Travel Money Guide: Travel Credit Cards, Prepaid Travel Cards & Travel Debit Cards Compared

Travelling to a foreign country is expensive enough without the added fees and charges associated with accessing your money from a foreign location.

Using your credit card is convenient but it’s convenience you’ll end up paying for. Overseas transaction charges, foreign currency conversion fees, overseas cash advance fees and ATM operator fees all add up and can end up sucking hundreds of dollars from your holiday budget.

Prepaid Travel Money Cards

Travel money cards are a great alternative to credit cards while travelling overseas and allow access to your money and the convenience of being able to load multiple currencies onto the same card. Not to say that these cards are not without their own fees and charges, but used correctly travel money cards are a far better option for making your money go further while on holiday. Whether you’re a student or on a business trip, it pays to compare and do your research when you travel overseas.

Flight Centre Key to the World Currency Card

Flight Centre Key to the World Currency Card

The Key to the World Currency Card is a prepaid travel card from Flight Centre, which lets you load up to 10 currencies in just one card.

  • Pay no card issue fees, initial load fees and inactivity fees.
  • This card lets you transfer between currencies, load more funds and check your balance and transactions online.
  • You can choose up to 10 currencies to load onto your card.

    Comparison on Travel Money Cards

    Rates last updated October 25th, 2016
    Available Currencies ATM Withdrawal Fee Reload Fee Initial Load Fee
    Flight Centre Key to the World Currency Card
    Flight Centre Key to the World Currency Card
    AUD, USD, SGD, NZD, JPY, THB, GBP, EUR, HKD, CAD USD 2.50, EUR 2.50, GBP 2.00, NZD 3.50, THB 80.00, CAD 3.50, HKD 18.00, JPY 260.00, SGD 3.50, AUD 3.50 1.1% of the total amount $0 Go to site More
    Travelex Travel Card
    Travelex Travel Card
    AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD Travelex does not charge an ATM withdrawal fee when you use your Travelex Multi-currency Cash Passport to withdraw currencies that are loaded on the card at overseas ATMs where MasterCard is accepted. The greater of 1.1% of the initial load / reload amount or AU$15.00 $0 Go to site More
    Rates last updated October 25th, 2016
    Currency Conversion Fee Monthly Inactivity Fee Multiple Currencies on One Card Maximum Load Amount
    Flight Centre Key to the World Currency Card
    Flight Centre Key to the World Currency Card
    5.95% $0 No $10,000 Go to site More
    Travelex Travel Card
    Travelex Travel Card
    5.95% AU$4.00 per month No $5,000 Go to site More

    Pros and Cons


    • Lock in an exchange rate. When you first load the card, it locks in the exchange rate for the money you load on to the card
    • Multiple currencies. Some cards offer the ability to preload up to 10 currencies on to the card
    • Low cost upfront. The cheapest initial cost is $11
    • Increased Security. These cards generally don’t have your name printed on them so if they’re ever lost or stolen overseas there are reduced chances of identity theft/fraud; and
    • Reduced Risk. Not linked to your bank account so the maximum amount accessible on the card is the amount you have preloaded.


    • No overseas branch access
    • Accessibility
    • Time to reload
    • Costly fees. The fees for setting these cards are quite costly, especially the reload fees; and
    • Some overseas merchants are reluctant to accept the card as they don’t have your name printed on them.

    How Prepaid Travel Money Cards Work

    These cards work like any other card except you are responsible for ‘loading’ your spending money onto the card either before you leave to go overseas of from anywhere in the world through internet banking.

    Multiple currencies can be loaded onto these cards, making them ideal for trips to multiple destinations. You can load funds in any currency available on your card in different currency ‘buckets’. From the time you load a currency onto your card, the exchange rate is locked in, making it an ideal tool for budgeting and a good way to hedge against negative currency fluctuations. Because these cards are prepaid, you are free to spend up to the value loaded onto the card everywhere either Visa or MasterCard are accepted, including merchants and ATM’s. The balance of your card can be checked via your financial institution and they should also be contacted in the event that your card is lost or stolen.

