Are Travel Money Cards Worth It?

Looking for easy access to your money while overseas? Consider a travel money card! Canstar has a look at the pros and cons of travel money cards to help determine if you might need one.

Whether it’s going on holidays, visiting friends and relatives, or doing business in another country, Australians are travelling in droves. In September 2018 alone, 926,000 Australians returned back home after short-term stays abroad (Australian Bureau of Statistics). The ABS also states that in the year ending June 2016, Aussies made 9.7 million trips out of the country. This, compared to 8.4 million in 2013 and just 3.9 million in 2003, shows how much more Australians are travelling.

All this travel requires a lot of foreign currency – and that’s where travel money cards can be useful. Below, we’ve compared a travel money card’s advantages and disadvantages so you can decide whether or not it will meet your travel money needs.

The following table displays a snapshot of travel money cards on Canstar’s database, sorted by Star Rating (highest to lowest) then by provider name (alphabetically). The results shown are based on travel to the United States. Check upfront with your provider and read the PDS to confirm the details of a particular product, and whether it meets your needs before deciding to commit to it.

Pros and cons of travel money cards

Pros

  • Exchange rate locking

Your travel funds are locked into the foreign exchange rate of the country you plan to visit on the day you pick up the card or when you purchase it online. So if the exchange rates take a dive while you’re on holidays, you won’t suffer a loss of funds.

  • Multiple currencies available

A variety of currencies (such as US Dollars, Euros, Great British Pounds, Australian Dollars, etc.) can be added to your account, but you can also make purchases in a different currency and have your funds converted on the fly.

  • They can be used for most standard debit transactions

This eliminates the need for easily-stolen cash.

  • Easy withdrawal

There are countless ATMs across the globe you can access.

  • Internet banking

Internet banking lets you top up your funds and transfer them from your bank. You can access your card online through either an internet banking portal or a mobile app.

  • Most come with a backup card

So in the event that you misplace your travel card or have it stolen, you can receive a replacement with minimal or no fees.

  • They are not connected with your transaction account

In the event of skimming or theft, you won’t lose too much. Fraud on a travel money card is unlikely, but this does give you peace of mind, knowing your money is safe.

  • Rewards points

Some cards such as the Qantas Cash and Velocity Global Wallet give you rewards points when you use them on standard purchases.

Cons

  • Exchange rate locking

Just as you can avoid drops in your currency while on holiday, you also miss out on the benefits of a sudden surge. It’s vital to compare the exchange rates available from different travel money cards before purchasing one.

  • Currency conversion fees

You will be charged a currency conversion fee if you spend in a currency other than what is loaded on the card.

  • You still need cash sometimes

Travel money cards will not be accepted by a vendor who only deals in cash transactions – and card facilities are sparse in less-developed countries.

  • ATM fees

ATM fees vary across the world, and you may be charged for use by certain ATM providers.

  • Reload delay

Some cards can take up to 3 days to add extra money, so if you run out you could wind up in a spot of trouble.

  • Inactivity fee

If the card is inactive for 12 months, you may pay a monthly inactivity fee on the remaining balance. If your account is inactive and your card expires during that time, you will probably have to make a claim to get the money back.

What travel money cards does Canstar compare?

When comparing travel money card products, Canstar’s Star Ratings may prove useful. In its 2020 Ratings, Canstar Research assessed 14 travel money cards on our database based on price and features, and gave 5-Star Ratings to the products found to offer outstanding value. These were:

  • Citi Global Currency Account
  • HSBC Everyday Global Account
  • Travelex Money Card

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