International travel money and currency conversion

This section is most relevant to Australians, but there’s likely an equivalent for your country – look around! These are the best I know of, as at December 2015.

This is what I use and recommend

I shopped around extensively and there are two cards which I found to be the best value and I have used them for more than 4 years – they’re very similar; one is a credit card and the other is a savings account with a debit card. I use both – the credit card where it’s accepted and the debit card to get cash out of ATMs worldwide. Both cost $0 to set up, charge no annual fee, have an excellent currency conversion rate and none of the fees mentioned below.

  • 28 Degrees Platinum MasterCard credit card for purchases
  • CitiBank Plus savings account with VISA debit card for cash machine withdrawals

When using these cards, you should always select to use the local currency when paying (this way the currency conversion is performed by your card instead of their machine, giving you a much better rate).

Using these cards could save you up to $365 per 5000 euros (example below) – that’s not even taking the fees into account. Using my recommended cards is better value than OzForex, Travelex and any other bank, travel money or credit card I’ve seen. Contact me if you think you know of a better deal!

The BankWest Zero Platinum MasterCard appears to offer similar benefits to the 28 degrees card, with the addition of complimentary international travel insurance for trips up to 6 months in duration. I use my Suncorp Platinum card for this, but the “$0 annual fee for life” offer wasn’t available when I was looking for my parents, so I’ve put them on the BankWest card.

Here’s why

Most credit cards or “travel money cards” do one or more of the following:

  • charge “card loading” fees
  • have expensive rates for currency conversion (between 2 and 3.4%)
  • require you to “load money” into different currencies, so when you require another currency, you lose another 3% or so on “currency conversion” rates
  • charge “currency conversion” fees
  • charge “international transaction” fees
  • have an “account setup” or “annual” fee

This might seem like a few dollars here and there, but spending the equivalent of $5000 could easily cost $500 extra in fees. I’d rather use that $500 for a few more days on holiday!

Some international machines offer to perform the currency conversion and charge you in Australian dollars; however in my experience (and other reviews online), their currency conversion rate is a LOT worse than the one which the cards use.

  • One example was a transaction for $600 or so (about 400€) – by using my card’s rate, I saved over $30.

Before getting or using a different card, be sure to compare it with the options I recommended above.

Example (18 December 2015)

Using these cards could save you between $82 and $365 per 5000 euros.

Rates used:

Other References

I’ve linked to a few references in the above post, but here’s a few others which contain further information. They may be useful if you’d like to research further or find more up-to-date information.

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