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    Travel Credit Cards

    Although credit cards can be an expensive option when accessing your money overseas, there are a couple of credit cards that make good travelling companions. Credit cards with no foreign transaction fees or currency conversion fees are a great way to take advantage of the ease and security that comes with using a credit card while not having to pay for the convenience.

    Comparison on Travel Credit Cards

    Rates last updated October 25th, 2016
    Purchase rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Annual fee
    Bankwest Zero Platinum MasterCard
    An introductory offer on balance transfers with $0 annual fee. Complimentary travel insurance & 24/7 Concierge service and $0 foreign transaction fees.
    17.99% p.a. 2.99% p.a. for 9 months $0 p.a. Go to site More info
    28 Degrees Platinum MasterCard
    Benefit from no international transaction fees on purchases, no currency conversion fees and no annual fee.
    21.99% p.a. 4.99% p.a. for 6 months $0 p.a. Go to site More info
    Bankwest Qantas Platinum MasterCard
    Receive 50,000 introductory bonus Qantas Points when you apply before 30 November 2016. Earn 0.50 rewards points per $1 spent on eligible purchases.
    20.49% p.a. 2.99% p.a. for 9 months $160 p.a. Go to site More info

    Pros and Cons


    • Quick and easy to reload using BPAY or phone/internet banking
    • Insurance and travel benefits included
    • Card can be used in almost any overseas location for almost everything, including online shopping
    • Travel Rewards Cards can earn points for overseas spending; and
    • Added security features for lost or stolen cards.


    • Fees including ATM withdrawal and reloading of funds are applicable with most Travel Credit Cards
    • Interest charges for spending overseas spending accumulate and may be a shock when you return home
    • If your card is lost or stolen there is a chance you may be defrauded before you can cancel it; and
    • Interest rates are higher than domestic only cards.

    How Travel Credit Cards Work

    These cards work exactly the same way as your normal credit card. You spend like you normally would and you pay them off as normal too.

    When taking money out from a foreign ATM you don’t pay anything when the money is converted from Australian dollars to a local currency but you may be charged the local ATM operator fee. When using your card to make a purchase at a business, there are no international transaction fees. What ever the situation, travel credit cards are a good option for accessing your money. But, therein lies the drawback as you will want to keep on above any accrued interest charges so they don’t spiral out of control.

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    Travel Debit Cards

    Travel debit cards come with a linked transaction account and are a great way of managing your finance while overseas. These accounts are designed with the traveller in mind and most offer no fee for converting your money from Australian dollars to a foreign currency.

    Comparison on Travel Debit Cards

    Rates last updated October 25th, 2016
    Monthly Account Fee Debit Card Access ATM Withdrawal Fee Fee Free Deposit p.m. Details
    Westpac Choice
    $0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
    Mastercard $0 $2,000 No ATM fees when using St.George, Westpac, BankSA or Bank of Melbourne ATMs in Australia. Deposit at least $2,000 per month and enjoy no monthly service fee. Open More
    St.George Complete Freedom Account
    $0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
    Visa $0 $2,000 No account keeping fees, if you deposit $2,000 per month plus no minimum balance required. No ATM fees when using St.George, Westpac and BankSA ATMs. Open More
    Bank of Melbourne Express Freedom
    $0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
    Visa $0 $1,000 No ATM fees when you use Bank of Melbourne, St.George, Westpac and BankSA ATMs. No monthly fees if you deposit $1000 into your account each month. Open More
    Bankwest Qantas Transaction Account
    No overseas ATM withdrawal fees (charged by Bankwest), 3rd party ATM fees and international transaction fees may still apply.
    Mastercard $0 $2,000 No monthly fees when you deposit at least $2,000 into your account each month. Free access to Bankwest and CommBank ATMs in Australia. No overseas ATM withdrawal fees (charged by Bankwest) though third party fees may apply. Open More
    Citibank Plus Everyday Account
    No international transaction fees and no overseas ATM withdrawals fees if you use a Citibank ATM overseas.
    Visa $0 $0 No ATM fees using Citibank, Westpac, BankSA and St.George branded ATMs in Australia. Use overseas Citibank ATMs for free. More

