Which Debit Card is Best to Use When Travelling Overseas

Rates and Fees verified correct on March 30th, 2015

Take the right debit card overseas to save on international transaction fees

Record numbers of Australians are heading abroad. And finding the best way to take your money overseas can be a challenge.

There are a range of personal finance products that are geared towards international travel due to reduced or waived international transaction fees: credit cards, travel cards and debit cards all offer something different. You can find a comparison of travel friendly credit cards and travel cards by reading our travel money guide. The following article will examine which debit card is the best to use when you’re overseas

Travel debit card comparison

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Bankwest Qantas Transaction Account
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Debit card, credit card or travel card?

There are a number of ways you can take your money overseas with you. You have the option of taking a credit card, travel money card, debit card or traveller’s cheques.

Usually a combination of the aforementioned products works best, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. For some, a travel money card to pay for their day to day spending and a credit card for emergencies is a safe option; while others are happy using just their Australian transaction account. The best way to take money overseas comes down to how comfortable you are paying additional fees and charges to access your money while you’re on holiday.

If you want to avoid paying extra to access your cash, a credit card, debit card with no foreign transaction fees is the way to go.

You can find a detailed comparison of all the options for taking your money overseas on this page. The following section of the article will briefly highlight some of the pros and cons of the different types of travel money you can take overseas with you.

Travel Money Type Pros Cons
Debit Card It’s linked to your own account;

Unlike a credit card, these accounts mostly have no annual fees.

It’s linked to your own account;

Funds must be converted from Australian dollars to complete an overseas transaction – this will incur a fee with most cards.

Credit Card They are widely accepted;

They give emergency access to cash.

Banks can block transaction if you have not notified them of your travel plans;

Currency conversion and ATM withdrawal fees can add up.

Travel Money Card Allows you to load multiple currencies onto the card;

Comes with a backup card in case the first is lost or stolen.

There may be issue with card acceptance at some merchants;

It can take a number of days to load funds onto the card and there are reload fees in most cases.

Traveller’s Cheques They are a very secure form of travel money. Each cheque has a unique number and can be replaced if lost or stolen. They are bulky to carry around;

You will need to change the cheques to cash in order to use the funds.

What’s the best debit card to take overseas?

The word ‘best’ is a subjective term. For the sake of this article, the best debit card to take overseas is the debit card that costs least to transact in a foreign currency. And there are a number of debit cards on the market, but less than a handful allow you to spend overseas without charging a foreign currency conversion fee. We refer to these types of transaction accounts as ‘travel friendly debit cards’, or ‘travel friendly transaction accounts’.

What are the features of a travel debit card?

Transaction accounts with a debit card have a number of common features. You can use the debit card to access the money in your transaction account, shop online and you can make purchases over the counter. The thing that separates a ‘travel friendly transaction account’ from a ‘regular, everyday account’ is the currency conversion fee.

The best transaction accounts to take overseas will waive the currency conversion fee

Much like when you use your credit card to make a purchase in a currency other than Australian dollars, most transaction accounts will charge a fee when you make an international purchase. At the time of writing there is only one transaction account in Australian that does not charge a fee of 2-3% (industry average) when you carry out a transaction in a currency other than Australian dollars.

In addition to waiving the foreign currency conversion fee, the Citibank Plus Everyday Account also offers another handy feature in the form of fee free international money transfers to any account in the world.

The ING DIRECT Orange Everyday Transaction Account also deserves a mention. Although this account does charge international transaction fees when you make a purchase or cash transaction in a currency other than Australian dollars, the ING DIRECT debit card account does offer customers something back in the form of cash back on payWave purchases and free ATM transactions when you withdraw over $200 or more.

Debit cards & travel: John Arnott: ING DIRECT

To cut down on fees, look for your bank’s ATM alliance

The Orange Everyday Account’s fee free ATM withdrawal offer is a handy feature for travellers. When you’re abroad it’s common to withdraw large amounts of cash at a time. And there’s a real benefit knowing you can use any ATM for free. But what if you don’t have an Orange Everyday Account? Some banks have global ATM alliances where you can make ATM withdrawals for free.

Transaction account providers like Westpac, ANZ and the Commonwealth Bank have partner ATMs in a number of countries in Asia and Europe. For example, Westpac have an ATM alliance with Barclays Bank. Westpac cardholders can make free ATM withdrawals at all Barclays branded ATMs in the U.K., Spain and Portugal to name a few places; while the Commonwealth Bank has ATMs in Vietnam and throughout Asia.

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This page was last modified on 27 February 2015 at 16:12.

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70 Responses to Which Debit Card is Best to Use When Travelling Overseas

  1. Default Gravatar
    mitch | March 18, 2015

    Hi, my girlfriend and I are planning to travel latin america for a year or so and I was considering citibank as they have a heavy presence there, however I have heard some terrible reviews of their customer service and just service in general. Can anyone shine any light on this for me

    • Staff
      Jonathan | March 18, 2015

      Hi Mitch, thanks for your inquiry!

      Unfortunately we can not comment on the customer service quality of Citibank as we are an independent comparison service. For tips on travel money in South America from one of our staff who have visited please see this page.



