You have saved up for your trip – congratulations! Now you want to make sure your money goes as far as it can with the best travel card.

Over the past six years travelling to destinations in Europe, USA, South America and Asia we have researched a number of ways to take our money overseas.

Here are our top five travel cards and would welcome comments on your experiences and recommendations.

1. Citibank Plus Visa Debit card

For us, this card moved into the top spot surpassing GE Finance 28 Degrees and here’s why:

  • No account keeping fees;
  • No fees for overseas ATM withdrawals or in-store transactions*;
  • Forex conversion close to market rate.

Pros
Excellent customer service, which is what you want when things go awry on your travels.

Our first hand experience related to fraudulent activity on the card. The card was ‘skimmed’ (we believe) and three cash withdrawals were made in Argentina. The bank immediately blocked the card due to the ‘out of the norm’ activity. The submission to the bank to return the funds was a smooth process and funds were returned within five weeks. This all took place whilst travelling through Chile and Argentina on a camping trip over the Christmas and New Year holidays. So access and internet speeds were not our friends, but the bank’s representatives were super helpful. Another good thing about this account is that you’re able to block or unblock your card online as well as be able to change your pin.

Cons
Whilst Citibank were relatively quick to refund the money that was skimmed they didn’t actually have a fax number that could be dialled from outside Australia so it did take a bit of back and forth over the phone to arrange a way to get the credit dispute form to them. I have read some reviews that the downside of this card is the time taken to set up the account, but every card worth it’s salt takes time to verify who you say you are and have a set up period, be it online or in a branch.

2. GE Finance 28 Degrees Platinum card

A trusty favourite for the last five years. We used to use 28 Degrees for both purchases and cash withdrawals, but limited it to purchases when the new cash transaction fee came in January 2014. It is still a great travelling card for us for these reasons:

  • No annual fee;
  • No currency conversion fees;
  • No international transaction fees on purchases*.

Pros
GE has strong security measures in place regarding destination usage. We highly recommend advising in advance of every country you intend to visit, even if it is for a short time.

Cons
The introduced cash advance fee of 3% or $4 (whichever is greater) definitely prohibits this as being our go-to card for international travel.

3. Travelex Multi-currency Cash Passport

The Travelex Multi-currency Cash Passport is a prepaid MasterCard pin-protected travel money card. This card rated quite highly amongst fellow travelling friends and here’s why:

  • Load up to ten currencies onto the card;
  • No fees for international ATM withdrawals or purchases*;
  • Not linked to your bank account;
  • Free second back-up card provided.

Pros
You get the card on the spot when purchased at participating Travelex outlets i.e. no waiting for account approval such as Citibank or 28 Degrees.

Take advantage when the Aussie dollar is strong and load up your card for future travel. This would have been ideal last year when the Australian dollar was at parity with the US and doing well against other currencies. Note that this does not lock in the exchange rate for re-loads and there are T&Cs around activity and expiry of the card you would want to explore.

Cons
Load and reload fees could make this card quite expensive for long-term travel. Loading fee is 1.1% of the initial load amount or a minimum of AU$15.00. The reload fee is set at 1% of the reload amount e.g. a reload of AU$500 attracts a fee of 1% (AU$500 x 1% = AU$5) which will be deducted from your reload.

There is also a closure fee associated with the card.

4. Australia Post Multi-Currency Cash Passport

Another card used by fellow travellers. Benefits appear to be similar to Travelex card whereby you can load up to ten currencies onto the card. It also offers:

  • $0 commission when you buy or reload foreign currency;
  • No transaction fees for purchases or withdrawals*;
  • Lock in the exchange rate when you buy or reload your card.

Pros
Easy to manage and purchase online or in an Australia Post office branch saving you time of having to set up a bank account.

Cons
On the surface the card seems to offer great value with no load fee. However digging further there is an exchange rate service fee. Also the exchange rate offered, I think, is terrible. At the time of writing the AUD$1 bought US74.73c and Australia Post’s rate was US71c compared to Travelex at US73.54c and Citibank at US73.76c.

5. Big four banks

Fellow travellers shared with me their experiences with the cards below and I wanted to include a breakdown of benefits for you.

Some praised the ease and use of the card abroad with multiple currency options and peace of mind that it was with a bank they already have a relationship with. However some said when it came to resolving lost/stolen cards or PIN change they experienced significant challenges and would not use the card option again.

Whilst they do not suit our needs for long-term travel given fees related to load/reload/ATM withdrawals and reload times, they may be suitable for your style of travel.

