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Best way to take money overseas

Best way to take money overseas

Before you take off on your next overseas trip, it’s essential to plan how you’ll pay for things when you’re away.

There’s no single right or wrong way – but a combination of a few methods is usually best, both for convenience and security.

Cash

Ideal for: Your day-to-day expenses, such as food, transport, tipping and shopping at markets.

Try to have a useful amount with you when you arrive to avoid being stung by international ATM fees at airports – it will help you with that first train or taxi to your hotel.

For security, avoid carrying large amounts of cash on you, but try to keep a bit of spare cash handy at all times just in case you find yourself without access to an ATM or in a place that doesn’t accept cards.

You can buy foreign cash before you go at a branch or online. Once you’ve overseas, you can also withdraw cash (fees apply) using your credit or debit cards, or a pre-paid travel card. 

Prepaid travel cards

Ideal for:  Withdrawing cash, locking in exchange rates, controlling your spend and travelling through multiple countries.

Re-loadable prepaid cards (such as our Travel Money Card) are a secure and convenient way to pay for things. Simply buy one before you go, load funds in foreign currency to lock in an exchange rate (you’ll know exactly how much you have to spend), then use it like you would a debit card to withdraw cash, pay in person or over the phone, all without transaction fees.

With our Travel Money Card, you’ll receive two cards that are smart chip, PIN and signature protected. When you get your Travel Money Card you’ll automatically get two cards. This is so you have a spare in case one is lost or stolen. The cards have different card numbers and separate PINs. The spare is only a back-up card and shouldn’t be given to anyone else to use.

As soon as you receive both cards make sure you sign the back of them.

You can reload and view your balance and transaction history in NetBank and the CommBank app. They’re also a handy option if you’re travelling through different countries because you can load up to 13 currencies on your card at any one time.

Find out more about the Travel Money Card, including fees and charges.

Credit cards

Ideal for: Big expenses such as accommodation (particularly when you have to pay a ‘holding’ fee), large purchases or for online bookings.

A convenient and secure option when travelling, they are widely accepted, allow you to make cash withdrawals at ATMs and you can link them to a debit account so you can transfer funds.

They have some other handy features, for example some come with international travel insurance included, and you can also earn points as you spend if you have an awards credit card.

Make sure you learn about international fees before you go, such as conversion fees for purchases and the costs involved if you use credit cards to withdraw cash.

Remember to keep a close eye on your account for any unusual transactions while you’re away – credit cards can be more prone to fraud when used overseas.

Learn more about our range of credit cards.

Debit cards

Ideal for: Controlling your spend, paying for things without cash and withdrawing cash from ATMs.

Debit cards are ideal for controlling your cash flow, to avoid coming home to a nasty credit card bill.

They are widely accepted. Use your debit cards to pay in-store and withdraw cash using your Debit MasterCard (look for the MasterCard symbol) or Keycard (look for the Maestro, Cirrus or Visa Plus symbol) to withdraw up to $800 a day in local currency. Keep in mind that international ATM and EFTPOS fees may apply.

Learn more about our range of debit cards.

Top money travels tips

  1. Get organised early, particularly if you need to order prepaid cards or travellers cheques. It helps your budgeting too - you can monitor the exchange rate and if you have a travel card, lock in your foreign currency when the exchange rate is strong.
  2. Don’t forget to notify us before you travel. You can conveniently do this in NetBank or the CommBank app. That way we won’t be surprised by foreign transactions on your account and we can keep an eye out for anything unusual.
  3. Carry your cash and a mix of credit/debit/travel cards in a few places throughout your luggage, for example, a spare card safely hidden in your suitcase just in case you lose your main travel wallet.
  4. Some countries only accept PIN for card payments, so make sure you set yours before you go.
  5. Control your security and spending – you can instantly lock international payments, block ATM cash advances and limit your spending through either the CommBank app or NetBank1.

CommBank emergency details

  • Lock, Block, Limit your CommBank credit card or lock your Travel Money Card for added security
  • Cancel and order replacement CommBank cards in NetBank or the CommBank app
  • Call us 24/7 on +61 2 9999 3283 to report lost or stolen CommBank cards

For 24 hour travel insurance emergency assistance, call Cover-More in Australia direct and toll free on +61 2 8907 5641. You can also call from:

  • Canada on 1844 345 1662
  • New Zealand on 0800 632 031
  • UK on 0808 234 3737
  • USA on 1844 345 1662

Charges apply if calling from a pay phone or a mobile phone.

1 Excludes transaction flagged as recurring (e.g. direct debits) and transactions not sent to us for authorisation. Please refer to our Electronic Banking Conditions of use and CommBank app Terms and Conditions for details. This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as financial product advice. Insurance issued and managed by Cover-More Insurance Services Pty Ltd (AFSL 241713, ABN 95 003 114 145) on behalf of the insurer Zurich Australian Insurance Limited (AFSL 232507, ABN 13 000 296 640) for Commonwealth Bank of Australia (‘CBA’) (ABN 48 123 123 124, AFSL 234945). CBA and its related bodies corporate do not issue or guarantee this insurance. It does not represent a deposit with or liability of either CBA or any of its related bodies corporate. Terms, conditions, exclusions, (including for pre-existing medical conditions and persons aged 80 years or over for international travel insurance included with an eligible CommBank credit card or persons aged 74 years or over for CBA Travel Insurance) limits and excesses apply. Before making a decision, refer to the relevant Product Disclosure Statement for full conditions at commbank.com.au. You need to activate your international travel insurance included with eligible CommBank credit cards before each trip in order to have comprehensive level of cover. If you don’t activate, you’ll receive personal liability cover and overseas emergency medical assistance and overseas emergency medical and hospital expenses cover only. We (CBA) do not provide any advice on this insurance based on any consideration of your objectives, financial situation or needs. If you purchase or upgrade a policy, we (CBA) receive a commission which is a percentage of your premium.