Which Debit Card is Best to Use When Travelling Overseas

Posted November 24th, 2011 and last modified October 15th, 2014

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

Citibank Plus Transaction Account

Debit Card for Spending Overseas

The Citibank Plus Transaction Account is a revolutionary financial product. Free international money transfers from Australia to any account, anywhere in the world. No monthly fees, no ATM fee. Fee free Overseas ATM withdrawals.

  • Maximum Rate: 0.00% p.a.
  • Standard Variable Rate: 0.00% p.a.
  • Bonus Rate: 0.00% p.a.
  • Monthly Account Fees: $0
  • Minimum Balance: $0
  • Minimum Deposit: $0

Travel debit card comparison

Rates last updated October 31st, 2014

Maximum Variable Rate p.a. Standard Variable Rate p.a. Bonus Interest p.a. Fees Min Bal / Min Deposit
Citibank Plus Transaction Account
Citibank Plus Transaction Account
The Citibank Plus Transaction Account is a revolutionary financial product with Free Overseas Direct Purchase Fee. Free international money transfers from Australia to any account, anywhere in the world. No monthly fees, no ATM fees. 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% $0 $0 / $0 Open More
Bankwest Qantas Transaction Account
Bankwest Qantas Transaction Account
Earn Qantas Points on your account balance 365 days a year, plus access to Australia's largest bank ATM network. 0.01% 0.01% $6 $0 / $0 Open More

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 Transaction 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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54 Responses to Which Debit Card is Best to Use When Travelling Overseas

  1. 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.

      Cheers,
      Shirley

  2. 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,
      Shirley

  3. 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.

      Cheers,
      Shirley

  4. Default Gravatar
    Janne | August 1, 2014

    If I have a Citibank Debit card can it be used in Cairo and Africa

    • Staff
      Shirley | August 4, 2014

      Hi Janne,

      You can use the card where ever the Visa card symbol is displayed.

      There are a few Citibank ATMs in Cairo and Africa you can use, they have three branches in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

      Cheers,
      Shirley

  5. Default Gravatar
    | July 29, 2014

    You advertise “Fee free overseas ATM withdrawals” on your Citibank Plus Transaction Account. I will be in France for 4 months. Does this apply in France where I will be for 4 months. If so, which ATM’s can I use in France where I won’t be charged a withdrawal fee? Also, will I be charged a conversion fee from AUS dollars to Euros?

    • Staff
      Shirley | July 30, 2014

      Hi Jillian,

      Thanks for your question.

      Unfortunately there seems to be no Citibank-branded ATMs available in France; withdrawals that you make out of a non-Citibank branded could incur a fee.

      There’s no currency conversion fee charged, but the transaction will be subject to the exchange rates at the time.

      Cheers,
      Shirley

  6. Default Gravatar
    Michael | June 19, 2014

    I am travelling to Europe I have 2 debit cards and 2 airline travel debit cards but do not have a credit card.
    I am hiring a car and require to leave imprints for security and have been told that credit cards are required for hotels and renal car companies is this correct

    • Staff
      Shirley | June 20, 2014

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for your question.

      Yes this is correct for most hotels and rental companies. Usually they require a security deposit or a credit card to hold in case anything happens.

      Cheers,
      Shirley

  7. Default Gravatar
    Sue | June 10, 2014

    Hi, I have been trying to open a Citibank plus transaction account since April, their service is absolutely terrible & I still have no account whatsoever, impossible to deal with.
    I would really like a debit card to take to the USA, can you please suggest another debit card which is good for travel, other than Citibank? Thank you

  8. Default Gravatar
    Andrew | May 3, 2014

    Does Citibank give you a good exchange rate on
    cash withdrawals because there is no point looking for an account with no fees if they claw it back with a poor exchange rate?

    • Staff
      Shirley | May 7, 2014

      Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for your question.

      Unfortunately we are unable to comment about whether Citibank exchange rates are good or bad. Since they change all the time and are dependent on economic conditions, it’s hard to be objective.

      You may want to conduct a comparison yourself to make an informed decision. You can find the Visa exchange rates by visiting the Visa website and using their exchange rate calculator, and compare whether the savings outweigh the fees you could potentially save.

      Cheers,
      Shirley

  9. Default Gravatar
    Catherine | May 1, 2014

    Which is the account that does not charge the 2-3% fee for foreign currency transactions. The article mentions its existence but does not name it.

    • Staff
      Shirley | May 1, 2014

      Hi Catherine,

      Thanks for bringing this up to our attention.

      We’ve now updated the page to reflect the accounts that don’t charge a currency conversion fee.

      Cheers,
      Shirley

    • Default Gravatar
      | May 1, 2014

      Hi Shirley
      I have been back to the page but still can’t see the account you are referring to. is it the Citibank card?

