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What is a travel money card?

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Pros and cons of travel money cards

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Fees and charges to watch for
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Travel money cards CANSTAR

What is a travel money card?

Travel cards are a type of specially-designed debit card so you can spend your own money while travelling overseas. They are popular for several reasons:

  • You can load up one card with already-converted foreign currency and take it overseas with you.
  • You can 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, book accommodation, and make online transactions.
  • It’s more secure than carrying cash or traveller’s cheques.
  • 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.
  • You only pay a conversion fee once when you prepay the card, so you don’t pay a conversion fee every time you buy something in the local currency.
  • You can reload your card or switch currencies whenever you need to while travelling, on the internet or through a mobile app.

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What should you look for in a travel money card?

The ideal card according to CANSTAR’s research is one that includes the following features:

  1. Lock in an exchange before you leave.
  2. Load multiple foreign currencies onto one card.
  3. Prepaid – you can load your own money onto the card.
  4. Cheap or no extra fees, such as reloading fee, ATM cash withdrawal fee, eftpos transaction fee, or fee charged for ‘non-native transactions’ when you run out of local currency on the card and it switches to a different currency automatically. Check out the average fees here.
  5. Convenient to use the card overseas.
  6. High daily limit so you can spend more on high activity days during your holiday.
  7. Low cost to convert leftover money back into Australian dollars.

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 using the comparison selector tool at the top of this page.

How CANSTAR compares travel money cards

CANSTAR compares travel cards with a unique, sophisticated ratings methodology that considers both pricing and features. Travel money cards that offer outstanding value to Australian travellers overseas are awarded our 5-star rating.

Some of the features CANSTAR compares are:

  • Terms and conditions: Ability to lock exchange rate, inclusion of back-up card, emergency card replacement, emergency fund access
  • Currency available: Single or multiple currency card, maximum number of currencies held at one time on card, which currencies are available
  • Fees: Fees for card closure, replacement card fee
  • Limits: Maximum number of cards a single person can hold, maximum amount you can load/reload, maximum ATM withdrawal
  • Account facility: Purchase the card online, access the account online, view transactions online
  • Reload: Ability to reload card, reload using BPAY, reload at time of purchase
  • Convenience: Ability to use the card for online purchases, ATMS and POS
  • Security: Chip and PIN protected, signature panel on reverse of card, not linked to personal bank account
  • Distribution Outlet: Ability to purchase through credit unions, travel agents, etc.

You can read the full star ratings report for more information, or compare travel money cards to suit your destination and budget using the comparison selector tool at the top of this page.

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Written by: TJ Ryan and Tim Smith