be because it has been lost, stolen or restricted for a variety of reasons (or eaten by a goat, yes that happened to me!).
Not only is it a huge inconvenience on your trip, but can leave a negative association with that destination.
These are our six easy steps to educate and empower ourselves when it comes to travelling with money:
- Asking the right questions
- Leveraging your own money with debit cards
- The power of credit cards while travelling
- Do travel cards make sense?
- Travel insurance reward cards
- Apps and tools to help you manage your money
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One of the big questions that you’ll be asking when planning your overseas trip will be to do with organising your travel funds.
So that all of your travel money options are clearly understood (and “priced”) – this should be the very first thing any female traveller works out.
To get you thinking – we’ve put together a list of the recurring questions we’ve found ourselves researching and asking through our own travels across the globe.
Important questions to ask your bank or card provider
- Can I use my card in the countries I’m travelling to?
- What are the currency conversion, foreign transaction and cash withdrawal fees?
- What fees do you charge for ATM withdrawals? Some bank charge up to $5 per overseas ATM transaction on top of the overseas Bank’s ATM withdrawal fee!
- What fees do you charge for in-store purchases? If you make an online purchase you may find an additional fee for this transaction.
- Are these fees a percentage or a flat fee?
- What ‘partner’ bank ATMs can I use overseas without a fee?
- What is my daily limit for ATM withdrawals?
- If my credit/debit card is lost or stolen, what are my options and liability?
- What is the phone number to call in case of emergency?
- Can I change my daily limit before I travel?
- Do you issue a backup card for me to travel with? – There might be Goats!
- Do I have a PIN with my card or account? To request a PIN – remember it might take up to 10 days to arrive in the mail.
- Does my card have a chip? If your credit or debit card has no chip you may need to request one.
Most banks offer ATM or debit cards that can be used for international purchases and cash withdrawals. Unlike credit cards, a debit card transaction is deducted straight from your bank account and you won’t be charged interest for cash withdrawals.
There are also options with many banks and finance providers that allow your debit card to be used anywhere that accepts major credit cards, including overseas.
The reason debit cards are comparable to cash is that most countries have limits on the amount of foreign currency you can import and export i.e. $10,000 – you won’t be carrying that amount of cash on you while you travel but you can do that with a debit card.
Debit Card Pros
- A great way of taking your everyday bank account travelling with you. You’re spending your own money, not the banks and aren’t adding interest on top of your purchases.
- You usually have the security of a PIN code when purchasing or withdrawing money.
- You can use your debit card at overseas ATMs to withdraw local cash (cash is always the cheapest way to pay).
- Many banks now offer “fee free” overseas ATM withdrawals and no foreign currency conversion fees and an excellent exchange rate.
- You have easy access to manage and monitor your budget with your existing banking app.
- A debit card with the Visa or MasterCard logo comes with the added transaction security offered by those companies.
Debit Card Cons
- Some banks and providers will still charge a currency conversion fee to overseas debit card transactions- so be sure to check!
- Visa and MasterCard debit cards may charge an additional 1-2% fee on all international transactions.
- Look out for foreign transaction fees as well as a withdrawal fees at ATMs.
- Some debit cards may also charge an overseas in-store purchase fee.
Credit cards are accepted almost anywhere for purchases and cash withdrawals.
Credit cards make purchases and large transactions easy and secure, but come with their own set of limitations and fees that you need to be aware of when travelling.
Credit Card Pros
- Very handy to pay for larger items like hotel and travel bookings, car rental and deposits.
- Your current credit card may already be suitable for overseas travel without any changes.
- Great as a back-up card – remember the goat, we all know they eat almost anything!
- Fantastic fraud and theft security that will help protect your personal finances.
- You have the comfort of a banking app to easily manage and track track your transactions.
Credit Card Cons
- Some countries may not accept credit cards (such as Cuba, Crimea Region of Ukraine, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Syria).
- Visa and MasterCard charge at least a 1-2 % fee on all international transactions.
- Your bank may charge you up to an additional 4% for the same international transaction on top of the Visa or MasterCard charges.
- Credit cards aren’t made for ATM withdrawals so you’ll be charged the cash advance rate, only make an ATM credit card cash withdrawal as a last resort.
- Always pay your credit card off in full every month or you’ll be hit with interest on top of your expenses.
For Australian travellers, refer to the Canstar’s database for MasterCard & Visa Cards fees and charges.