  2. Default Gravatar
    Stewart | March 16, 2015

    From reading above it looks like a Citibank Plus Everyday Account with associated Visa Debit Card would avoid most of the fees that providers apply to get a share of your overseas spending dollar. There would be an exchange rate cost but I suspect that would be relatively minor and somewhat unavoidable.
    That leaves the problem of you wanting to withdraw cash from a non-Citi ATM which may involve a nasty fee.
    My question is, can you withdraw cash from supermarkets without fees like you do in Australia?
    I am mainly interested in Spain.

    • Staff
      Jonathan | March 17, 2015

      Hi Stewart,

      There is no charge applicable for international ATM’s as per Citibank’s terms and conditions. Supermarket cash withdrawals would qualify under an ATM withdrawal, but to be entirely sure it would be best to contact Citibank directly either through online chat, phone or local branch.



  3. Default Gravatar
    Janine | March 16, 2015

    Citibank plus. What I understand is I have to use a Citibank arm or branch to not be charged fees. But what about currency conversion fees?

    • Staff
      Jonathan | March 17, 2015

      Hi Janine, thanks for your inquiry!

      The terms and conditions state “Citibank Australia does not charge Citibank Plus everyday account holders a fee when they withdraw funds from an international ATM or use their Visa Debit card to make in-store purchases overseas. Customers may be charged by the third party provider, which Citibank Australia does not control.”



  4. Default Gravatar
    Paul | February 13, 2015

    Do any multi currency accounts provided by Australian Banks also provide a linked debit card such as visa or mastercard?

    • Staff
      Jonathan | February 13, 2015

      Hi Paul, thanks for your inquiry!

      For a list of travel debit cards please see this page.



  5. Default Gravatar
    Judy | February 11, 2015

    I am travelling to Canada and my husband has obtained a Citibank Plus Debit card to use for withdrawing cash from ATMs. My research shows that Citibank has a very small presence in Canada – could you advise if Citibank is a member of any global atm alliance which would allow us to use any other Canadian banks atm for free?

    • Staff
      Jonathan | February 12, 2015

      Hi Judy, thanks for your inquiry!

      Fee free withdrawals from overseas ATM’s are available with a Citibank Plus account allowing you to enjoy fee free ATM withdrawals at all Citibank ATMs worldwide. Otherwise an “international transaction Fee 2.50% applies for all overseas ATM and electronic point-of-sale transactions made in a foreign currency using your Citi Visa Debit / Citi Debit Card. For Citi Visa Debit transactions, this amount includes a 1% service and assessment fee payable by Citibank to Visa. This fee will be charged as a percentage of your withdrawal amount.”



    • Default Gravatar
      Janine | March 16, 2015

      And what about a currency conversion fee? haven’t been able to find anything on this fee.

    • Staff
      Jonathan | March 16, 2015

      Hi Janine, thanks for your inquiry!

      To allow me to assist you further could you please clarify which product you are using?



  6. Default Gravatar
    Motso | January 23, 2015

    I want 2 go on a holiday for few days 2 de UK can I use my FNB & CAPITAC Bank Card while im there.

    • Staff
      Jonathan | January 23, 2015

      Hi Motso,

      Thanks for your inquiry,

      Would you mind clarifying which FNB & Capitec Bank Card you are using? Also please refer to the email I have sent you containing the relevant forms to contact each bank.

      I hope this helps!



  7. Default Gravatar
    Andy | November 5, 2014

    Hi, I’ll be traveling across Europe – Paris Spain Italy Swiss UK etc. and I like citibank plus account because of no foreign transaction fees and no ATM fees but what’s the point if there aren’t enough citibank or alliance ATMs in Europe?! Can u please provide any guidance on citibank alliance ATMs?

    • Staff
      Elizabeth | November 5, 2014

      Hi Andy,

      Thanks for your question.

      You can see all the locations of Citibank ATMs and branches by doing a search on Citibank’s website. I’ve forwarded you the link.



  8. Default Gravatar
    Stuart | September 24, 2014

    My 14 yr old daughter is traveling to the UK and will be moving around to different cities. What would be the best card for her (travel money/credit/debit), that would allow her to use to purchases good from stores as well as use ATM’s?

    • Staff
      Shirley | September 26, 2014

      Hi Stuart,

      Thanks for your question.

      We don’t recommend specific products, services or providers. You may want to see our travel money guide for Europe to help you with your decision.


  9. Default Gravatar
    Arcticfoxman | August 26, 2014

    The big question is what sort of FX rate do the cards providers offer. I nearly topped my own Vietnamese phone up on line the other day from a special offer i had until I went slowly to the end and then worked back the Dollar / Dong rate and it was 40% ripping me off. It was so pp that I had to double check I wasn’t misreading it!!!
    So do all cards offer a proper commercial FX rate?

    • Staff
      Shirley | August 27, 2014

      Hi Arcticfoxman,

      Thanks for your question.

      It’s up to the financial institution to decide which exchange rates they would like to use. This is why it’s so important to compare your options before committing to any product.

      You’ll find that most cards do offer a reasonable exchange rate. If you’d like, you compare your options in our travel money section.

      All the best,

  10. Default Gravatar
    Phill | August 16, 2014

    I’m going to Japan in a few days with my bendigo bank mastercard. On my travels around websites I found sources that say Mastercards won’t work over there, is this true?

    • Staff
      Shirley | August 18, 2014

      Hi Phill,

      Thanks for your question.

      To our knowledge, Japan is still very much a cash society. Debit and credit cards may not be as widely accepted compared to cash.

      Please see this page about travel money in Japan, hope it helps.


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