When travelling overseas, you will need to consider how you will be storing and spending foreign currency. Travel money cards provide a convenient and secure option for holding multiple foreign currencies in one place to provide you with peace of mind while travelling. To learn more about how they work and how to compare your options, read on in this guide to travel money cards.
How do travel money cards work?
Travel money cards are financial products offered by banks, credit card providers and a variety of other companies which allow you to load funds onto a card, which can then be converted into a variety of foreign currencies. These cards provide a convenient and safe way for you to travel with your funds, withdraw cash and make purchases.
Depending on the provider of your card, you might find that, in order to acquire your card, you will need to pay a small upfront fee. Once you have your card, you will need to load funds onto the card either online or using an app connected to your bank account, which may incur a small loading fee. Once you have loaded Australian dollars onto your card, you will need to convert a certain amount of your Australian dollars into the locally accepted currency to ensure your funds are usable overseas.
When you transfer your Australian dollars into another foreign currency, such as US dollars or Euros, this will be subject to a conversion fee. This will typically be a set percentage of the total conversion amount, generally between 2% to 5%. After this conversion is complete, you will be all set to use your card overseas to withdraw cash from ATMs and transact in that local currency.
If you return from your overseas trip and it turns out that you didn’t spend all of the money which you loaded onto your card in anticipation, you can easily withdraw the funds from your card and transfer them back into your bank account. This might involve a small fee, however.
How should I compare travel cards?
Because travel cards come with a variety of different fee structures and capacities, it is important to make sure that you compare all of the different options available to you in order to get the best deal for your travels. By using Savvy’s online comparison tools, you will be able to get a quick overview of the product offerings which might work for you, as well as the features of these offerings. When comparing different cards, the following aspects might be of particular importance to your decision-making process:
Once you know where you will be travelling to and what currencies you will be need to be able to load onto your card, you will need to make sure you purchase a travel card which supports these particular currencies. Different cards support a different variety of currencies, and while some might be able to have five different currencies loaded at once, some might accommodate up to thirteen. Making sure the supported currencies and maximum number of unique currencies allowed on your card suits your needs.
A range of possible fees can apply to travel money cards, so it is important that you are aware of the fees applicable to each of the cards that you are comparing, and how much these fees are.
In-store loading fee
Currency conversion fee
Australian ATM fee
Overseas ATM fee
Different cards will be more suited to you based on how you anticipate using your card. For example, cards with lower currency conversion fees will be more suited to someone whose travel plans are more unfixed and whose funds need to be more flexible. On the other hand, if you plan on making only one currency conversion, a high currency conversion fee might be an acceptable trade-off in exchange for a card with no up-front cost or zero overseas ATM fees.
Different travel card providers will offer different exchange rates, so you should make sure to compare the relative rates offered by prospective providers before committing to one card. Remember that, in some cases, just because a provider demands slightly more unfavourable exchange rates does not mean that they can’t offer the right card for you. It might be that this provider’s offerings actually give you more upside in terms of low fees and convenience.
What are the different types of travel money cards?
Travel money cards come in three different types, each of which has its own distinct features. The three types are as follows:
Prepaid travel cards
These cards must be loaded with Australian dollars, after which you can transfer these dollars into your foreign currency of choice. You will need to make sure that you load your currency well in advance, to ensure that you are not caught out without funds while you are waiting for your transfer to complete.
You will likely be able to use your everyday credit card as a travel card, or otherwise you can keep a separate credit card which offers more beneficial services solely as your travel card. Make sure that you are well aware of the charges and fees associated with using your credit card as a travel card, as some cards do come with higher fees than the likes of a prepaid card.
You will most likely be able to use your regular debit card as an overseas travel money card, however, you should be aware of extra costs such as ATM withdrawal fees and foreign transaction fees.
Case study: converting your money with a travel card
Hannah loads her holiday budget of $2,000 on to her travel card and wishes to convert these funds equally into Thai Baht and Singapore Dollars, with some Australian currency leftover in case of an emergency.
After looking at the available exchange rates, Hannah sees that her provider can offer her the following exchange rates:
- AU$1 (Australian Dollar) = ฿20 (Thai Baht)
- AU$1 = S$1.03 (Singapore Dollars)
Her provider also applies a 3% conversion fee to every conversion made.
Hannah decides that these rates suit her, so decides to convert AU$900 of her total funds into each currency, which looks like:
- AU$900 x ฿24.20= ฿21,780
- ฿21,780 – 3% = ฿21,126.60
- AU$900 x S$1.03= S$927
- S$927 – 3% = S$899.19
After making her currency conversions and having the applicable fees deducted the balance of Hannah’s travel money account looks like:
The pros and cons of travel money cards
Choice of multiple currencies available all at once and ability to convert back currency which you don’t end up spending.
Travelling with your pin-secured card is safer than travelling with cash of cheques.
By making one currency transfer at the beginning of your trip, you can potentially lock in the exchange rate that best suits you.
If you find that your initially budgeted amount does not cover your trip, you can easily load more funds onto your card online.
Easy to manage
The majority of travel cards can be managed online or via an app, making for ease of management throughout your trip.
Not all currencies supported
Certain more uncommon currencies are not supported by all cards.
Associated fees such as ATM withdrawal fees and transaction fees make it more costly than making only one conversion at the beginning of your trip and simply travelling with cash.
Not accepted everywhere
Some overseas vendors will only accept cash, meaning you will still need to make cash withdrawals once you have your travel card.
Certain limits might be applicable to your account, such as a maximum account balance, transfer amount or total daily transactions.