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Getting your travel money sorted

Getting your travel money sorted

Being able to get hold of your holiday spending money quickly and easily is key to a happy holiday – but what’s the most cost effective way of making that happen?

We look at different options from a price and security point of view.


Best for: The first 48 hours of your trip while you’re getting your bearings and for day to day expenses.

Pros: Cash is king around the world and if you haven’t got some before you left the country, then money exchangers are the traditional option to access local currency.

Shop around and check for commission fees. Download a currency conversion app such as XE, which publishes mid-market rates so you can compare the rate on offer.

Cons: Beware of carrying too much cash in case of theft and check to see if it’s covered by your international travel insurance because according to MasterCard research, Australians lose more than half a billion dollars of currency every year!


Best for: Withdrawing smaller cash amounts to get you through a few days.

Pros: ATMs are convenient and generally safe. Frequent traveller Daniel Bowden from Helensburgh, NSW, swears by his debit card which has zero account fees, zero currency conversion fees and zero ATM withdrawal fees worldwide.

Shop around for a transaction account that helps you to avoid fees overseas.

Cons: If you use your regular transaction account you could be paying as much as an extra 5% in currency conversion fees, that’s an extra $50 for every $1000 you withdraw. In some countries – Cuba, for instance, and even Japan – ATMs are rare or don’t accept overseas cards in some instances.

It pays to research your destination, carry enough cash in case of emergency, and have several forms of payment as back up because if you lose the card, you could be stuck.

Travel Cards

Best for: Managing your spending budget and extra security if your card is lost or stolen.

Pros: According to Andrew Cartwright, Senior Vice President and Country Manager of MasterCard Australia, Australians have taken up pre-paid travel cards in record numbers, with a 70 percent increase in the number of cards issued.

"There's a strong consumer appetite and demand (for these cards) … because you can lock in exchange rates, use it for budgeting, and easily spend the money back in Australia”, says Andrew Cartwright.

Travel cards are particularly useful if you are travelling for several weeks or longer, allowing you to lock in conversion rates and load up to 10 currencies onto one card (popular destinations only). There are no withdrawal or transaction fees, though.

Travel cards also provide security. You can carry a spare with a different pin number in case you lose one, and you can cancel them if you believe they were stolen, so your funds are protected.

Cons: Some providers charge purchasing and reload fees ($5 flat fee for MasterCard Cash Passport, for instance). Be mindful that funds can take a week to appear in your account. Plus there are reports of these cards not being accepted at certain destinations because they are still unfamiliar as a payment method off the beaten track.

To compare travel cards and their features, visit

Credit cards

Best for: Large purchases abroad such as renting a car or paying for hotels. Also good for tracking your spend if you need to for tax, or accounting.

Pros: With most hotels demanding credit card details as security, it pays to carry at least two cards (in case one doesn’t work). VISA and MasterCard are most widely accepted internationally; some countries don’t accept American Express.

If given the option of purchasing in local currency or Australian dollars, always choose local – otherwise you’ll be stung with an extra 5% fee. Taking a credit card can be a bit of a safety net if your budget blows out, and you may also be earning points for your next trip while you use it.

Credit card security, of course, is always a concern. Commonwealth Bank has recently launched the Lock, Block, Limit app, allowing users to control their credit card transactions and lock the card temporarily.

According to Andrew Cartwright, however, vigilant care of your card is your best security – keep it on you at all times, and treat it like cash.“The benefit of a MasterCard is, if it is lost or stolen and you report it on time, you are protected from fraudulent transactions,” he says. “It’s then generally reissued within 48 hours."

Cons: Be aware of the fees attached to using your credit card abroad, they can add up. Foreign transaction and currency conversion fees sit at around 3% for every purchase you make (that’s at least $30 in fees for every $1000 you spend). Also credit cards can be a temptation to spend beyond your holiday budget, so keep an eye on how you’re flexing your plastic.

No one size fits all solution

The best ways to pay can vary from country to country. Always have options to ensure you have all bases covered. For more research check out

More information

1. Use a currency conversion app to make sure you are getting a good deal.

2. Organise travel insurance that covers you for theft of cash.

3. Download the Lock, Block, Limit app to increase your credit card security.

4. Compare travel cards and their features at

5. Research your travel money options for your travel destinations at

Disclaimer: This is not financial or professional advice. We recommend you obtain independent advice before making any financial decisions. NRMA Travel Insurance is issued by Great Lakes Reinsurance (UK) PLC trading as Great Lakes Australia and promoted by Insurance Australia Limited trading as NRMA Insurance. Cover-More Insurance Services Pty Limited acts under a binder authority from Great Lakes Australia to arrange for the issue of and to administer the product on their behalf. This is general advice only so to see if the product is right for you, always consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Financial Services Guide available at

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