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.
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.
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*.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Easy to manage and purchase online or in an Australia Post office branch saving you time of having to set up a bank account.
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 Card||Westpac Global Currency Card||ANZ Travel Card||NAB Traveller Card|
|Multiple currency upload||✔|
|Chip and PIN||✔|
|Card issue and replacement fees|
|Load and reload fees|
|Foreign Currency Conversion fee||No 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 fees||Payable whenever you use an ATM to transact in the following currencies (unless at a Commonwealth Bank or BankWest ATM in Australia):|
|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):|
|This fee is applicable to all ATM transactions whether preformed at an ANZ ATM or otherwise.|
* 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’
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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.