Travel Credit Cards

The safe and easy solution for your travel funds.

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, updated on September 13th, 2023       

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If you’re planning a trip overseas, either for business or leisure, you’ve probably thought about what the best way for you to manage your travel funds affordably is while you’re on the move. What many people don’t realise is that your everyday credit card can actually provide a great option to travel with and might be a good choice compared to holding large amounts of cash or taking on the hassle of arranging a travel card. Learn all the information you need to compare different credit card options for your travel money needs and find the option that best suits you in this guide.

How do travel credit cards work and how can I use them?

Credit cards can be used for travel purposes in fundamentally the same way as their day-to-day use. As you are travelling, you can make transactions in whatever foreign local currency is required and your credit card provider will add the value of that transaction to your account as per usual, albeit with the increased cost of a currency conversion fee. This means that during your travels you can use your credit card to pay for dinners, accommodation, activities and more, while also making ATM withdrawals for a small fee if necessary.

As well as these regular uses, your credit card can be useful in a variety of other ways while travelling, including:

Collecting rewards

If you are a credit card customer who receives rewards points for certain spending activity, you might find that, by using your credit card for your overseas trip, you will continue to accumulate these points and reap the benefits later.

Booking pre-authorisations

Your credit card is a great way to allow for pre-authorisations to be made on your accounts for bookings such as hotel accommodation. Certain travel cards such as prepaid cards will generally not allow pre-authorisations to be made on them, and since your credit card is likely to have a higher limit, these can easily help you lock in important bookings.

Added extras

Because many credit cards come with added benefits such as free travel insurance or airport lounge access, you can still make the most of these benefits while travelling without the hassle of organising an extra payment method and loading funds.

How should I compare travel money credit cards?

When comparing credit cards to use for your travel funds, it is a good idea to start with Savvy’s online comparison tools. These can provide a quick overview of the product offerings available to you, through which you can contrast offers in the areas that matter most to you. Some things to consider when comparing travel credit cards include:

Exchange rates

Because your credit card will be being in Australian currency and converted to a foreign currency for each transaction you make, each of these payments will be subject to the currency exchange rate of the day. You should aim to find a credit card provider which can offer you reasonable exchange rates in comparison to other providers so that, over the course of multiple transactions and subsequent conversions, you lose as little money as possible.

Conversion fees

Not only will you want to ensure that the exchange rates offered by your credit card provider are favourable, but you should also try to find a product which has low fees applied to currency conversions. These fees are often around 3-5% of the total transaction cost, so they can definitely add up over time.

ATM fees

When withdrawing cash using your credit card, you might be subject to a cash advance fee, typically around 3%. If you plan to make regular ATM withdrawals throughout your travels, then a card with a lower cash advance fee will be something you’ll want to look out for.

Interest rates

The interest rate applied to the outstanding balance of your credit card can easily end up being the costliest of these variables to consider. Try to find a card with a low interest rate, or even a card that comes with a brief ‘interest-free’ period that can cover the length of your trip.

Still deciding on a credit card for your travel funds?

What foreign currency transactions will be supported on my Australian credit card?

The currencies supported by your credit card will differ depending on your provider; however, most of the world’s major currencies, such as Japanese Yen or Canadian Dollars, can be converted directly from Australian Dollars at the point of transaction. For less popular currencies such as the Norwegian Kroner, transactions might involve two conversions: one from Australian Dollars to US Dollars, then from US Dollars to the local currency at the point of transaction. Unfortunately, these transactions will incur extra costs, as you will be charged a fee for both currency conversions.

What should I do if I lose my credit card while overseas?

If you lose your credit card while overseas, you should immediately contact your card issuer in order to have your card deactivated and arrange for a new card to be sent to you. Once your card has been deactivated, you will not be at any risk of having your funds stolen or of transactions being made on your lost card. However, there will be a cost incurred for your replacement card, in addition to a waiting period. For this reason, you should try to carry some cash as well as your card, or another secondary payment method.

Will I be able to use my credit card everywhere I travel?

While all countries have credit card facilities and ATMs, the local economies of some countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia or India are far more cash-based than others. This means that, in certain places, you might find that relying on your credit card as your sole means of payment might be limiting. It is a good idea to buy some local currency before you leave for your trip and hold a small amount of cash on your person throughout your travels. This will mean that, should your credit card fail you, you will not have to go without, as your cash will have you covered.

Will I still need to make repayments towards my credit card while I travel?

Yes – you will need to stay on top of your credit card payments in order to avoid increased fees and interest expense, even while travelling. If you are taking only a short trip, this might not be of concern to you, as your credit card will likely be billed monthly. If you are travelling for several weeks or months, however, you should keep an eye on your balance and make sure that you still manage your finances responsibly.

How can I keep my expenses to a minimum when travelling with my credit card?

The easiest and most straightforward way to avoid paying extra costs when using your credit card for your travel money is to minimise transactions which will incur fees or extra interest. This means that you should try not to make excessive ATM withdrawals and instead opt to make two slightly larger withdrawals rather than four small ones, for example. You should also monitor exchange rates and, in the event that the Australian Dollar becomes too weak against the local currency, you could revert to using cash for the time being until it rebounds.

Will I need to notify my card issuer that I plan to be using my credit card overseas?

Yes – once you have your travel plans confirmed, you should notify your provider that you will be travelling between certain dates and that they can expect unusual activity on your account. This will ensure that your card is not flagged as being involved with fraudulent activity, or even cancelled while you are part-way through your vacation.