Travel Cards Go Multi-Currency

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.


Comments

    I'm heading over to Europe in a few weeks time and after doing some research online I decided to apply for a new credit card through GE Finance called a 28 degrees card. Apparently it offers no currency conversion fee, so you can take it wherever you want... England, Italy, Canada, America, and it's just like using your Australian credit card in Australia. The exchange rate is apparently comparable to the true exchange rate also, so it should be a lot cheaper than going with a FOREX service or with an Australian bank's card. Will be interesting to see how it works out, although from all the talk online it seems like the best option.

    www.28degreescard.com.au

      Seconded. I've used 28 Degrees (formerly Wizard) for a few years now, both locally, overseas and for online purchases.

      They don't charge any conversion fees, and as Dylan says, the exchange rate they use is usually pretty decent (and tends to be better than the ones offered by say, Amazon or Cafepress if you convert to AUD on their websites).

      It is a good card as long as you can pay your bills (the full amount) on time, as their interest rate for overdrafts is quite high. Also, if you want to draw out cash at an ATM (local or foreign), it would be smart to put the balance into 'positive' first, as cash withdrawals attract interest straight away (which I think is standard for all credit cards)

      When I was travelling overseas, I used the 28 Degrees card for credit purchases (hotels, restaurants etc), and a different Visa Debit card to withdraw cash.

      Hi, just to let you know my daughter is having problems with these mulitcurrency cards for online purchases - it seems many websites can't cope with them htinking they are fraudelant!! Be aware - single currency may be better.

        what do you mean by 'put the balance into positive' first before withdrawing from an ATM overseas?
        If it's a credit card, does that mean, be sure you have credit on it before you use the ATM?

        I'm looking for one card for overseas for over the counter purchases as well as ATM cash withdrawals. Are there any fees for both these functions overseas if I pay the full amount on time?

          I just got back from my trip, and the 28 degrees card was amazing. It worked everywhere, I didn't need to worry about what currency I was purchasing in (Pounds, Euros, Swiss Francs, Dirhams). No surprises so far, everything seems to be as expected! I was both withdrawing money from ATM's and purchasing items over the counter. It was helped by the fact that I preloaded a few hundread dollars onto the card, and then when I would go into each country I would withdraw money from an ATM which would cover me for cash expenses and from that point on I would try and pay everything by credit to avoid using my cash. I would then log into my normal bank's website and transfer money across to pay off the card and again preload the card with some additional funds, and withdraw more money from ATM's as I need it without paying the cash-advance interest rates.

          One thing you have to be careful of is that at some times the bank who's ATM/credit card machine you're using will ask you "do you want to pay this in GBP or in AUD" (or whatever local currency you're paying in). ALWAYS choose the local currency , as this will ensure that the currency is converted by 28 degrees, at their conversion rates (which are quite good) as opposed to the bank you are paying with, which I would assume is horrible.

          Robbi - the 28 degrees card will work for both ATM withdrawls and over the counter purchases, however the instant you try to withdraw money from an ATM while your account is in the negative i.e. - you owe 28 degrees money you will be charged the cash advance interest rate. The best thing to do is to ensure that the only time you are withdrawing money is when you are in the positive i.e. - you have more money on the card than there needs to be... for instance, if you just got your card and you haven't used it yet and you transfer $200 onto it, your card is in the "positive" by $200... you can withdraw up to $200 without getting charged at the cash-advance rate. If you are in the positive by $200 and then you buy something for $300 and then you withdraw $200 from an ATM, you will get charged that $200 at the cash-advance rate because the $300 purchase reduced your account into the "negative" and you withdrew money from the ATM while you were "negative".

    I'm with NAB and when I went overseas I simply upgraded to a "Gold" account for $10 per month. This also allows withdrawals o/s with no currency conversion fees at a rate comparable to the true exchange rate. Once I returned, I simply downgraded back to regular account which has no monthly fees

      This is what I did. Absolutely the best option for going overseas. Travel cards are a giant scam.

        Sorry, how exactly are they a giant scam? Do they have massive hidden fees? Or lock you into a multi-year contract with huge penalties? Is there anything of substance to what you just said, or did you just feel like being contrary to the article topic?

      Yes I used this account for overseas holidays, it was excellent, unfortunately it has been upgraded and now has all the same charges as other cards. NAB have released a overseas currency card.

    Used the 28 degrees card on my last European venture, perfect solution. The exchange rate is calculated daily however...

    Honestly never had a problem simply using my Visa debit card at ATMs in Asia. I would never use my card for store purchases, even if it was one of these Cash Passport style cards.. in 4 years of travel in Asia, as long as I've stuck to this method, never had a problem.

    Oh and my institution doesn't charge for conversion fees either.. just a flat rate that is set by Visa/Mastercard.. they also don't charge me a monthly fee.. ever.. *shrugs*

      Care to share and tell us your financial institution?

    I have to disagree with this article as I think these cards are actually very poor value. Using the ANZ card as an example:
    - purchase fee $11
    - Re-Load fee 1.1%
    - ATM fee around $2-$4 (depending on currency)
    - Currency conversion around ~3.2%

    So your looking at 4.3% + ATM fees + buying the card. As an example on a $3000 trip this would be a cost of $140+ ($129+$11+ATM fees).

    As per other posters I would recommend using the GE 28 degrees card or the citibank debit card with free overseas transactions. If using the 28 Degrees card put a positive balance on it and use it like a debit, just be aware that it is hard to withdraw excess money from it when back in Australia

    I do agree that the cards have added feature of exchange rate certainty, spare cards etc but consumers should be aware that these come at quite a cost and weigh those up.

