Currency conversion and international transaction charges mean the cost of travelling with cards can often be a lot higher than other options. But cards also provide a certain degree of security that something like cash does not. So how do you make them work for you?
The answer is as varied as the countries you may travel to, but a growing number of issuers in Australia are moving towards prepaid travel cards that allow you to load multiple currencies.
The latest option to be announced is the Virgin Global Wallet, which will double as the Velocity Frequent Flyer membership card and a prepaid, multi-currency travel card.
Set to launch in the coming months, this Visa card will let you do any of the following things both here and overseas:
- Load money onto your card and store it in multiple foreign currencies as well as Australian dollars,
- Make purchases at over 30 million locations around the world, wherever Visa is accepted,
- Withdraw funds from over 2 million ATMs in Australia and around the world; and
- Earn Velocity Frequent Flyer Points for purchases made using their Global Wallet.
This card is a step up for Virgin, which already has a number of partner credit cards that earn people Velocity points.
But a prepaid debit card like this means that you can use your own money to earn points and have more control over how and where you shop.
It also has the potential to save you money on interest charges that come with credit cards, and currency conversion costs that are incurred with most credit and debit cards.
Using and Choosing A Prepaid Debit Card For Travel
While prepaid debit cards have been around for years, the usefulness of these cards still remains ambiguous for many people.
Banks, shopping centres and a wide range of other companies and services currently offer various prepaid debit card options.
One of the most praised features of prepaid cards is that you have control over how much money goes on the card, which in turn should mean you can budget more effectively for your expenses.
Travelling often means a stricter budget than you would normally have and the convenience and security of a card that is separate from your main bank and credit accounts is often appealing.
But the ability to preload several currencies has been a game changer for the humble prepaid debit card. It means you can store money for a range of trips, budget for each country and save on fees as well.
What’s more is that there is a growing number of these cards available, which increases the competition and means you can find an option that is ideal for you.
Alongside the Virgin Global Wallet, for example, is the soon-to-be-released Qantas CashTM.
Like the Global Wallet, this card will double as a Qantas Frequent Flyer member card and let you load multiple currencies and get Qantas member benefits wherever you are.
Qantas CashTM is released through MasterCard, which also means acceptance almost anywhere in the world.
As both of these options are also frequent flyer member cards, they also sidestep a number of registration fees that come with other prepaid travel cards.
But even these two options are not alone.
Last year Australia Post launched the multi-currency Load&Go card, alongside research that showed the biggest hidden expenses for overseas travellers are currency exchange rates and commission, foreign banking transaction costs and credit card fees.
There are also prepaid travel cards from Travelex, American Express and Cash Passport, as well as bank-issued options like the NAB Traveller card, which lets you load up to 10 foreign currencies.
What makes the Virgin and Qantas options interesting, however, is that both airlines are encouraging people to consider loading Australian dollars as well. Could these two prepaid debit card options then become useful for shopping at home as well as overseas?
Having money set aside on a frequent flyer card could provide more convenience for some travellers or, at the very least, an interesting way to budget for both domestic and international travel costs. But whether or not we will use these cards in that way remains to be seen.
But whether you end up with an airline loyalty card-cum prepaid debit card, the number of new options on the market suggests this type of card is on the rise.
That should mean even more ways to manage your money efficiently for shopping both here and abroad.