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Cash vs Travel Card vs Bank Cards

Are you planning a trip of a lifetime, or just going away for a week’s break? Whatever you have planned, working out the best way to take your money overseas is usually a consideration before you fly.

Being stung with fees, not being able to access your money, or missing out on attractions because you have no local cash currency are all risks to factor in when deciding whether to travel with bank cards, travel cards, or cash.

Whether you’ll be needing euro or baht, we’ve compared these three travel money options side by side so you can decide what the best option is for you.

Cash

Cash

Pros of Travelling with Cash

Flexibility: Cash is accepted universally as a form of payment, so it may be a good idea to carry some on you, even when visiting countries that are not cash-based. In some destinations, cash may be the only accepted method of payment at markets, restaurants, and small hotels. You can use your cash anywhere, and know that you’ll have a sure-fire method of paying your way if you get stuck.

No hidden fees: Unlike some ATMs that have withdrawal fees, once you have exchanged your AUD into the local currency, there are no more fees associated with cash. This can make it a cost-effective way of managing your travel money.

Cons of Travelling with Cash

Safety Risks: Carrying a large amount of cash around with you may make you feel unsafe. If you don’t have a safe place to store your cash, this may cause concern on your holiday.

Pre Booking & Pre Authorisation: Some places like hotels or transportation companies may require you to secure your booking via bank card. This may be difficult if you are only carrying cash with you. In certain cash-based destinations, such as Japan you may miss out on visiting tourist hot spots.

Travel Money Cards

Pros of Travelling with a Travel Card

Load Multiple Currencies: Travelling to places like Europe, Asia, or South America? Unlike debit or credit cards, some travel cards allow you to load multiple currencies onto the one card. The Travelex Money Card lets you load up to 10 different currencies, making travelling to different destinations in the one trip easier.

Locked-in Exchange Rate: Travel cards allow you to lock in one exchange rate at the time of purchase. This means you know exactly how much you’ve paid in terms of exchange, and won’t need to stress about currency fluctuations affecting your holiday budget on your trip.*

Cons of Travelling with a Travel Card

Not all Destinations and Experiences Accept Card: Depending on where you travel to, not all destinations or vendors will accept a travel card as a form of payment. Because of this, it may be a good idea to take some cash with you on holiday to avoid tricky situations where your card may not be accepted.

Fees: There may be fees associated with certain travel cards1. These can range from fees to load and reload your card, purchase fees, issue fees, and fees when you decide to cash out any remaining balances. Make sure you compare cards online, and are fully aware of any fees which may apply.

Travel Money Cards
Bank Cards

Bank Cards

Pros of Travelling with Bank Cards

Access to More Funds: Bank cards, particularly credit cards, may give you access to a larger pool of money when travelling. This is ideal when you need access to more money, as they can provide you with a safety net of cash to dip into if needed.

Pre-Authorisations: Like travel cards, bank cards are great for pre-booking experiences at your destination. Things like hotels, car rental services, or any unique or popular experiences may need you to provide a credit card prior to arrival to secure a spot.

Cons of Travelling with Bank Cards

Withdrawal Fees: If you do plan on travelling with credit or debit cards and withdrawing from an ATM in destination, make sure you are aware of any withdrawal or conversion fees which may apply. These can be higher for foreign cards (2), and they may catch you off guard!

It’s Easy to Overspend: Whilst bank cards do provide you with security of an extended pool of funds, this also means you may be tempted to overspend your budget when on holiday. The last thing you want is for your holiday to end with a large debt you have to pay off once you are home!

Deciding how to manage your money when you travel overseas should always be an essential part of any holiday planning. Whilst all methods have their pros and cons, your best bet is to weigh up the pros and cons of each to decide what will work best for you and your holiday, or take a mix of cash and cards.

* Lock in your exchange rates mean the exchange rate is locked in for the initial load only. The exchange rates for subsequent reloads will be set at the prevailing exchange rate at the time of the transaction.

References

  1. “Travel Money Card Fees and Charges to Watch out For.” Canstar, 11 Sept. 2017, www.canstar.com.au/travel-money-cards/travel-fees-and-charges/.
  2. Kossman, Sienna. “What Is a Foreign Transaction Fee? (Details by Card).” CreditCards.com, Creditcards.com, www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/what-is-foreign-transaction-fee.php.