Prepaid travel money cards are predominantly offered by major banks and money exchange companies like Travelex.
Before travelling, you add funds to the card account to use for purchases and cash withdrawals, just like a regular debit or credit card. This means that you have preloaded your budget and paid the exchange rate up front, which is great!
Travel Card Pros
- Prepaid travel cards can be used overseas just like you use a credit or debit card.
- Many travel cards incorporate a credit card type of security with either Visa or MasterCard’s zero liability policy which protects you against fraudulent activity if your card is lost or stolen.
- You have the security and convenience of a PIN code when using the card.
- You can purchase and lock in exchange rates for multiple currencies in advance to better plan your budget.
- A fantastic backup card option.
- Many exchange companies can replace a lost or stolen card from within the country you’re travelling in.
- You can usually track and manage your travel card funds with an app on your smartphone.
Travel Card Cons
- They generally charge higher fees and should be looked at closely before making a choice.
- Initial card purchase fee can be up to $15.
- Supplementary (backup) card and replacement card fees may apply.
- Some providers do have fees in place for simply using the card.
- Exchange rates may not be as good as what banks offer with other card options.
- There may be loading and reloading fees for different currencies, up to $15 per order.
- ATM withdrawal fees may apply when drawing local currency.
- What happens to your left over money and closure fees? These can be up to $35.
Check out CHOICE’s great article comparing some of the most popular travel cards for Australians.
First of all, travel insurance may save your life, so never travel overseas without it.
Travel insurance can also assist you in managing your travel money in the form of insurance protection.
Travel insurance rewards cards allow you to earn points while travelling, and these rewards point can help offset some of the fees associated with other travel money options.
Travel insurance plans need to include the following:
- If you’re leaving your home country, you should have at the very least emergency medical and evacuation coverage.
- Travel insurance generally covers you from departure date to arrival date.
- You make the choice of the maximum amount you’re covered for.
- Travel insurance inclusions on credit cards vary so always read the Product Disclosure Statement for each policy before making a decision.
- If you don’t want to read the Product Disclosure Statement for your policy, ask to have it explained to you before making your decision.
- Emergency medical assistance, (check policy for pre-existing conditions).
- Evacuation, accidents, 24/7 worldwide assistance.
- Trip cancellation, trip interruption, cancel for any reason.
- Travel & baggage delay, lost baggage.
- Rental vehicle collision damage insurance.
- Remember to activate your travel insurance prior to travel and check the maximum amount you’re covered for.
Travel Insurance may NOT be necessary for:
- Domestic travel (travel within your own country)
- When your public and/or private health insurance will cover you for emergency medical situations.
- When you’re not concerned about trip cancellation or interruptions (strict conditions apply for this type of cover anyway).
Travel Insurance Rewards Cards Pros
- A Reward credit card might be offered complimentary with your travel insurance. This will allow you to Earn Points while travelling.
Travel Insurance Rewards Cards Cons
- Many rewards credit cards charge higher international transaction fees with high annual fees for these ‘premium’ features. So look a little closer and inform yourself – does the value of the Rewards outweigh the cost of their associated fees?
Having your travel money sorted should feel like a massive weight off your shoulders.
But now you need to manage the combination of cards, accounts or currency exchange rates associated with travelling.
Thankfully we’ve also put together a short list of our favourite travel money apps to get you started.
Your Bank Mobile App
Your existing banking app for your regular everyday account management will still come in handy when overseas, especially if you’re using debit or travel cards and need to watch your finances more closely as you go.
Real time currency-conversion app for both Android and Apple smartphones to get the right conversion rates for any currency.
Advice on debit card, credit card and ATM theft and how to limit your losses.
Objective advice on debit and credit card options for overseas trips, spend tracking and saving advice.
Helps you find and compares bank card and credit card fees.
Super useful app that locates nearby ATMs and banks (and restaurants, pharmacies, etc.).
Other Top Travel Money Apps
There are a few more money and finance apps around for us international travellers that we haven’t personally used, some of these are covered in the best apps to manage your money article if you’re looking for something more.
Some parts of Africa and Asia people transfer money on their phones using apps due to the lack of ATMs.
Feeling good about travel money yet?
We hope all of these lessons we’ve learned over years of travel can now help you cut through to the best strategies and savings for your travel money.
Feel like we’ve missed something? Or want to share your own travel money story? Comment below, we love to hear from fellow female travellers 🙂