Travel Money Cards - October 24th
Co-author: William Jolly What is a travel money card Travel money cards are a popular, convenient and secure way to buy foreign currency and take it overseas. Essentially, travel money cards are specially designed debit cards that you …– Read more
Travel Credit and Debit Cards - August 12th
Generally your destination will determine what’s on your travel checklist, and whether you’re packing sunscreen and togs or thermals and a snowboard. But that being said, there are three travel essentials you should always include …– Read more
Travel Money Cards - August 1st
Popular destinations for Aussie travellers Between June 2015 and June 2016, more than 30,000 people visited the travel insurance selectors on CANSTAR’s website. In order of preference, the destinations that we were looking for in …– Read more
Travel cards are a type of specially-designed debit card so you can spend your own money while travelling overseas. They are popular because they’re a convenient way to load up one card with already-converted foreign currency and take it overseas with you. They’re also more secure than carrying cash or traveller’s cheques.
Another advantage is that you can buy this pre-paid card whenever you want, so you can pick a time when the exchange rate is in your favour and the Aussie dollar is looking strong. Using a pre-paid card also means you don’t pay a conversion fee every time you buy something in the local currency. You can even pre-load several currencies if you’re travelling through multiple countries.
You can use your card to withdraw cash from ATMs, shop for souvenirs, pay for restaurant meals, and book accommodation. You can even use it for online transactions like a debit or credit card. You can reload your card or switch currencies whenever you need to while travelling, on the internet or your mobile phone.
According to ABS figures for the year ending June 2015, Australian residents took almost 9.2 million short-term overseas trips this year, compared to 9 million in 2013-2014. The most common destinations of choice were New Zealand, Indonesia and the USA, followed by the UK, Thailand, and China.
As for the future, a survey by Expedia shows that the overwhelming majority of young Aussies (83%) aged 18-24 plan to take an international holiday in the next 12 months. With prices for international flights very competitive, there’s no better time to travel.
The ideal card according to CANSTAR’s research is one that allows the following:
It can be hard to know what travel money card is the best, so our brightest researchers at CANSTAR have done the hard work for you. Compare travel money cards on our website.
All travellers like to get around differently so we all have individual needs, but there are some common strategies for making the most of a multi-currency travel money card:
If you run out of local currency cash, and you’re staying at a really posh hotel, it’s worth asking at the front desk. Some hotels will give you a cash advance and just add it to the bill for your room.
Your “awesome holiday” can start to feel a little less awesome if you return home to find a bunch of unexpected fees have been charged to your travel money card. Keep in mind that a better conversion rate might still make paying those fees worthwhile. The usual fees you might expect to pay are as follows.
We research travel money cards and travel credit and debit cards for use overseas under two scenarios:
Whether you use a travel money card or a credit card may depend on how often you travel overseas, the cost of having the different cards, and whether or not you plan to withdraw cash from an ATM.
The currency you need to put on your travel money card depends 100% on which countries you will be visiting, but not every currency in the world is available. If you’re travelling somewhere where a travel money card won’t do it, you might want to consider a travel credit or debit card and a supply of cash. We’ve listed the currencies quite commonly offered by Australian travel money card providers:
(Not all providers will offer all of these currencies. You should check your card’s product disclosure statement.)
How does using a travel money card compare to using cash, a normal credit card, or a normal debit card? Does it stack up as a cheap, convenient, and safe option?
The following features are current at the time of writing and you should check the features currently on offer for any travel money card you are considering.
