Last time I travelled and had a decent amount of organisation time I was able to get a credit card from a bank that I could load up with US dollars. This was handy but when I went to Europe a little while later, I needed to get another card for Euros, another for Pounds and so on. But things have changed.
Most of the big banks and a bunch of other companies now offer multi-currency cards. These work in a similar way to the gift credit cards that are widely available.
The financial institution provides you with a card. You load the card with some Aussie dollars that are instantly converted to your preferred overseas currency. In my case, I recently got a card and loaded it with some US dollars and Euros for upcoming travel.
The cards let you load cash in several currencies - the one I chose allowed up to 10 different currencies.
This approach has several advantages over the traditional approach of simply using your existing credit card.
- you can control how much money is on the card so that if it's lost or compromised you can control the financial damage
- you're not going to get caught out by currency fluctuations as the money you transfer will be exchanged at a single exchange rate
- you won't get stung by the currency conversion fees credit card companies levy on each transaction
The only fees you're likely to hit are ATM fees on withdrawals. EFTPOS transactions are usually free.
We've tried out an ANZ card recently and the system worked well. Purchases were straightfroward using the card and PIN we assigned. We could also withdraw cash from ATMs.
Card management was via a secure website. From there we could switch the default currency so that the first money that was used was US dollars for a trip to the States. If the US dollars run out but there's money in other currencies then those other currencies will be used so that the card doesn't report the dreaded "insufficient finds" message. We could top up the finds using our existing bank accounts via BPay.
If you're planning some overseas travel visit your bank or a foreign exchange bureau and look for a suitable multi-currency card.