    Pros and Cons


    • No foreign currency conversion or transaction fees for the Citibank Plus Transaction Account
    • Linked to your bank account making it fast to transfer funds on to the card without any reload fees; and
    • No inactivity fees or replacement card fees.
    • Specific to Citibank Plus Transaction Account;
        • Overseas branch access at Citibank branches
        • No monthly account fee
        • No foreign currency conversion or transaction fees
        • No fees for using overseas ATMs in Citibank network


        • Increased Risk: complete access to all funds in your bank account; and
        • Exchange rates can’t be locked on and will be dependent on the charged as per the exchange rates at the time you actually use the card.

    How Prepaid Travel Debit Cards Work

    These cards and accounts work the same way as a normal bank transaction account, giving you full, easy access to your funds through an ATM debit card linked to a transaction account. The difference is that these cards are designed to be ‘overseas friendly’, cutting back on the exorbitant fees and charges that are associated with overseas ATM use. In addition to providing cheap access to your money, these cards often come with added benefits like complimentary insurance while overseas.

    These cards are ideal for someone who wants to yield the plastic while overseas shopping without having to worry about transaction fees.

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    Need Travel Insurance for Your Next Trip?

    If you are in the market for the market for a new travel money card, you may also be in the market for travel insurance for your next trip away. Travel Insurance not only provides cover for your funds while you are travelling but also for other losses that might be suffered including: overseas medical expenses, lost or damaged baggage and personal belongings, trip cancellation and rental vehicle excess.

    Cover for Your Funds While Travelling

    In addition to the cover options listed above, travel cover will also provide cover for different monetary losses that you may experience while travelling. Different cover benefits for your funds may include:

    • Travel documents and travellers cheques. Provides cover for the loss of travel documents such as passports and visa documents and also travellers cheques that are lost or stolen from you on your journey
    • Credit card fraud and replacement. Provides cover for the replacement cost of credit cards that are lost or stolen from you on your trip and the loss that may be suffered from fraudulent use.
    • Theft of cash. Provides cover for the theft of cash from your person, banknotes, cash, currency notes, postal orders and money orders

    Comparing Different Types of Travel Cover

    As with any form of insurance, it is essential that you take the time to read through the product benefits and exclusions prior to purchasing your travel insurance. Each insurer will have their own set of exclusions and maximum benefits that they will pay for a loss. While it may be tedious, taking the time to read through the product disclosure statement will ensure you get the price you pay is reflected in the quality of the cover.

    Receive a quote for travel insurance

    The best card for you will depend on the frequency of your travel and what you like to spend your money on. If you’re a frequent traveller but not a big shopper the Travel Credit Card is the way to go because you’ll have easy access to your money and earn frequent flyer points on some of your transactions. If you love to shop but don’t want to spend beyond your means then consider a Travel Debit Card because you can easily avoid all those nasty transaction fees. If security is your major concern then the extra protection offered with the Travel Money Card is something to consider.

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    25 Responses to Travel Money Guide: Travel Credit Cards, Prepaid Travel Cards & Travel Debit Cards Compared

    1. Default Gravatar
      George | August 18, 2016

      I’m travelling for a couple of years when using my credit card I’m hit with a three percent charge which is the best card to travel with to avoid this rort

      • Staff
        Anndy | August 23, 2016

        Hi George,

        Thanks for your question.

        If you are travelling overseas and are looking for a credit card with 0% foreign fees, you can compare your options on this page.