|CANSTAR Table: Comparison of selected Travel Money Card offerings in Australia|
Global Wallet Visa
Travel Card Visa
|Commonwealth Bank Travel Money Card Mastercard||Westpac
Global Currency Card Visa
Traveller Card Mastercard
|Initial card fee||Nil||Nil||$11||Nil||Nil||Nil|
|Secondary card fee||N/A||$10||Nil||Nil||Nil||N/A|
|Replacement card fee||Nil||Nil||$35||$15||$15||Nil|
|Maximum No. of currencies at one time||11||5||10||13||5||10|
|Emergency fund access||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Refund balance fee||Nil||Nil||Nil||Nil||Nil||Nil|
|Card closure fee||Nil||Nil||Nil||Nil||Nil||Nil|
|Monthly inactive fee||Nil||$1||Nil||Nil||Nil||$4|
|ATM withdrawal fee – USD||$US 1.95||$US 1.95||$US 2.50||$US 2.50||$US 2.00||Nil|
|USD rate as of August 28, 2015*||0.679||0.6774||0.6808||0.6782||0.6843||0.6731|
|$5,000 AUD value to USD||$3,395||$3,387||$3,404||$3,391||$3,422||$3,366|
|Frequent flyer points||Qantas FF points||Velocity FF points||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Source: CANSTAR Travel Money Card Star Ratings Report 2015 available on www.canstar.com.au|
|* Currency rates obtained from provider’s website.|
One trap for young travellers who haven’t used a travel money card before is the issue of getting any leftover money back off the card before it disappears in paying ‘inactivity’ fees.
First, jump onto the website of your travel money card provider. As of August 2015, ASIC requires that providers allow customers to reclaim unused funds, even from “expired cards”, and they must list in their product disclosure statement how customers can reclaim unused funds. Usually it means converting and withdrawing remaining funds, then closing the account.
In the old days, before the ASIC industry-wide review, the situation was far worse, and you would just lose any leftover money on a card that expired. Not anymore! If you have an expired card that you still had money on, even if it’s from a while ago, contact your provider to recover that money.
Please note that these are a general explanation of the meaning of terms used in relation to travel money cards. Your provider may use different wording and you should read the terms and conditions of your product carefully to understand what you are and are not covered for. Refer to the product disclosure statement from your provider.
Accommodation: Any type of dwelling or lodging where you pay a fee to stay overnight.
ATM: Automated teller machine where you put your card into the machine and withdraw cash from the account attached to that card.
ATM fee: A fee charged to your travel money card to make a cash withdrawal from an ATM.
Balance: The amount of money remaining and able to be spent on your travel money card at any point in time.
Closing fee: A fee charged to close your travel money card account.
Conversion fee: Any fee charged to convert one currency into another. Usually refers to a fee charged to your travel money card to pay for something in the local currency using a different currency loaded on your card.
Conversion rate: Also known as the exchange rate.
Currency order: The order in which the next available currency will be selected if you run out of the currency that you are using in the current transaction.
Exchange rate: The ratio at which one currency buys another. For example, the exchange rate from AUD to USD at the time of writing is $0.72 to the dollar. Determines the value of one country’s currency by comparison to another.
Foreign currency: The currency of any country outside Australia.
Home: Your usual place of residence (where you live) in Australia.
Inactive fee: A fee charged to your travel money card for not using it in that month.
Initial fee / Issuing fee: A fee charged to your travel money card for opening the account and issuing the card to you.
Journey: The time period from the day you leave home until the day you return home. Also known as a ‘trip’, ‘voyage’, ‘your travels’, or other terms.
Limit: Cards have a maximum limit to the amount of money you can load onto them, the amount you can withdraw in one day, and the amount you can reload onto them in one go.
Pre-paid: A card onto which you load your own money when you open the account. You cannot spend more money than you have loaded onto the card.
Refund: Cash or company credit given to you as reimbursement for any leftover money remaining on your travel money card, according to the terms of your card.
Reload fee: A fee charged to your travel money card for adding an additional amount of money onto your card.
Secondary card: An additional card that also accesses the funds on the same ‘travel money card’ account.
Travel insurance: A form of insurance policy that covers you for various events happening to you while you are away from home. Depending on the policy, it may include medical emergencies, unexpected changes in travel plans outside your control, and lost luggage or other items. For more information, see our travel insurance page.
Traveller’s cheques: A cheque or bill of exchange, available in fixed denominations of various currencies. Can be accepted as cash in many places.
CANSTAR rated 9 travel money cards from 9 different providers in 2015, and we conduct ratings every 12 months. To be eligible for consideration in the CANSTAR Star Ratings, travel money cards must:
The features we assessed when granting star ratings were as follows:
The following travel money card providers were included in our comparisons at the time of writing and details are correct as at that time. Please check the current terms and conditions of the card providers.