Co-author Maddie Clarey
According to the Fiji Bureau of Statistics, Australia is Fiji’s largest tourist market, accounting for over 50% of visitors to the island nation. And it’s no major surprise that it’s so popular with Aussie visitors.
Fiji has a reputation as the soft coral capital of the world, and when you combine that with highlights like the beautiful Yasawa and Mamanuca island groups, and the friendly locals, it has plenty going for it as a destination.
However, if you want to take full advantage of everything Fiji has to offer, it could be beneficial to plan your spending money in advance. One way to access money while you’re there could be to use a travel money card.
At the time of writing, bear in mind that none of the products on Canstar’s database offer the Fijian dollar as an available currency. Canstar Research notes that this could mean you end up being charged a currency conversion fee each time you make a purchase or withdraw money in Fiji using one of these cards. Therefore, other alternatives you may wish to consider could be to take out your money in cash before you leave or once you arrive in Fiji, or to choose a credit or debit card that suits your needs as a traveller.
How do travel money cards work?
Typically travel money cards work like this: you exchange your Aussie dollars for whatever eligible currency you need and load the money onto your card before your trip. Then, when you arrive at your destination, you can expect to use the card to withdraw cash and make card payments in-store or online at selected outlets. You may also be able to reload your card with extra funds if you need them. Bear in mind, though, that some cards may only offer some of these features.
Is a travel money card the right option?
Depending on the type of traveller you are, travel money cards can be useful for a number of reasons. For example:
- They allow you to lock in the exchange rate in advance of your trip
- They are designed to be easy to use – similar in function to a debit card
- They can be used with multiple currencies
- They aren’t connected to your transaction account, so you can only lose the amount that’s on the card if it’s stolen
There can also be disadvantages to using a travel money card:
- In most cases, travel money cards only offer a limited range of currencies that can be ‘loaded onto’ the card. If the currency you need isn’t part of this range for your travel money card, you’ll likely to be charged a conversion fee each time you use the card to withdraw money from an ATM or make a purchase in that currency
- You may lose out if the exchange rate improves after you’ve locked in your rate
- Travel money cards can come with various fees, such as currency conversion fees, ATM fees and inactivity fees
- They may not be accepted everywhere
- Some travel cards have a reload delay – that is, it may take several days for you to be able to access extra money you load onto the card
Travel money cards aren’t perfect for every situation or every traveller, and so it can be smart to consider a combination of different travel money options for your trip to Fiji, such as loose cash, as well as a travel credit or debit card.
What exchange rate will I get?
The exchange rate you might get when converting your Aussie dollars into their Fijian equivalent is likely to vary depending on when you load your card, as exchange rates generally fluctuate regularly due to a number of factors. Check with your currency exchange service provider as to what the current rate is when you are loading money onto a card.
It’s important to note, however, that the exchange rate quoted by your card provider may be different to the official exchange rate quoted by the RBA.
This is because travel money card providers typically charge an ‘exchange fee’ on top of the quoted exchange rate. This fee can vary from card to card, so it’s worth comparing what each one offers for each currency – as well as considering the other features and terms offered by the provider – to see which card best suits your needs. It’s worth considering that some travel money card providers may not list an ‘exchange fee’ as such – instead the cost of the exchange to the cardholder would be factored into the exchange rate they offer.
What to be aware of when travelling to Fiji
Mastercard, Visa and American Express payments are widely accepted by hotels, restaurants, shops, rental car companies and tour companies in Fiji. However, some businesses may add a 3-5% surcharge to your bill if you do choose to pay by credit card. The Consumer Council of Fiji encourages consumers to report traders who try and impose unreasonably high credit card surcharges.
ATMs should be easy to find around major cities and Australian banks such as ANZ and Westpac have branches in Fiji. But if you’re travelling to more rural areas, you should consider planning ahead and having cash on hand as ATMs may be scarce.
Tipping is not customary or required in Fiji. This is because Fiji is a communal society so tipping is considered unnecessary or something that should be shared amongst everyone. Instead, many hotels and resorts will have a ‘Christmas Fund’ box for employees. So if you do want to leave a gratuity you can donate to this fund and it will be shared amongst staff at Christmas time.
Don’t forget to consider travel insurance
When travelling to Fiji you may also want to think about an insurance policy to cover you for things like:
- Cancellation costs for flights, accommodation and tours
- Overseas emergency medical expenses
- Travel delay/changed travel plans
- Cover for theft or lost luggage and personal items
At the time of writing, Fiji’s only hyperbaric (decompression) chamber is currently undergoing long-term maintenance. So if you’re considering diving while in Fiji, Smart Traveller says you should ensure your travel insurance policy covers both diving and evacuation costs.
Compare travel money cards for other destinations
Image Source: Martin Valigursky (Shutterstock)