Travel debit cards are an increasingly popular option for Australians going abroad, with a wide range of options available from airlines, banks and independent issuers.
These prepaid Visa and MasterCard debit cards often let you preload a number of currencies onto them so that you can pay with the right kind of money wherever you go.
As well as being convenient for country-hopping, travel cards can reduce the risk of losing cash and save you money on fees that are typically charged with everyday debit and credit cards.
But, with terms and conditions of their own, there are still a number of factors to consider if you want to get the most out of a travel debit card. So here is a look at five of the best things you can do when you want to use a travel debit card.
1. Load money before you go overseas
Most travel debit cards take a few days to process transfers and add funds to the right account.
If you use BPay to load money onto a Velocity Global Wallet or Qantas Cash card, for example, it will take 2-3 days to show up in your account, while it could take 1-2 days for a direct transfer or POLi transaction. Whatever method you use, if you try to add money at the last minute you could end up high and dry when you first go away.
2. Factor in fees
In addition to the exchange rates applied by each travel card, some cards charge fees for other things like loading money onto the card, checking your balance at an ATM or withdrawing funds. There are even some that have “inactivity” fees if you do not use them regularly.
By reading the terms and conditions before you start using a card you will be able to factor in any charges so that you always have enough money on hand.
3. Sign your card
It may seem an obvious point, but signing your prepaid Visa or MasterCard travel card is still an important step to take before you start using it. While signing for transactions is a thing of the past in Australia, you may still have to verify overseas transactions with a pen instead of a PIN.
What’s more is that a signed card can help verify your identity in a number of different places and make sure you get complete security if your card is lost, stolen or otherwise compromised.
4. Make the most of rewards and benefits
The Qantas and Virgin travel cards were the first debit cards in Australia to offer rewards, with each giving you frequent flyer program points per $1 spent, with more offered for purchases made with overseas merchants.
Prepaid travel cards that are from Visa also give you access to exclusive offers from Visa Entertainment, while a prepaid MasterCard lets you take advantage of the MasterCard Privileges program – both of which have seasonal offers that could help you save money on activities and travel locally and internationally.
5. Take other forms of cash with you
While travel debit cards definitely make it easier to spend your money overseas, it is important to have more than one form of payment available wherever you go. Some merchants may only accept cash, and some card readers might not be able to read your debit card – even if it is a Visa or MasterCard option.
It’s also important to have other forms of money in case something happens to your travel card, so consider taking some local currency cash or another card to cover all your bases.
Like any payment option, a travel debit card has its benefits and drawbacks, so it is also important to compare different multi-currency options to make sure you get a good deal.
When it comes to getting the best travel debit card, most of the time it will come down to personal preference. While one person might like the Velocity Global Wallet, for example, someone else could prefer Qantas’ option, or a multi-currency card from Australia Post.
There are so many different issuers now offering multi-currency cards for travel that your current bank could even have a great prepaid debit card for your next trip away. Looking at several travel debit cards, then, means that you can find the right option for you and your specific travel plans.
While there is a lot of hype around travel debit cards, they can have as many terms and conditions as regular options. So keeping these tips in mind will help you get the most out of any travel debit card you use.