    *Just a note on the currency cost. I've estimated this cost as the percentage difference between the exchange rate offered on the travel card versus the official mastercard rate that you could get using the 28 degrees or citibank cards. In this case on the 12 April, ANZ quotes the rate to buy USD dollars as $0.9906 whilst Mastercard is $1.0288. 1.0228/0.9906 = 1.0325 or 3.25%

    The travel money card providers don't mention this in their fees but it really is a cost of using the card

    Sources:
    http://anz.com.au/personal/travel-foreign-exchange/travel-money/travel-card/
    http://www.anz.com/common/calculators/foreignexchange/exampleau.asp#results
    https://www.mastercard.com/global/currencyconversion/index.html

      Great response Paul.
      Also locking in currency early means you are predicting it is going to go up or down - why not just quit your job and trade currency if you're that smart.
      Oh, and if your card is stolen or you have probs, you are already well covered by international scheme like VISA or MasterCard with refunds.

        I looked into this yesterday and i can say that the ANZ travel card is an absolute scam. I can't comment authoritively on others. Their marketing is very, very dishonest. The ANZ likes to spruik that you can avoid the currency conversion fee (i.e. 3% on an ANZ Visa Debit card), thereby inferring that their travel card would be the cheaper option. What they don't tell you is that the rate they convert the currency at is about 5% less than the rate that would be charged on the Visa Debit. Therefore, it's 2% MORE expensive to use the ANZ Travel Card. By way of example, a $1397CAD purchase yesterday would have cost me $1436.54 AUD on my Visa Debit and $1469.88 AUD on the ANZ Travel Card, despite the Australian dollar being worth slightly more than the Canadian Dollar at market rates yesterday morning. An appalling rip off! Screw the ANZ.

    Agree with the NAB Gold option - Unless you're planning on dropping serious cash while overseas the fluctuations n exchange rates are very minor, and NAB's Visa exchange rate is pretty reasonable.
    I used to *think* my Credit Union offered fee-free currency conversion, but it turns out they were just padding the Visa exchange rate and not telling me.

    Beware though.. We used a Commonwealth Bank and loaded it with Euros for France and GBPounds for the UK, selecting Euros as our primary reserve. In France we happily withdrew Euros... No problem. In the UK later.. No credit. The withdrawals in France had been taken from our Pounds ( with another conversion charge) The bank blamed us and told us we must have selected "pounds" from the French ATMs ( obviously they have not been to rural France - no such option existed at the ATMs we used) To add insult to injury we had to pay to convert our (unused) Euros to GBPs and had to pay heaps for the phone calls from the UK to try and sort it out. We are still out of pocket $80 - not much really but the lack of apology, refund or accountability still hurts enough for me to post this..CBA are you listening?

    Another upvote for the combination of 28 Degrees and Citibank Plus Debit card. 28 Degrees for purchases, CitiBank Plus for cash / EFTPOS withdrawls. Excellent currency conversion rates, no fees at all. No need to upgrade your NAB while you're away - just don't use it, use your free cards.

    I have two 28 degrees credit cards. I applied one and my wife applied another one.
    I use my card as a credit card.
    I use my wife's card as a debit card (pre-load A$) so that I can withdraw local cash from ATMs. When you come back to Australia you can simple withdraw all the unused balance with a Westpac ATM without any changes.

    I think it is the best solution.

    28 etc cards sound good.
    the Bank Travel Cards you have to forecast how much you will need and then check what it costs to withdraw that at the end....... Currency conversion will be included of course

      If you can forecast currency conversion you may as well quit your day job and trade FOREX.

    I have just got back from Europe and UK. After a fair bit of research I found the best value was teh Travelex cards. HOWEVER, get it at Australia Post, they seems to have a special deal which means the exchange rate used is a cent higher than Travelex offer! Also, use teh Australia Post website to recharge, it also provides a HIGHER exchange rate than offered on the Travelex page for the same card!

    I had no problems with the card overseas except in dodgy 'non bank' ATMs like you find in pubs, a couple of these didnt seem to work, but they also didnt work with ANY of my Australian credit/debit cards.

    Here's the Australia Post link: https://www.onlinetravelmoney.com.au/apost/

    we are travelling to the us and are considering the comm bank travel card--as opposed to the atm card which charges $5 fo each withdrawl. What do people think?

    We're travelling to the US in about a month's time and wonderng what card to use. Last time we travelled we used ANZ Travel Visa Card and had no problems other than the length of time it took the bank to top up the card - about a week. We'd left the country by the time the funds eventually transferred.

    After reading recent reviews on the ANZ Travel Visa Card, we are looking around for a better card. The Citibank card has been recommended and also the Ozforex Travel Card. We're pretty new to this and find it all a bit confusing. Has anyone had experience with either of these cards and which one would you recommend?

    HI all,

    I just purchased one of the australia post load and go travel cards (the ones with the five currency options on the online wallet). However, when i log on, there's no option to move money between currencies? The account website (the site i see when i log in with my unique details) is lacking in a lot of detail. This is a new product for Australia Post and I'm worried that they've rolled it out without testin it properly. I'm going overseas next week and need to sort this out. Does anyone else have this card and has experienced this problem?

    I am looking at purchasing an Australia Post Load And Go travel card as I am traveling to Japan next month. Would like to hear of anyone's experiences with this card???

      Old post, but I have a L&G Travel card and a L&G General Purpose card. The fees on both of these are outrageous so you should take that into consideration when looking at options.

    I want to give the 28 Degrees car to my 15 year old daugter who goes travelling therough 3 countries (with a group). I'll pre-load the card so she will always be in credit but will she be able to use "my" card with my signature on it? is the PIN enough everywhere?

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