Co-author: TJ Ryan
Australians made a record 9.61 million short-term overseas trips in the year ended April 2016 – up on 2015’s record of 9.2 million for the same period million, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Back in 2004-05, this figure was just 5.4 million (ABS, 2015).
With this increase in our overseas travel, travel money cards have similarly exploded in popularity. MasterCard says travel cards have hugely increased in usage since 2013, and the Qantas Cash Card had around $1 billion loaded on 300,000 active cards owned by Aussies travelling around the world in June 2015.
As we know, travel money cards have a variety of benefits for short-term travel. But some cards have more benefits than others, which is why you should always compare your options on the Canstar website when you’re checking other travel websites for booking your hotels and flights.
On the CANSTAR website, users can filter their options by selecting the features they desire when comparing travel cards. Based on thousands of clicks from all over the country on our travel money cards comparison table, we’ve collated this data to rank some of the most popular features of travel money cards.
So what features do people look for most when comparing travel money cards? Read on for our best travel tips regarding the humble travel money card.
Top 5 features of travel money cards
Based on click-data from people who used our comparison tables to select certain features from July 2015 to June 2016, here is a ranking of what people look for most in a travel money card.
1. Card can be used at ATMs
The most important feature for travellers leaving Australia in 2015-16, according to our users, is the ability to use the travel money card at ATMs. This isn’t surprising: cash is always accepted in stores, whereas card payments may not be, especially in less developed countries or cash-dependent countries like Japan.
Of the 12 travel money cards currently on our database and comparison tables, all 12 currently have this feature. But here’s the important bit – some of them do not charge you a fee to use an overseas ATM. Now that’s good news!
2. Ability to lock in exchange rate
What’s next most important? The benefit of locking in an exchange rate at the time of buying your travel money card. A locked-in exchange rate means the amount of foreign currency customers have is fixed – it won’t fluctuate along with the exchange rate. This helps people to budget for their holiday because they know exactly how much spending money is available in the currency they will be using.
Fixed exchange rates can also lock in a better rate if falls in the dollar are expected – and the Aussie dollar has certainly had a wild ride lately. All 12 travel money cards currently on our comparison table have this feature.
3. Same day reload available
We want our foreign currency and we want it now! Travellers don’t want to be left stranded, waiting days for more money to arrive on their card, so it’s only natural that being able to reload on the same day was a top 5 feature.
This year a big new development is that Qantas have introduced “Instant Loading” from a Visa or debit card to their travel money card. This is superior to many other providers that take 3 days to process your reload, leaving you potentially stuck in a foreign country without money. You do have to pay more for this feature from Qantas, but if you were only carrying one payment method, it might be worth it.
4. No reload fee
The people have spoken, and they want travel money cards with no reload fees – the ability to add more funds to their cards without being charged extra. Reload fees can be as much as 1.1% of the amount being reloaded, so you can see why it’s a fee worth avoiding.
The increased competition in the travel money card market has recently stopped some providers from charging reload fees. At present, 5 of the 12 travel money cards on our comparison table do not charge a reload fee. Other providers have a flat fee of $10 to reload, and still others do not cap their reload fee at all, meaning it could be quite expensive.
5. Multiple currencies
The feature of having multiple currencies on one card came a close fifth behind not having a reload fee. In the travel money cards we compared, the maximum number of currencies allowed on each card ranged from 5 to 13 different currencies.
It’s interesting to note that whilst the Top 5 Most Sought-After Features have stayed the same since we first published this article in 2015, the order of people’s preferences has changed. In 2015, the most important feature was no reload fee, followed by using the card at ATMs, ability to lock in exchange rate, same day reload, and finally multiple currencies.
Other useful features
There are plenty of other travel money card features that are also regularly sought out by travellers. Despite not being as well-known, the below features are still important and they should still play a significant part in helping you decide which travel money card to choose.
SMS alerts for low funds
It’s ridiculously easy to overspend while on holiday, so this feature can save you from being stuck in one city with no money left on your card. These on-the-spot moments can happen at the worst of times – like when all your friends have boarded the tour boat but you’re stuck at the ticket booth with no money – so SMS alerts can give you plenty of warning.
Of the 13 travel money cards on our comparison table, 5 will give you an SMS low balance notification.
Emergency fund access
It’s so common for people to lose things or have things stolen while travelling, such as our travel money cards. In these cases, an “emergency fund transfer” feature is useful as it allows funds from the lost card to be transferred back into the cardholder’s bank account.
All of the travel money cards on our comparison table have this feature, so no need to worry if you lose your card!
Emergency card replacement
Happily, all of the travel money cards providers we compared will offer to replace your card in an emergency. You should note that some providers may charge you for this replacement, while others may give it to you for free.
Mobile app available
Being able to track and manage your finances while on-the-go should be a must for any traveller! The availability of a mobile app for your travel money card should thus be highly desired.
Travellers nowadays may be simply assuming that a mobile app is a given (since so few of them are searching for it) but unfortunately, it may not be a given at all. Mobile apps are available from 11 of the 12 travel money cards in our comparison table.
In the digital age, it’s odd that we have to specify that we’d like to be able to buy our travel money card online and have it posted to us – but apparently we still do. 11 of the travel money cards we rated can be bought online in 2016, with 1 still requiring you to buy in-store.
Earn reward points
Some travellers do want to be able to earn rewards points for their spending overseas on a travel money card, just as they would if they were using a credit card with a rewards program. Currently, only the Qantas Cash and the Virgin Velocity Global Wallet cards offer a reward points feature. Both allow you to earn Frequent Flyer points towards their respective reward schemes every time you spend your travel cash.
One interesting product that has entered the market since our last ratings in 2015 is the Key to the World, offered by Travel Money Oz. They have a bundled package option where you can bundle travel insurance, a global SIM card, and make travel and accommodation bookings as well as getting a 10-currency travel money card.
Heading overseas? Visit our website and see what’s available in the market first. Get a card that suits your travel needs.
CANSTAR is an information provider and in giving you product information CANSTAR is not making any suggestion or recommendation about a particular product. If you decided to apply for a product, you will deal directly with a financial institution, and not with CANSTAR. All product information should be confirmed with the relevant financial institution. For more information, read our detailed disclosure, important notes and additional information.