Which credit and debit cards offer outstanding value for overseas online shopping?

International travel may be off the cards for now, but savvy Aussies could still save on foreign exchange fees by using a top-rated travel credit or debit card when shopping online, new Canstar research shows.

COVID-19-related travel restrictions mean the prospects for Australians travelling abroad any time soon look to be slim, but that hasn’t stopped most of us shopping overseas. A survey carried out by Canstar in July 2020 shows that almost two-thirds of shoppers (63%) had bought an item online from overseas this year, with over 90% of those people saying they used a credit or debit card to make the purchase.

Consumers can sometimes snag a bargain – or a niche product – by casting their shopping basket beyond Australia’s shores. The catch? Foreign exchange fees can stack up, and can sometimes be hidden. For example, some foreign-based online retailers – even those with a .com.au website – may display prices that have been converted into Aussie dollars, but charge the buyer in their local currency, causing international fees to kick in.

Canstar’s survey found over a third of shoppers (35%) were hit with a foreign currency conversion fee when they bought an item from overseas.

How much could you save on international shopping with a 5-Star Rated travel credit or debit card?

Based on the products assessed as part of its 2020 Travel Debit and Credit Card Star Ratings, Canstar Research found that when shopping in a foreign currency online, travel credit card holders could be charged up to 3.65% of the value of the transaction in currency conversion fees. On a hypothetical $1,000 transaction, this would mean a fee of $36.50. The average foreign currency fee for travel credit cards assessed was 2.78%.

For travel debit card transactions in a foreign currency, shoppers could also pay up to 3.65%. The average foreign currency fee was 2.59%, based on the travel debit cards assessed.

However, for 5-Star Rated travel cards, currency conversion fees were significantly lower: 0.87% on average for travel credit cards (based on the occasional traveller profile), and 0.68% on average for travel debit cards. Some 5-Star Rated products came with zero currency conversion fees.

Here’s an overview of how 5-Star Rated travel credit and debit cards compared to the Canstar database average on a range of costs.

Travel credit card costs (Occasional traveller profile)
Min Max Average
Database 5-Star Rated products
Annual fee $0.00 $700.00 $119.68 $70.00
Currency conversion fee 0.00% 3.65% 2.78% 0.87%
Cost of making a $1,000 purchase $0.00 $36.50 $27.77 $8.68
Source: www.canstar.com.au – 4/09/2020. Based on all personal, unsecured credit and charge cards rated in Canstar’s 2020 Travel Credit Card Star Ratings (September 2020). 5-Star Rated Average based on those products with a 5-Star Rating in the Occasional Traveller profile. Conditional fee allowances and transactional cost rebates or waivers have not been taken into account.
Travel debit card costs
Min Max Average
Database 5-Star Rated products
Monthly account keeping fee $0.00 $35.00 $2.44 $0.00
Currency conversion fee 0.00% 3.65% 2.59% 0.68%
Cost of making a $1,000 purchase $0.00 $36.50 $26.06 $6.81
Source: www.canstar.com.au – 4/09/2020. Based on all personal deposit accounts with access to an international point of sale rated in Canstar’s 2020 Travel Debit Card Star Ratings (September 2020). Conditional fee allowances and transactional cost rebates or waivers have not been taken into account. Fixed international transaction fees may also apply, and have been taken into account when calculating the cost of making a $1,000 purchase.

5-Star Rated travel credit cards for 2020

As part of this year’s Ratings, Canstar Research assessed a total of 167 travel credit cards. Below, in alphabetical order by provider name then product name, are the ones which received a 5-Star Rating in the two consumer profiles considered.

Occasional traveller

This profile is designed to reflect consumers looking for a low-cost credit card for overseas spending.

Provider Card
Bankfirst Zero Platinum Mastercard
Bankwest Breeze Platinum Mastercard
Bankwest More Platinum Mastercard
Bankwest Qantas Platinum Mastercard
Bankwest Visa Platinum Credit Card
Coles No Annual Fee Mastercard
Coles Rewards Mastercard
Commonwealth Bank Low Fee Gold Mastercard
Commonwealth Bank Low Fee Mastercard
FlexiGroup Skye Mastercard
Horizon Bank Visa Credit Card
HSBC Low Rate Credit Card
ING Orange One
ING Orange One Platinum
Latitude Financial Services 28 Degrees Global Platinum Mastercard
ME Frank Credit Card
Westpac Lite Card

Regular traveller

This profile is designed to reflect consumers looking for a fully-featured credit card to make overseas purchases on a regular basis.

Provider Card
Bank First Visa Platinum Credit Card
Bankwest Breeze Platinum Mastercard
Bankwest More Platinum Mastercard
Bankwest More World Mastercard
Bankwest Qantas Platinum Mastercard
Bankwest Qantas World Mastercard
Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard
Commonwealth Bank Low Fee Gold Mastercard
Commonwealth Bank Ultimate Awards – Qantas Option
Commonwealth Bank Ultimate Awards – Rewards Option
HSBC Low Rate Credit Card
HSBC Platinum Credit Card
HSBC Platinum Qantas Credit Card
ING Orange One Platinum
Latitude Financial Services 28 Degrees Global Platinum Mastercard
Westpac Lite Card

View the full travel credit card results

5-Star Rated travel debit cards for 2020

As part of this year’s Star Ratings, Canstar Research assessed a total of 97 travel debit Cards. Below, in alphabetical order by provider name, are the ones which received a 5-Star Rating.

Provider Card
86 400 Pay Account
Citi Global Currency Account
CUA Everyday Snap Account
HSBC Everyday Global Account
ING Orange Everyday
Macquarie Bank Transaction Account
UBank USpend
Xinja Bank Account

View the full travel debit card results

How were travel debit and credit cards assessed?

Canstar’s Travel Credit and Debit Card Star Ratings use a sophisticated methodology that compares both cost and features across relevant credit and debit cards on our database. The methodology places a particular focus on the features and fees related to overseas transactions.

Consumer profile Price weighting Feature weighting
Debit card – overseas traveller 80% 20%
Credit card – occasional traveller 80% 20%
Credit card – regular traveller 60% 40%

When assessing a card’s price score, Canstar Research considered a range of costs associated with holding and transacting with a travel debit or credit card, including account-keeping fees, annual fees, currency conversion fees and ATM fees. The Ratings focussed on transaction costs, and did not consider costs related to financing purchases, such as interest rates or cash advance costs.

For the ‘regular traveller’ credit card profile, the price score also factored the extent to which rewards points offset the costs of the card.

When it came to a card’s feature score, Canstar Research analysed product aspects relating to how a consumer opens and operates their account and transacts using their card. The methodology also took into account the customer support and security on offer from the card provider, as well as the process for closing the account.

For travel credit cards, the travel insurance on offer through the card was factored into the feature score. This may include domestic travel insurance, which is designed to provide a level of cover for cardholders travelling within Australia. However, given the ongoing domestic travel restrictions and border closures, it may be worth checking with your card provider about whether the cover on offer would apply under the current circumstances before you book a trip.

For more information on how Canstar Research assessed travel debit and credit cards, you can read the full Ratings methodology, and read the full travel credit card and travel debit card results.

This article was reviewed by our Sub Editor Tom Letts before it was published, as part of our fact-checking process.

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