My big trip is coming up extremely quickly. It’s only a matter of weeks now before I jet off to experience the other side of the world. And it’s going to be a trip full of firsts – including using a travel money card. So, what are travel money cards and how do they work?
What are Travel Money Cards?
Travel money cards are a type of bank card that act like a debit card. They provide an easy way to access your money in foreign currency while you are overseas so you can avoid carrying large amounts of cash with you.
It’s much safer and much more convenient. And best of all, travel cards use your own money, so you won’t come back from your trip with a huge debt to pay off.
How Do Travel Cards Work?
Before you head off on your trip, you load your money onto the card and select how much you want to put against each currency. The exchange rate is locked in so you can avoid unexpected currency fluctuations while away and it makes budgeting for your trip easy.
There are a range of currencies available on each card – the currency type and number of available currencies varies depending on the card you select. This makes the card convenient when visiting more than one country.
Just like when you change cash at a foreign exchange outlet, you will be charged a foreign exchange rate for changing your money from one currency to another. There’s also usually a load fee when you load each currency, so you will need to consider this.
Your money goes into different currency ‘purses’ of money. You can usually choose a ‘default’ currency which is important when you are reloading funds, because the default currency determines the purse that your funds will be allocated to, usually in AUD to begin with. You may be able to change this so that you can load the currency of the country you are traveling to and avoid a currency conversion fee though.
You can keep track of and top up the card while you are away, usually by just logging onto your account online and transferring the funds via BPAY. This is something else to check because it might not be the same login as your regular online banking.
You can make Point of Sale (POS) purchases (ie. EFTPOS) or access your money at overseas ATMs, in the local currency of the country you are visiting. As long as you have the currency you want to use loaded onto your card, you shouldn’t pay a currency conversion fee for each withdrawal. To avoid conversion fees (if your card charges them), you will need to make sure you set your default currency to Euro beforehand so you can load more Euro onto your card. If you don’t change your default currency, it may load in another currency, AUD for example. While you are able to move your money between currency purses on your card, it will expose you to an additional exchange rate. So before you get a travel card, check out how this works.
Where do you get a travel card?
Travel cards can be obtained from most banks, some travel agencies (such as Flight Centre) and foreign exchange outlets.
Help! I’ve run out of money!
If there aren’t enough funds left on the card, the card will use the other currencies on the card if available and this will cost you a currency conversion fee. Some cards will decline the transaction, others will let the transaction go through but will charge you an over limit or negative balance fee.
You can prevent these fees by reloading your card while you’re travelling, usually via BPAY. The order of the currencies that can be used is pre-set on some cards and doesn’t allow you to change it, but others will allow you to set your own. Of course you should check how to load your card before you leave, as well as the default order of currencies, loading fees and any currency conversion fees that might apply.
Help! I’ve lost my travel money card?
A travel card isn’t linked to your personal details or bank account which is great because if it gets stolen, it means your other accounts are safe. You usually receive a second travel money card, so make sure you keep it separate and in a safe place in case you lose or have the original one stolen.
Some card providers can supply you with emergency cash, so you should check and see if your provider does so.
What other Fees should I watch out for?
There could be a range of other fees associated with a travel money card. The amount and type of fees can vary so make sure you look into the available cards before you go to get the best deal Fees to check for may include:
- Replacement card fees should you lose your travel money card
- ATM withdrawal fees
- Fees for not using your travel card for a period of time, say 6 or 12 months. Whilst you can use the card over and over, if you aren’t planning on travelling frequently, you may want to change any unused currency as soon as you get home to avoid any fees.
- Travel cards usually have an expiry date. If your card expires, you may forfeit any unused funds.
- Exchange rate fees for cashing out any unused currency upon your return home.
So all I have to do now is make a choice! Wish there was a website for that….