Cash vs Travel Money Cards

By markpk | Apr 08, 2019, 12:23 PM
Hi AusBT community,
I have a couple of weeks of work coming up in the US and usually take a wad of cash and use my AMEX wherever possible.

I've been looking at the various travel money cards and wanted to get some feedback. The ones I've been considering include:
  • Travelex Money Card
  • Cash Passport Platinum by MasterCard
  • Qantas Travel Money - not sure I'll be able to use this as I've lost my Qantas card.

It seems these services offer the convenience of ATM withdrawals overseas by the FX rate is anywhere up to 4c worse off than simply exchanging AUD for USD at a retail outlet like Crown Currency Exchange.

Many of the stated benefits of these cards aren't really relevant for me - I'm not on a budget, I'm not particularly sensitive to FX movements.

What's the general experience of community members? Are they worth the effort to set up?
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By brettepi | Apr 08, 2019, 12:30 PM
why wouldnt you use a debit card that doesnt charge fees?
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By Brandon Loo | Apr 08, 2019, 01:27 PM
Take a look at this article - it might be useful for you.


I use a few of those examples personally, and find it's great that they hold AUD like any other standard debit card, can be used at most ATMs to withdraw cash or for normal purchases without international transaction fees or inflated exchange rates, and don't have monthly account fees.
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By Greg84 | Apr 08, 2019, 07:50 PM
Get a Citibank plus savings account. No fees, good exchange rate. It’s a normal savings account so simply transfer cash in & out via normal bank transfer
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By Dan | Apr 08, 2019, 08:37 PM
I have used both Travelex and Qantas travel money in the USA. Generally found Travelex to have slightly better exchange rates. Both easy to set up and use. Didn't have much luck with the free wifi offered by Travelex. Travelex has no ATM fees versus $1.95 fee with Qantas, although I think Qantas has a no ATM fee promotion running currently. This doesn't mean the bank in the USA won't charge you a fee. One thing to take into consideration is that when I went (albeit 2 years ago) I couldn't link up my Travelex or Qantas travel money to Uber. I could link up Travelex to Lyft. Not sure if this has changed since then.
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By Racala | Apr 08, 2019, 09:17 PM

Hi Markpk , you have answered your question in the first line.. cash + Amex card.

The suggestion of Greg84 of getting a Citibank account is one I would investigate.

Debit cards overseas can cause you problems eg car rentals, and in some cities eg Amsterdam attractions and public transport only take credit cards. p.s I know that Amsterdam isn't in the US but I know people who have gone to the USA and a debit card in some situations is basically useless.

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By Dredgy | Apr 09, 2019, 02:38 AM
I’ve always just used my own card overseas and withdrawn from ATMs if I really need cash. A few debit cards don’t charge fees now and it’s not like the fees are generally huge anyway. My Citi card has been great with the exchange rate much better than a travel card.

Had $2000 in emergency cash stolen from a hotel room safe once though so I avoid any significant amount of cash if I can.
Last edited by Dredgy at Apr 09, 2019, 02.49 AM.
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By s4172249 | Apr 09, 2019, 07:03 AM
I use my ING debit card which has (as do all debit cards) a much better exchange rate than all travel money cards, along with no ATM or transaction fees. I also use my debit card to withdraw a small amount of cash when I land in a foreign country, I never exchange cash in Australia. I’ll generally use that system except in countries where it’s mainly a cash economy and more cash is needed and my card is used less - for example Japan.
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By ji | Apr 09, 2019, 08:50 AM
I spend two months per year in the US.

There is only one option in my opinion:
Citi Plus Account for ATM withdrawals - no ATM fee and uses the wholesale rate set by Visa/MC. And debit card transactions if that’s how you want to transact. And....
Bankwest Zero MasterCard for general purchases, hotels, car hire etc - no overseas fee, no annual fee.

I would never use the pre loaded travel money cards. Even AMEX abroad is expensive unless you can somehow justify the point accrual.


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By Tallfont | Apr 09, 2019, 12:45 PM
I concur with a lot of the other replies!

- AMEX Platinum Charge for bigger purchases
- Citibank Plus Debit Mastercard for ATM withdrawals and for other purchases (meals etc)
- Only ever hold a minimal amount of cash (<GBP250 or EUR250 when in Europe)

With the Citibank card I withdraw only from major bank ATM's and have never seen a transaction charge. Exchange rate seems good. Same with EFTPOS.
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By RR | Apr 09, 2019, 01:32 PM
Qantas cash exchange rates can average 4-5% worse than the daily exchange rate on your credit card, which is usually an average 3% O/S transaction fee. So unless expecting a massive negative (more than 5%) dip in future exchange rates, I don’t use my QF Cash any more. Now use an Amex, and for cash out and where Amex is not taken a Ubank Ultra debit card which charges the standard Visa daily rate, without any O/S transaction fee. As others have noted there are quite a few other debit cards that do the same thing.
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By markpk | Apr 09, 2019, 03:18 PM
Thanks for the feedback community.

I'm going to run with plan A for this trip (AMEX/Cash) and investigate the UBank and Citibank options as they seem like a smart addition to my wallet.
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By Concorde1990 | Apr 10, 2019, 12:21 AM
Hi AusBT community,
I have a couple of weeks of work coming up in the US and usually take a wad of cash and use my AMEX wherever possible.

I've been looking at the various travel money cards and wanted to get some feedback. The ones I've been considering include:
  • Travelex Money Card
  • Cash Passport Platinum by MasterCard
  • Qantas Travel Money - not sure I'll be able to use this as I've lost my Qantas card.

It seems these services offer the convenience of ATM withdrawals overseas by the FX rate is anywhere up to 4c worse off than simply exchanging AUD for USD at a retail outlet like Crown Currency Exchange.

Many of the stated benefits of these cards aren't really relevant for me - I'm not on a budget, I'm not particularly sensitive to FX movements.

What's the general experience of community members? Are they worth the effort to set up?

USA depends largely on where you go. If you’re in a metro area you can get away with using the Amex almost exclusively (besides tips), if you’re heading out of town... cash is the way to go. Keep in mind: as a tourist or outsider; you are targeted by pickpockets, so cash, rather then atm travel cash card, has its drawbacks.
Personally, if I’m heading away from the metro area, I have enough cash for food and transportation. The rest is safe in a travel atm card.
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By Metoo | Apr 10, 2019, 11:39 AM
Yes to cash (large bills AUD and USD), travel card (in USD or destination currency) and credit card (you need for hotel room bookings etc. I found it important not to lock yourself into one even two money options when travelling where there can be loss of cards etc, bank outages in Aus or overseas and out of the way destinations that don't have banking access. Debit travel cards linked to your main bank account are easy to use. Bon Voyage
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By ZT | Apr 10, 2019, 03:21 PM
28 Degrees MasterCard is the way to go as fees and charges are concerned. It is a credit card (Emergency use) but can be used as a debit card with a credit balance. You also get free global Wi-Fi
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By BRCW | Apr 10, 2019, 03:34 PM
28 Degrees MasterCard is the way to go as fees and charges are concerned. It is a credit card (Emergency use) but can be used as a debit card with a credit balance. You also get free global Wi-Fi

For some time now 28 Degree Mastercard has slugged you with a 3% cash advance fee which is as bad as the forex rate on other ATM cards. It is still the best option for credit card purchases, with zero forex conversion charges. For cash I pair it with the Citibank Plus Visa Debit card, which offers zero forex conversion charges on ATM withdrawals. Many people are now recommending the ING Orange Everyday Visa Debit card which also has zero forex conversion charges and refunds any overseas ATM fees.
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