    • Staff
      Shirley | May 2, 2014

      Hi Catherine,

      Yes, at this current point in time in our comparison, only the Citibank account offers this feature.

      Cheers,
      Shirley

  10. Default Gravatar
    | March 16, 2014

    Which debit card is best for Istanbul and Dubai?

  11. Default Gravatar
    Karen | January 20, 2014

    Can you please tell me what Australian ATM cards are accepted in NZ. I am with Bank SA in South Australia.

    Thanks

    • Staff
      Shirley | January 20, 2014

      Hi Karen,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Please see this page for appropriate debit cards to bring to New Zealand.

      Cheers,
      Shirley

  12. Default Gravatar
    Lara | January 13, 2014

    Hello, I’m an Italian citizen who’s moved to Australia 2 years ago and I currently have an Australian bank account only. Since I’m going to leave the country soon, back to Italy for a short period (4/5 weeks) first and then go to travel through South America, I was wondering what it might be the best option in between keep the Australian bank account and associated debit card or close it and just travel with a Travel Debit card since I can load many different currencies. Thank you in advance

    • Staff
      Jacob | January 13, 2014

      Hi, Lara.

      Thanks for your question.

      This will depend on a number of factors. It’s best to have a look at our travel money comparison page. This page outlines some of the pros and cons of each type of travel money and should help you make a decision about which type of card to take.

      I hope this helps.

  13. Default Gravatar
    Ray | December 26, 2013

    Hi, I work as freelancer for an Australian company and I’m in Australia to open an account where I’ll receive payment. As this will be my main account, I need a debit card to use overseas paying daily bills and probably one withdraw per month (with currency exchange) and also occasionally, I’ll need to transfer the money from this account to another countries. What account do you recommend me to pay less fees as I can?? Thank you so much!

    • Staff
      Jacob | December 26, 2013

      Hi Ray.

      Thanks for your question.

      Please have a look at this page. It has information on international debit cards and should help you find an account that’s right for you. If you’re currently not a permanent Australian resident, you may be limited in your options for an account.

      If you’re interested about reading up more about cards for temporary residents, please have a look at this page.

      I hope this helps and happy holidays.

  14. Default Gravatar
    Maurice | December 7, 2013

    Hi,

    I’m travelling to the UK for 3-4 weeks in Feb 2014, what type over travel card would best to use?

  15. Default Gravatar
    Bev | December 1, 2013

    Hello, my 19 year old son has decided to travel to South Korea, Souel. I just need to know which one WILL work in ATMs over there. Thanks in advance. From worried mum.

    • Staff
      Jacob | December 2, 2013

      Hey Bev.

      Thanks for getting in touch with us.

      Most Visa and MasterCard cards will be accepted in South Korea. Your son will need to look out for the Visa and MasterCard logos on the front of the ATM. You can read about taking money to Asia on this page.

      I hope this helps.

  16. Default Gravatar
    Lesley | October 12, 2013

    I am travelling to New Zealand but don’t really want to purchase a travel currency card. I have done so in the past but had to pay an exit fee when I transferred the balance after my trip and also had to wait up to a fortnight for the transfer to complete. I would therefore prefer to use either my Australian Visa Debit card or MasterCard Credit card.

    1)Can you confirm both cards would be accepted in NZ?
    2)If yes, do I use my cards in the same way as I do in Australia, i.e. with my PIN, and is my 4 digit PIN ok to use or do I need to add leading zeros, or is there something else I should know?

    Thanks.

    • Staff
      Jacob | October 14, 2013

      Hi Lesley.

      Thanks for your question.

      Your cards will work the same way in New Zealand as they do in Australia. You can use your cards at New Zealand merchants or ATMs where Visa and MasterCard are accepted – these cards are widely accepted in New Zealand. You won’t need to do anything differently to use your cards overseas (although it is a good idea to call your bank and tell them that you’re travelling to New Zealand so your account doesn’t get blocked). You can compare travel money options on this page.

      I hope this helps.

  17. Default Gravatar
    Brian | August 10, 2013

    Can I use a travel debt card for Internet download purchases that are blocked? They don’t accept Australian credit cards, only USA.

    • Staff
      Jacob | August 12, 2013

      Hi Brian.

      No, you will face same issues with a travel card as they are Australian issued.

      Thanks for your question.

      Jacob.

  18. Default Gravatar
    Paul | May 29, 2013

    I am travelling to Europe for an extended period of time. I wish to open a euro debit card and bank account. How hard is it to do when in europe or can I open an account from Australia?

    • Staff
      Jacob | May 30, 2013

      Hi Paul. Thanks for your question. This is something I really know nothing about and is out of my area of expertises; however, I’ve done some research and sent some information to your email that you might like to read. Jacob.

  19. Default Gravatar
    Paul | May 27, 2013

    What is the best card for a child (16 year old) to use when travelling overseas without a parent?

