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Compare the top prepaid travel money cards. Load up with multiple currencies on the one card, save money with no foreign transaction fees, and lock in a better foreign exchange rate.
Travel money cards are prepaid cards able to be loaded with a single foreign currency or multiple currencies, for use when travelling overseas. It’s much more secure and convenient than carrying foreign currency banknotes or traveller’s cheques. It’s also preferable to using a credit card, because you can lock in the exchange rate (instead of having to accept the rate prevailing on the day you make a purchase transaction) and avoid the high foreign transaction fees charged by many credit cards. So not only are your overseas travel costs more predictable, they’re also potentially much lower.
Your travel money card can be used in just the same way as any Visa, MasterCard or American Express card. Use it for shopping, eating out, travel fares, tours and entertainment, and cash withdrawals in local currency. Some travel money card issuers recommend not using the travel money card as payment security when you arrive at a hotel or pick up a hire car, because the pending charge will restrict your access to your cash. Use a credit card for payment security instead, then pay with your money card when you check out of the hotel or drop off the car.
Some platinum travel money cards come with platinum benefits. These may include things like discounts on tours and entertainment, overseas assistance for travellers and free Wi-Fi when overseas. Each card is different, so you need to check out the individual fees and benefits, plus any limits and restrictions, before deciding which card is right for you.
While all travel money cards have the same purpose (providing you with a prepaid card loaded with the foreign currencies or your choice, for use overseas) they have different ranges of available currencies, and varying fee structures, accessibility and flexibility, rules and restrictions. You will need to decide which one best suits your travel plans and budget.
Because it’s not a credit card (you are using your own money, converted to a foreign currency) there’s no credit approval process involved. You may be able to get a card instantly over the counter if the provider dispenses with the need to have the cardholder’s name embossed on the card. If you apply online and the card needs to come by mail, it will take a little longer.
There is usually no minimum age limit for purchasing a card in an agency in person, but in some cases you need to be at least 18 years old if you want to apply online.
The cost of the card is made up of a number of different factors. A card may charge just a few of the following fees, or many of them. In order to compare costs, work out each card’s charge for:
The exchange rate you will pay, for all transactions in a particular currency, is the exchange rate that was current on the day you pre-loaded your card with that currency. This exchange rate will apply until all of that specific currency amount is spent, or converted to another currency.
You can top up the currency using Australian dollars converted into the foreign currency (either online, or in person at an agency which supports your card) or you can convert another currency, already on your card, into the required currency. For example, you may have run out of US dollars, but you have Euros available on your card which can be converted into US dollars.
Usually, yes. If you have more than one currency loaded on your card, and you run out of Currency A but have a surplus in Currency B, you can convert Currency B to Currency A. Additional charges may apply.
Yes, there are cards which earn points (e.g. Qantas or Velocity points) for eligible spending.
Because your travel money card is a prepaid Visa or MasterCard, it comes with the same level of security as a Visa or MasterCard credit card. It’s likely to be a contactless card, so may not require a PIN for amounts under the approximate equivalent of AUD100 in the local currency. You’d be well advised to keep it in a safe place, but it will definitely be protected by a PIN for larger transactions. And because it’s a card, not a wad of cash, it’s less conspicuous, and you can put a block on your account if your card is lost or stolen.
Your card provider will have a global assistance service, including emergency card replacement, and you should be able to have online access to your card to view transactions and possibly put a temporary block on your card. Some providers may be able to issue you with emergency cash while you are waiting for your replacement card to arrive.
It depends on how often you plan to travel, and the fee structure of your card. Regular travellers can keep the same card permanently, and top it up with foreign currency before the start of their next trip, or even during their trip (online, or in person at overseas agencies linked to their card).
But if you expect several years to elapse between the end of one overseas trip and the beginning of the next one, you could find yourself paying unnecessary annual fees or inactivity fees. In this case it might be best to convert any remaining currency on the card back into Australian dollars, withdraw the cash and close the account (there may be fees involved to do this). You can always get another card next time you travel.
Yes. You are likely to be restricted to a balance of not more than the foreign currency equivalent of AUD100,000.
Your travel money card will usually list the foreign currencies available to be loaded onto the card. The availability or otherwise of a particular currency will obviously limit where the card can be used. As well as this, there may be some geopolitical restrictions. Some cards, for example, cannot be used in Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, Libya and Sudan.
Look for the MaterCard or Visa symbol on the ATM, depending on what type of card you have. If you see the appropriate symbol, your card should work.
Many travel money card providers offer fee-free overseas cash withdrawals. That is, your Australian card provider will not charge a fee. However, your Australian card provider has no control over the fee structure of the company operating the overseas ATM, and this overseas company may impose a charge. Your Australian card provider may direct you to a particular brand of overseas ATM that they know to be fee-free for your card.
Usually, yes there is. The card issuer may impose a limit of, for example, the local currency equivalent of AUD2,500. The overseas ATM provider may also have a limit, which may be lower than the one set by your card issuer. These are security features designed to limit fraudulent activity.
While there is unlikely to be a limit to the number of individual transactions, some travel money card providers may set a limit on the EFTPOS daily total amount, e.g. the foreign currency equivalent of AUD7,500 per 24 hours.
If you have online access which allows you to block card transactions, do this without delay. Then contact your card provider as soon as possible, using the contact details you were given when your card was issued. They should be able to cancel your old card and issue a new card loaded with the remaining currency amounts that were on your missing card.
You have several options: