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60 second guide: Travel money cards

60 second guide: Travel money cards

Planning to head overseas? If you are, you may be thinking about how you’re going to access your spending money while on the move.

There are a range of options: credit cards, exchanging your money for foreign cash, using your regular card to withdraw cash from foreign ATMs, travellers' cheques and, of course, travel money cards.

We take a quick look at some of the pros and cons of travel money cards.

Lock in an exchange rate

With a travel money card, you typically lock in an exchange rate, giving you certainty when you load up your foreign currency. This can be useful because if the Australian dollar falls against the relevant international currencies before or during your travels, your funds will have already been converted.

Of course, the opposite also applies – if, after you convert your money, the Aussie dollar rises against the relevant international currencies, you wouldn't get as much for your money as you otherwise could have.

Fees

When you use a travel money card you’re typically charged a one-off conversion fee to load the money onto your card. You will also likely be offered an exchange rate that is lower than the official exchange rate of that day.

It’s important to take close notice of the rate you’re being offered and how it corresponds to the official rate at that time.

The upside of these charges is that you will only be charged a conversion fee once (as opposed to multiple times if you're making cash withdrawals with a debit or credit card).

When you take money out of an overseas ATM using a travel money card you should only be charged a small fee, if any, depending on your card and the ATM itself. Your travel money card provider should state if there is a fee per withdrawal, and you should always be told when withdrawing money from an ATM whether that specific ATM charges a fee and how much it is.

It’s also worth knowing when you use your card overseas you could be asked if you’d like to pay in Australian dollars (AUD) or in the currency of the country you’re in. You should choose the currency of the country you are in as you’ve already converted your AUD into this currency at a locked in rate. Paying in AUD means you don’t know the rate you’re getting at the till overseas and you could be charged fees. 

Safety and convenience

Because it’s easier and less expensive to withdraw cash using a travel money card, you don’t have to worry about carrying large amounts of money around with you while you travel. You can generally load multiple currencies onto the one card as well, so you’ll be covered no matter where you travel (provided the country is included in your card’s list of loadable currencies).

If you happen to run into trouble and lose your card or it’s stolen, your money will still be safe. Most providers will give you two cards, so you can make sure one is always in a safe place, and you should be able to order an emergency replacement at any time.

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.