Travel Money Guide: Travel Debit and Credit Cards for Australians

This is not a paid review post, there are no affiliate links. I just got sick of fees and went looking for a better deal. This has really bugged me, there is heaps of info for foreigners coming to Australia on how to minimise fees with their accounts in their home country or by opening […]

Tuesday April 6 2010


This is not a paid review post, there are no affiliate links. I just got sick of fees and went looking for a better deal.

This has really bugged me, there is heaps of info for foreigners coming to Australia on how to minimise fees with their accounts in their home country or by opening a traveller’s account in Australia. There are not a lot of options for Australians who are trying to be savvy with their money while travelling though.

I’ve been digging through forums, credit card sites and more to find what the best deals are and I think I’ve found a few really good ones.

Credit Card

There is a hands down winner when it comes to credit cards.

The Wizard Clear Advantage Mastercard has no conversion fee, no transaction fee and no cash advance fee on international transactions it also has no annual fee and gives as good a forex rate as you could hope for. They don’t advertise this anywhere on the site but I’ve confirmed the lack of fees in this forum. Most of these travellers are using it as if it were a debit card by loading their own money onto it to avoid the conversion and overseas ATM fees. As far as using a credit card overseas goes you can’t really ask for anything more. Be aware of daily withdrawal limits and that this card won’t work in a few countries, like North Korea… yeah.

Debit Card

If you can’t get a credit card or prefer to avoid them altogether the next best thing is a debit card.

NAB’s Gold Banking includes a Visa debit card and waives conversion and overseas transaction fees like the Wizard credit card but there is a $10 monthly account fee. NAB accounts also have free access to Redibank ATMs in Australia so you can save at home too. Even with the monthly fee if you are travelling for a while you’ll save more than enough money with the Nab or Wizard card(s) to make it worth it. One or booth is as close to a perfect solution as you will find right now.

Travel Passports

Some people might like to consider these but in my eyes they don’t offer much value. You can load them with a limited number of currencies; you are charged $15 or 1% of what you load, whichever is higher. You are charged a transaction fee and a conversion fee calculated as %, if you withdraw in a currency other than the one you loaded it with you’ll be hit with an even higher conversion fee rate. All this makes Travel Cards/Passports no better than your regular bank card or credit card, probably even worse. Steer clear of them, travellers cheques are a better option.

For further information here are a few resources I used for this article.

Regardless of the way you access your money to avoid fees, if you are using an ATM overseas you will probably be charged a transaction fee by the foreign bank. In some countries all banks will charge foreign cards, in others only some banks will do it, it’s worth checking this info out for your destinations to help minimise fees where possible. Simply make larger less frequent withdrawals to minimise these charges.

Eg, all Thailand’s banks now charge 150Baht(+/-$5AUD) on foreign cards for each transaction.

As for Frequent Flyer style cards they are best used for making purchases in Australia, compared to American programs ours completely suck. Check out the Travel Rewards and Frequent Flyer Credit Card sections on, with these cards you just have to find the right one for you. Also head over to for advice on cards and how to maximise rewards.


Dan, the ANZ Travel Card does not charge at all for the first forex load (OK it costs $11 for issue of 2 cards, incl. a back up – but it does last for 3 years). Which is why, going to US in 3 weeks, I picked up one (two actually incl. back up) and put $6000USD on them at today’s good rate. This is more than I expect to use, but you can never have too much money! – and I can spend it out when I get back as my next trip will likely be to Euroland again. I accept that your travels seem more focussed in Asia, but I bought a Euro card at Xmas ’08, having found about the ANZ card and used it in India, knowing that I would be going to Euroland later in 2009. Hey I have been to India twice and Africa now 4 times, where USD cash is really king and t/cheques are a waste of time so I appreciate there are some zones where credit cards do not work – ask my brother, he went to a sporting comp in Iran last year and found out to his cost that cards were totally unacceptable there, largely due to US/Euro economic blockade of that country. It is very difficult to get money in or out of the country – totally forget Western Union and even banks for transfers. Hey I must be getting old and now going to First World (finally), after 15 years of banging around the Third world instead. And in Japan cash is still king, as most foreign cards do not work there from what I can work out, and I have been there three times in total now.

mr minkApril 21, 2010

I see your point with the ANZ card Micheal but I don’t see why someone wouldn’t just get a Debit Card instead. Basically most travel cards/passports are just debit cards by another name with charges for preloading them you don’t get on a normal debit card. In the first world, used as a credit card its a fair option, but its about the only situation where it gets a pass.

It depends on preferences and your uses. Personally I want to avoid all fees and the Wizard does best. Really I was taking aim at the Travelex types you mentioned first off. They downright suck.

DanApril 21, 2010

I think this is misleading as to Travel passports/whatever you call them. Anything issued by those world wide Travelex gougers should of course be ignored on principle! I have used in euros last year the ANZ Travel card (and will again shortly in USD) – works as a debit card spending your own preloaded money – free on first load so maximise that – then 1.1% after that. NO FEES on straight spending using your debit as a ‘credit card’ – you only pay a standard $3-4 depending on country for ATM-cash withdrawals. You can use it anywhere – I used it in Gujarat, India in an ATM for local cash, and you can spend the balance here in Oz or wherever, regardless of the expressed currency (they have 6 currency flavours)in credit card like fashion with no fees (that are shown directly – maybe hidden interchange?). What’s not to like? Current forex rate for buying is better than the CBA (who seem worst, with Westpac best – who do not offer a similar product?). You can check balances and transactions on line, cancel it on line (which I had to do when ‘lost’ it in Estonia) – you get a second one – what else do you want? I do not work for ANZ and have a QFF card with them as well, but bank with CBA – but otherwise refuse to use credit cards o’seas (generally) cos of the 2.95% extra. This is the best alternative, as a twice a year overseas traveller, I have found and way safer than cash – which I would otherwise take to India etc. YMV as to availability of ATMs and credit facilities obviously – might not work in Nepal etc! But would otherwise recommend to anyone in virtually any First World travel situation, not completely requiring cash – but it works at a half way reasonable rate even then.

mr minkApril 16, 2010

Add a comment

1 + 8 =