    2. Default Gravatar
      JAM | November 6, 2014

      I research a prepaid card with personal IBAN to use in Europe.
      Can you help pe to choose one ?
      Best regards

      • Staff
        Elizabeth | November 6, 2014

        Hi Jam,

        Thanks for your question.

        Australian cards and accounts don’t use IBAN numbers, as this is mainly offered by countries operating in the EU. You aren’t required to have an IBAN to use a card in Europe, but if you’re looking for one you’ll need to find a card offered by a European bank or card issuer.

        I hope this has helped.



      • Default Gravatar
        JAM | November 8, 2014

        Thank you very much Elizabeth !

        Take care :)

    3. Default Gravatar
      OzMatt | December 30, 2013

      Now that 28 Degrees Mastercard is introducing a o/s cash advance fee, are there any other cards that offer a zero annual free and zero fx / zero o/s cash advance fees?


    4. Default Gravatar
      Harry | November 11, 2013

      Hi there, I am from New Zealand and I’m heading for Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. I just got and ANZ Cash Passport MasterCard and realized I can’t load on Thai baht (THB) or Vietnamese dong VND. What card do you recommend for me?

    5. Default Gravatar
      Donna | September 19, 2013

      I have noticed that the exchange rate on a travel card seems to be lower than the credit card rates for the day.
      I checked the rate for USD on my travel card which was 0.9117 yet the mastercard rate for the day is coming up at 0.9318. Are the daily rates for a travel card generally less than credit cards, I use a 28 degree card for credit. Thanks

      • Staff
        Jacob | September 20, 2013

        Hi Donna.

        Thanks for your question.

        I honestly can not say. Banks and lenders will look at the exchange rate for the day and then decide what rate they’re going to offer. I’ve been looking at exchange rates for the past few weeks, and there is a margin applied to all retail transactions, regardless of the card type.

    6. Default Gravatar
      steve | September 7, 2013

      What is the balance transfer rate?

      • Staff
        Jacob | September 9, 2013

        Hi Steve.

        Balance transfers are a feature with credit cards only. You can find the balance transfer rate listed on the comparison table under in the credit card section on the article.

        Thanks for your question.

    7. Default Gravatar
      Kris | July 15, 2013

      Cannot find a Travel Card that can be loaded with South African Rand. Do you have any suggestions for the best way to secure spending money in South Africa? Travel Agent has told me that we will be using Rand for most things, and only about $200 – $300 USD will be required for entry fees etc. Thanks

      • Staff
        Jacob | July 15, 2013

        Hi Kris. Thanks for your question. Currently there are no travel cards which have a currency bucket for South African Rand. And it’s worth noting that you’ll end up paying more in currency conversion fee if you spend with your travel card that is not pre-loaded with South African Rand than if you were using a normal Australian credit card. Cross currency conversion fees on some travel cards can be as high as 8%, while most credit cards charge a currency conversion fee of approx. 3%. You can avoid this charge by using a credit card with no cross currency conversion fee, you can find a comparison of these cards in the above page. Your cash will automatically be exchanged at the bank’s exchange rate when you make a withdrawal from the ATM.

        We have another page on travel that may be helpful to you. Please let us know if you have any more questions.

      • Default Gravatar
        JLB | September 19, 2013


        Would the 28 Degrees Credit Card be the best for travelling to South Africa?


      • Staff
        Jacob | September 19, 2013

        Hi JLB.

        You can find information on the different travel money options on this page.

        There are no travel money cards that allow you to load and spend Rand, so you may want to consider a credit card.


    8. Default Gravatar
      Rhonda | June 12, 2013

      Hi. I am travelling to Europe for and extended period and am unsure of the best method of carry funds. On my last visit several years ago I had a lot of trouble in the smaller villages getting funds, and no one wanted to take my credit card except the service stations. Even some of the larger towns presented a problem.