    • Staff
      Jacob | May 27, 2013

      Hi Paul. Thanks for your question. You will have to compare travel money options on this page. It lists debit cards, travel cards and credit cards that have no foreign currency fees and travel focused cards that you may want to consider for your daughter. Most credit cards are for ages 18 and over. Travel money cards come with a second card as a backup in case the first is lost or stolen. Let us know if you have any more questions. Jacob.

  20. Default Gravatar
    Johnno | May 25, 2013

    We are going to England for a 2 month holiday in 3 weeks time. We already have British Ponds in Cash in readiness for our holiday.

    How can we obtain a Debit Card in Australia before we go to England, then deposit our British Pounds (to the Debit Card) when we arrive in England?

    We look forward to all replies.

    Johnno

    • Staff
      Jacob | May 26, 2013

      Hi Johnno. Thanks for your question. If you already have British Pounds, you are going to have to transfer the currency back to AUD if you wish to load the funds on to a debit card or travel card, which means you will be subject to exchange fees and the lender’s foreign exchange rate. You can compare travel money options here. It may be worth having a look at the Citibank Plus Transaction Account, which offers fee free international transfers in a number of countries. If you open a Citibank account, you can then deposit the funds in to the account when you arrive in the United Kingdom and transfer any remaining funds you don’t spend back to Australian dollars at the end of your trip. Jacob.

  21. Default Gravatar
    | May 8, 2013

    Dear CCF. I’m going to Canada for four weeks and would like to have a card that has no currency conversion fee. One of your answers indicate Bankwest and Aussie Platinum cards do not have conversion fees.
    Are there any Debit cards that do not have conversion fees?

    • Staff
      Jacob | May 8, 2013

      Hi Peter. Your first points of call should be this page – compare travel money options – The Citibank Plus Transaction Account is the account you’re looking for. NAB used to have an account like this, but it currently not open for new applications. Jacob.

  22. Default Gravatar
    Melissa | April 11, 2013

    Hi. I am travelling in Japan shortly and would like to know what is the best way to access my money while I’m there. I have a Visa debit card in Australia.

    • Staff
      Jacob | April 11, 2013

      Hi Melissa. Great question. Please refer to our travel money comparison page. This page compares the different options for people looking to access their money while overseas – credit cards, debit cards & travel money cards. There is no best way to access you cash – sometimes a combination of travel money options work, but it really depends on how you plan to spend. If you would like to give a little more information we can help work towards a solution. Jacob.

  23. Default Gravatar
    Dave | March 28, 2013

    Is there a card that can be used in Europe (or any other country)that will avoid the Foreign Exchange Commission on every transaction

  24. Default Gravatar
    Michael | March 26, 2013

    Hi,
    We are travelling to Mauritius later in the year’
    Is there a low cost debit card that can be used there, and how do I go about obtaining one?
    If not, what is the best way to deal with money/cash requirements?
    Regards,
    Michael

  25. Default Gravatar
    Raf | July 17, 2012

    So my wife and I and our son are travelling around Spain soon for about 4 weeks, we do a trip overseas every year, which is the best card to use, a Europe Debit Card, or credit card, we carry some cash for small purchases. Finding the right credit or debit card to avoid excess fee’s is daunting.
    Raf

  26. Default Gravatar
    Jill | July 16, 2012

    What is the most competitive and beneficial debit card for USA?

Credit Cards Comparison

Rates last updated October 31st, 2014
Interest rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Annual fee Cash advance rate (p.a.)
ANZ Low Rate
ANZ Low Rate
A low rate on purchases, balance transfer and a low annual fee. 13.49% p.a. 0% p.a. for 16 months $58 p.a. 21.74% p.a. Go to site More info
Citi Simplicity Card
Citi Simplicity Card
$0 annual fee credit card with a long term balance transfer offer. 19.99% p.a. 0% p.a. for 12 months $0 p.a. 19.99% p.a. Go to site More info
HSBC Platinum Credit Card
HSBC Platinum Credit Card
Earn rewards points plus a balance transfer offer. Access to prestige services including a personal concierge service and VISA Platinum reward program. 19.99% p.a. 0% p.a. for 8 months $0 p.a. 21.99% p.a. Go to site More info
Westpac Low Rate Card
Westpac Low Rate Card
A low interest rate credit card with a low annual fee and balance transfer offer. 12.49% p.a. 0% p.a. for 14 months $45 p.a. 21.49% p.a. Go to site More info
HSBC Credit Card
HSBC Credit Card
No annual fee for the life of the credit card. Plus a low balance transfer offer. 17.99% p.a. 0% p.a. for 6 months $0 p.a. 21.99% p.a. Go to site More info

* The credit card offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of credit cards CreditCardFinder.com.au 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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