The dilemma in funding travel costs – what you choose can save you hundreds of dollars!

Financial Travel Tips – what should you decide?

There are so many choices available when deciding on how to fund your travel costs whilst travelling overseas. How do you chose and does it really make any difference?

The fact is, choosing the right way to fund your travel expenses can potentially save you hundreds of dollars. If you are travelling over a busy peak period and/or for longer periods, the savings can be even more significant.

So what are your broad choices?

  1. Convert money whilst in Australia at a bank or post office
  2. Travellers cheques
  3. Travel Money Card
  4. Travel Debit or Credit Card

From a cost and security perspective, converting Australian currency into overseas currency is the least preferred. Apart from having cash for when you arrive, it simply does not make sense to travel with large amounts of cash on your person. It is highly risky and costly (transaction fees and conversion fees).

Travellers cheques

Travellers cheques have been around for many years and are generally secure, available in a multitude of currencies and readily exchangeable in most countries. Their major drawback is around acquiring and exchanging them and having to record serial numbers in case of them being stolen or lost. Exchange rates are generally less competitive than credit cards (on acquiring, on conversion and also cashing in on return to Australia). Exchanging them can be a hassle if banks are closed and some retail institutions do not accept them, or will sting you with fees.

Travel Cards and Credit/Debit cards are your preferred choices but within these categories, there are traps.

Travel Cards


  • Multiple currencies are available on the one card
  • Allows you to lock in exchange rates before you leave
  • Secure
  • Rewards points are available


  • Exchange rates and fees vary considerably between cards – you should shop around between providers before purchasing
  • Depending on where you are travelling, you will still need some cash for small day to day items – ensure you know the fees being charged for accessing cash from ATM’s

Credit/Debit Cards

Credit cards and debit cards are simple to use and in most cases you can use your existing cards without the need to make an application for a new card. They can be used in most overseas countries and in most retail outlets. There are however significant differences between cards that can potentially result in many hundreds of dollars in extra costs. Things to check before you choose:

Providers make their money on overseas transactions from:

  1. Transaction fees around (2-4%) – normally based on a percentage of the transaction although some have a minimum charge
  2. Currency conversion fees – these are what I call the hidden fees – unless you check the exchange rate the provider has given you to the current exchange rate (available in the daily press), you won’t know the extent to which your provider has hit you with additional fees
  3. Cash advance fees (around 2-4%). In developed countries, cards can be used for most (even very small) transactions. In some cash based countries such as SE Asia, credit/debit cards may not be appropriate if you are continually having to access cash.

Plan carefully before you travel as there are significant savings to be had by choosing the payment method that best suits your travel needs. In most cases, using a credit card that has no (or small) transaction fees and utilises an exchange rate conversion that reflects the current daily rate will be the most cost effective and efficient product to use. The key message as always is to seek some independent advice or shop around between providers.

If you have more questions regarding what to do with your money when travelling, please contact one of our Financial Specialists today. Alternatively, you can complete your details below and we’ll be in touch or give us a call on (03) 9835 8200.


The information provided in this blog is general in nature. It has been prepared without taking into account any person’s individual objectives, financial situation or needs.

Before acting on any information in this blog, you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs or seek professional advice from a financial advisor.

Accru are not recommending any investment or product, the investments mentioned are examples only. Please seek professional advice or do you own research for an appropriate investment.  

About the Author
James Pastellas
James’ finest quality is his understanding nature, paired with his financial expertise and intelligence. James has a range of knowledge in finance and investment, superannuation, business management and taxation planning.
Want to join the team?