      • Staff
        Jacob | June 12, 2013

        Hi Rhonda. Thanks for your question. If you have had difficulty getting your card accepted, a travel money card may also present some issues as they all do not have the name printed on the front of the card (except the OzForex Card). In some circumstances, like what you’ve described, cash can be king. We find that a combination of the travel money options listed on this page is a good bet. Be prepared by knowing which areas where you can’t use an ATM and make sure you have enough cash to cover these times, but not too much cash so that you’re going to be a target for thieves. Let us know if there’s anything else you need to know. Jacob.

    9. Default Gravatar
      Sue | June 6, 2013

      H, I am travelling to Argentina and am confused about which would be the best option to travel with. Most sites say USD is the preferred currency to use when travelling to SA. If I use a Travel Money Card loaded with USD and perhaps AUD and go to an ATM to withdraw cash which account will the ATM withdraw from? Does this mean I would be charged the currency conversion fee for withdrawing in ARS and therefore could occur a double fee with the travel card? i.e. fees when loading to USD and then a second hit when withdrawing in ARS?

      • Staff
        Jacob | June 6, 2013

        HI Sue. In my experience, ATMs offer a couple of different currencies when you withdraw cash – say both USD and the local currency. As you can’t load Paso’s on to any of the travel money cards, withdrawing USD will avoid any currency conversion fees provided you’ve transferred money from your AUD currency bucket to your USD currency bucket. If you’re making a withdrawal in currency you don’t have loaded on your travel money card, it will convert another currency, generally AUD first and then so on, to complete the transaction. Be conscious of the ATM withdrawal fees with some cards too, there’s a balance between carrying too much cash and making too many withdrawals at the ATM. I hope this has answered your question. Please let us know if there’s anything else you would like to know about travel money.

    10. Default Gravatar
      Kay | May 22, 2013

      Hi I want to compare the best credit cards to use while travelling overseas. It doesn’t seem to have the comparison option – or if I add a brand it just looks at all their cards. So confused can you land me on the right page please.

      • Staff
        Jacob | May 22, 2013

        Hi Kay. Thanks for pointing this out. We’re working on getting the comparison check boxes added to these tables to make comparing cards easier. Please bear with us, this function will be available very shortly. In the mean time, you can compare Bankwest credit cards here, and you can compare these cards against the Aussie Card on our best credit card comparison page. Please let me know if there’s anything you would like to know. I can answer any questions through the Q&A system we’re on now, or you can send any questions to – alternatively, if you would like to live chat, we’ll be online tomorrow. Jacob.

    Credit Cards Comparison

    Rates last updated October 25th, 2016
    Purchase rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Annual fee
    Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Balance Transfer Offer
    Enjoy a 0% p.a. balance transfer offer for 18 months and also earn 2 bonus Velocity Points in the first 3 months on everyday spend.
    20.74% p.a. 0% p.a. for 18 months $64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info
    ME Bank frank Credit Card
    Enjoy a low and consistent interest rate on purchases and cash advances, combined with no annual fee.
    11.99% p.a. $0 p.a. Go to site More info
    HSBC Platinum Credit Card
    Receive a full annual fee refund and save $149 if you meet the $6,000 spend requirement. Enjoy a balance transfer offer and platinum card benefits such as complimentary insurances and concierge services.
    19.99% p.a. 0% p.a. for 15 months $149 p.a. Go to site More info
    NAB Low Rate Credit Card
    The NAB Low Rate Card offers 0% p.a. on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. This card also comes with a low annual fee.
    0% p.a. for 15 months (reverts to 13.99% p.a.) 0% p.a. for 15 months with a one off 3% balance transfer fee $59 p.a. Go to site More info

    * The credit card offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of credit cards has access to track details from and is not representative of all the products available in the market. Products are displayed in no particular order or ranking. The use of terms 'Best' and 'Top' are not product ratings and are subject to our disclaimer. You should consider seeking independent financial advice and consider your own personal financial circumstances when comparing cards.

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