There is a wide range of different travel money cards, credit cards and debit cards that can be used overseas. But not all cards were created equal, and some offer significantly better value than others.

Prepaid travel money cards are growing in popularity. The main benefit of these cards is the ability to pre-load foreign currency at locked-in exchange rates. With the falling Australian dollar, this may be a good way to remove the uncertainty of exchange rate fluctuations and lock in rates before they deteriorate. They also offer a good alternative for those without a credit card. However, these cards often attract extra fees and charges. The exchange rates also tend to contain a slightly higher than normal profit margin for the bank.

When using a travel card the way they make money is on the conversion, so there will be no “cheapest” way, there is only the card’s way. That’s where they sting you, as well as some assorted other fees.

Of the travel cards in the Australian market, the Qantas Cash and Velocity Global Wallet cards offer fair value. The cards attract no fees, and frequent flyer points are awarded for transactions. The largely fee-free Australia Post travel card also offers reasonable value.

However, for better value when it comes to foreign transactions, our members recommend a number of other options. Citibank offers an account called the Citibank Plus Transaction Account that facilitates fee-free ATM withdrawals all around the world. The card charges no ongoing fees, no ATM fees and no foreign exchange fees, while offering a good rate. For these reasons, the account is highly popular among our members.

The Citi card/account is a normal transaction account like any other, you deposit money into it and can only spend what you have. The way it differs is that it is fee free. Holding the account, local and foreign transactions and ATM withdrawals are all free. Citi ATMs are guaranteed free, but all ATMs worldwide are also free of Citi-levied fees.

As it is a debit card, your own money is used. This is another advantage for those without a credit card, however credit cards do have their own benefits. Credit cards are more widely accepted, are more secure and can be used for most online purchases as well as pre-authorisations.

One of the best credit cards for overseas travel and online shopping is the 28 Degrees Mastercard. The card has no annual fee, and there are no foreign transaction fees on overseas purchases.

For ease and peace of mind while travelling, some suggest that a combination of more than one type of card is the best strategy. Credit cards and travel money cards can be useful for overseas purchases, while the CitiBank Plus account represents one of the cheapest ways to obtain foreign cash, by withdrawing it fee-free from ATMs around the world.

No reason not to go for a 28 degrees and a Citi together. Citi for cash and purchases, 28 degrees for backup or purchases. Credit cards are great in iffy situations because they are slightly more universal than debit cards and you can do chargebacks.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]