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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.
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:
- Lock in an exchange before you leave.
- Load multiple foreign currencies onto one card.
- Prepaid – you can load your own money onto the card.
- 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.
- Convenient to use the card overseas.
- High daily limit so you can spend more on high activity days during your holiday.
- 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.
Author: Nina Tovey
As Canstar’s Editor-in-Chief, Nina heads up a team of talented journalists committed to helping empower consumers to take greater control of their finances. Previously Nina founded her own agency where she provided content and communications support to clients around Australia for eight years. She also spent four years as the PR Manager for American Express Australia, and has worked at a Brisbane communications agency where she supported dozens of clients, including Sunsuper and Suncorp.
Nina has ghostwritten dozens of opinion pieces for publications including The Australian and has been interviewed on finance topics by the Herald Sun and the Sydney Morning Herald. When she’s not dreaming up ways to put a fresh spin on finance, she’s taking her own advice by trying to pay her house off as quickly as possible and raising two money-savvy kids.
Nina has a Bachelor of Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in English Literature from the University of Queensland. She’s also an experienced presenter, and has hosted numerous events and YouTube series.
Travel money cards glossary of terms
Please note that these are a general explanation of the meaning of terms used in relation to travel money cards. Your card provider may use different wording and you should read the terms and conditions of your product carefully to understand all fees, charges, and inclusions. Refer to the product disclosure statement (PDS) from your provider.
What is accommodation?
Accommodation is any type of dwelling or lodging where you pay a fee to stay overnight.
What is a ATM fee?
An ATM fee is a fee charged to your travel money card to make a cash withdrawal from an ATM.
What is a closing fee?
A closing fee is a fee charged to close your travel money card account.
What is a conversion fee?
A conversion fee is 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.
What is a conversion rate?
A conversion rate is also known as the exchange rate.
What is a currency order?
A currency order is 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.
What is an exchange rate?
An exchange rate is the ratio at which one currency buys another, which determines the value of one country’s currency by comparison to another. For example, $0.72 USD to the AUD dollar means that the Australian dollar buys $0.72 in US dollars.
What is an inactive fee?
An inactive fee is a fee charged to your travel money card for not using it in that month.
What is an initial fee or issuing fee?
An initial fee or issuing fee is a fee charged to your travel money card for opening the account and issuing the card to you.
What is a limit?
A limit is when 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.
What is a pre-paid card?
A pre-paid card is 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.
What is a reload fee?
A reload fee is a fee charged to your travel money card for adding an additional amount of money onto your card.
What is a secondary card?
A secondary card is an additional card that also accesses the funds on the same ‘travel money card’ account.
What is travel insurance?
Travel insurance is 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.
What are traveller’s cheques?
Traveller’s cheques are cheques or bills of exchange, available in fixed denominations of various currencies. Can be accepted as cash in many places.
Our Star Ratings & Guides
Travel Money Card Articles & Guides
Travel money card providers we research and rate
At the time of writing, Canstar researches and rates travel money cards from the following providers:
- Commonwealth Bank
Compare travel money cards for your destination and budget using the comparison selector tool at the top of this page.