 Commbank Travel Money CardWestpac Global Currency CardANZ Travel CardNAB Traveller Card
Multiple currency upload
13 currencies

11 currencies

10 currencies

10 currencies
Chip and PIN
Master card

Visa card

Visa card

Master card
Secondary card  
Card issue and replacement fees
  • $15 card issue fee.
  • Nil – full-time students studying in an Australian education institution.
  • $15 lost or stolen card replacement fee.
  • $10 card issue fee when you apply in a Westpac Branch.
  • Nil card issue fee if you successfully apply online.
  • $15 lost or stolen card replacement fee.
  • $11 card issue fee.
  • Nil – Existing ANZ customers who apply for a new Travel Card in branch by 30 September 2015.
  • $35 card replacement fee.
  • Nil card issue fee.
  • Nil card replacement fee.
Load and reload fees
  • Nil – Initial load fee.
  • Nil – Reload fee.
  • Nil – when the card is issued and loaded at a Westpac branch.
  • 1% of AUD value loaded up to maximum $10 – payable when the card is issued through Westpac Online Banking and when the initial load is made at a Westpac branch.
  • Nil – When load is made through Westpac Online Banking via Bpay or Transfer Funds.
  • 1% of AUD value loaded up to maximum of $10 – Reload fee (per reload).
  • Nil – Initial load fee.
  • 1.1% of reload value purchased.
  • 1% of AU$ equivalent initial load amount.
  • 1% of AU$ equivalent reload amount.
Foreign Currency Conversion feeNo fee is applicable. The rate applicable to the conversion is the retail foreign exchange rate at the time of the conversion.3%3%4%
ATM transaction feesPayable whenever you use an ATM to transact in the following currencies (unless at a Commonwealth Bank or BankWest ATM in Australia):
AUD 3.50
USD 2.50
GBP 2.00
EUR 2.20
NZD 3.50
CAD 3.00
JPY 220
SGD 3.50
HKD 17
THB 80.00
VND 50,000
CNY 15.00
AED 10.00
Payable whenever you use an ATM to transact in the following currencies (unless at a Westpac ATM or a Westpac Group Australia ATM’s and Global ATM Alliance Partner ATMs):
AUD 2.00
USD 2.00
GBP 1.50
EUR 2.00
NZD 3.00
CAD 2.50
HKD 15.00
SGD 3.00
JPY 200
THB 75.00
ZAR 20.00
This fee is applicable to all ATM transactions whether preformed at an ANZ ATM or otherwise.
AUD 3.50
USD 2.50
GBP 2.00
EUR 2.20
NZD 4.50
CAD 3.00
HKD 20.00
SGD 4.00
THB 95
JPY 260
  • No fee – International ATM withdrawal and balance fee*.
  • AU $3.75 – Domestic ATM withdrawal fee.

* Fees may be imposed by the ATM operator or merchants independently.

I hope you found this a good starting point for your research into travel cards for your next holiday.

Did I get something wrong? Please leave a comment or share your experiences.

Today’s beats provided by Above and Beyond featuring Zoë Johnston, ‘Peace of Mind’

Advertiser Disclaimer: We are not paid, nor affiliated with the products or entities mentioned in this post. The opinions expressed here are that of the author’s alone.

Editorial Disclaimer: Whilst I have spent some time pouring through Product Disclosure Statements to seek out the small print, the content on this page is not provided, reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of these entities. This post should not negate your research into the most suitable travel card for you. 

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Top five travel cards

3 thoughts on “Top five travel cards

  • July 8, 2015 at 6:41 am
    Permalink

    I use an OzForex travel card, similar to the Aus Post and Travelex cards which you pre-load (via Bpay) and then allocate to multiple currency wallets. When I researched this, it offered the lowest exchange rate and no fees. You can also change your pin online and they give you a spare card in case you lose the first one.

    I’m heading to the UK and France next week and loaded up on pounds and Euros a few weeks ago, hopefully a good move with the Greece turmoil unfolding!

    Great article though – often financial advice is skewed to the product that offers the best commission to the publisher.

    Reply
    • July 8, 2015 at 10:24 am
      Permalink

      Thanks Aidan,

      How excellent to be heading over for a european summer. I have many fond memories of summer drinking along the Thames and good eating from the markets in Leon.

      Thanks for sharing your travel card option and definitely smart move on the exchange rate v Greece. I do recall looking at OzForex and remember the ATM fees put me off, but you are right that the exchange rate is better. It’s certainly one of those areas where you have to weigh up how you travel and try and balance out the costs against the competitors.

      I looked at a number of sites rating travel cards and you are right, some are very skewed and should come with buyer beware sign!

      Have a safe and wonderful time overseas.

      Reply
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