Debit cards are a convenient and affordable way to pay for things wherever you are, but some are better than others when it comes to traveling.
Now that most debit cards are Visa or MasterCard options, you can get the same level of security from using funds from your bank account as you would with a credit card – especially if you choose the “credit” button at the checkout.
Debit cards also give you direct access to your own money, so there are no interest charges to worry about, and are usually easier to keep track of when compared to cash or travellers cheques.
There are also specific features that make some debit cards better than others when it comes to travel, such as low or no international transaction fees.
So to help you pack the best card for any trip, here we have rounded up information on the top three debit cards for travel in 2014, as well as some other popular options.
The Citibank Plus debit card really commits to being a fee free option, with no monthly account fee, free ATM withdrawals at all Citibank, Westpac, St George and Bank of Melbourne and a free bottle of wine with Citibank’s Dining Program (at selected restaurants).
But for travel, specifically, it is important to note that this card also offers fee-free overseas in-store purchases and cash withdrawals and no foreign transaction fees, making it one of the most competitive cards available among both debit and credit options.
Bankwest Qantas Transaction Debit Card
This debit card is a big deal for Bankwest and the entire debit card market, as it is also the first everyday account card that also earns Qantas Frequent Flyer points.
The Bankwest Qantas Transaction debit card gives you five points for every eligible purchase made on the card. It also rewards you with an additional 12 points a month per $100 balance in your account, which means it could really boost your Frequent Flyer rewards balance and redemption options.
This card has no annual fee if you deposit $2000 or more into the account each month, but does have a foreign transaction fee of 2.95%. Bankwest does not, however, charge you for overseas ATM withdrawals, so it is still an affordable card for travel with the bonus of Frequent Flyer points.
The NAB Classic may not have any bells and whistles, but it is straightforward to use and manage. The real benefits of having this card for travel is that the international transaction fee is lower than average at 2%, and there are no overdrawn fees.
While going over your balance on a debit card might not seem like a big deal (or may even sound impossible), it could be an expensive issue with some other debit cards, so at least this card offers you peace of mind against that kind of issue when you are travelling.
What About Prepaid Travel Debit Cards?
Prepaid debit cards are becoming more and more popular, particularly thanks to the introduction of the Qantas Cash card and Velocity Global Wallet, which also earn frequent flyer points for spending.
These cards, along with the many other prepaid travel debit cards out there, let you transfer money into a range of currencies so that you avoid costly currency conversion fees. With some cards offering access to up to 10 currencies at a time, they can be great for round-the-world trips or frequent travel to several different places.
It is worth noting, however, that some prepaid travel cards also charge loading fees or transaction fees that can eat into your balance. There may also be inactivity fees to watch out for if you end up buying a card and not using it very often (or at all), so it is important to compare options and decide whether a prepaid travel card is going to be the best choice for you.
While travel is a lot easier with a card on hand, it is often safer and more affordable to take a couple of different payment options with you. A combination of debit card and local currency, for example, means that you can avoid surcharges when you get taxis or pay for meals.
Similarly, you may have a credit card that charges no international transaction fees, but find that your debit card does. Whatever the case is, considering all of your options and comparing different cards means you can make the most informed and beneficial decisions whenever you travel – and wherever you go.