Foreign Currency Exchange: Don’t Get Ripped Off With Travel Money Cards

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In 2017, over 850,000 Australians headed off overseas every month. That’s an astounding number of travellers. Even more astounding is that Australians pay a whopping $1 billion in poor exchange rates and foreign currency exchange fees.

One of the most popular ways that we exchange currency is using prepaid travel money cards. These little pieces of plastic have a big appeal. Load them up with the currency you need and head off to your dream destination. Not so fast. You could be paying a lot more for your currency that you realise. As Choice Magazine states, “travel money cards can be a prime opportunity to blindside you with confusing fees and unfriendly exchange rates”.

In this article, we unwrap the plastic of travel cards and show you how to save money when you exchange money. Find out how you can protect yourself from being stung by the hidden fees of travel money cards. Discover why cash is the best option for foreign money exchange. With cash, you get the confidence of unbeatable exchange rates, no fees or commission and, unlike travel money cards, no hidden T&Cs!

Find out why Cash is King!

What is a Travel Money Card?

A travel money card is a debit card that is pre-loaded with the foreign currency you need. You can purchase these cards from banks, foreign currency exchange booths, Australia Post and some airlines. When you need to use your card, you can withdraw cash from ATMs or use it as a credit card to book accommodation online, tours or fancy restaurants.

Advantages of a travel card

The beauty of a travel card is that you can lock in a favourable currency exchange rate before your trip and some cards can be loaded up with multiple currencies. This is a handy feature if you’ve got a stopover in Hong Kong, flight to Heathrow and heading off to explore Berlin. With these cards, you can pay everything in local currency, saving you unnecessary fees with currency conversion.

Disadvantages of a travel card

By now, you think that a travel card is a perfect solution for your foreign currency needs. Although these cards are popular because of their convenience, hidden fees can blow a hole in your travel budget.

Hidden fees

These sneaky hidden fees include:

  • Card setup fees, either as a set rate or % commission.
  • Loading and reloading the card.
  • Costs of foreign transactions, e.g. up to $3.50 ATM fees.
  • Fees to convert the currency back to AUD at the end of your trip.
  • Inactivity fee. Leave it too long and fees will eat into the balance.
  • Over the counter fees.
  • Replacement card fees, up to $15.

Read the product disclosures and T&C’s before your trip. Understand these fees before purchasing a travel money card.

Tip: Banks and travel money card providers have no control over the fees that overseas ATM’s will charge you. Unless you use their network, you could be stung with a whopping international ATM fee.

Currency exchange rates

Not all travel cards are created equal. Some will offer you a more favourable exchange rate, while others provide the ‘fodder’ for this billion dollar industry. Even a few cents difference in the exchange rate makes all the difference. For example, compare the amount you would get if you loaded $5000 AUD onto your card and want to exchange it to USD:

How much money can you save?

0.74 USD/AUD – $3700 USD
0.76 USD/AUD – $3800 USD
0.78 USD/AUD – $3900 USD
0.80 USD/AUD – $4000 USD

You save $300 with the more favourable exchange rate.

Lost or stolen cards

A lost or stolen Travel Money Card is a traveller’s nightmare. You’ll need to have your bank’s number handy to cancel the card, and you may need to order an emergency replacement card. Some banks offer 24/7 global emergency assistance, but fees usually apply. If you are stuck, a cash advance will get you out of a fix – with a high price tag.

Not widely accepted

Unless you are travelling in capital cities, you may find it difficult to access the cash that is on your travel card. In countries that do not widely accept travel cards, you will find them useless. With these cards, you always need to take a back up source of money.

What are the benefits of using cash instead of a travel money card?

Money savvy travellers choose cash for their foreign currency exchange needs. Here are the top reasons why it is better to use cash instead of a travel money card. Find out why cash is king!

Save money

We compared the rates of a $2000 prepaid travel card and found that it was almost 3.5% worse than buying USD$ from us. It’s not surprising. At Crown Currency Exchange we charge no fees or commissions and offer you unbeatable exchange rates. With seniors and student discounts available, you’ll get a great deal – GUARANTEED.

Cash is accepted everywhere

Whether you plan to climb the peak of Mount Everest, snorkel in the Maldives or hike the unforgettable Milford Sound in New Zealand, paying by local currency cash is accepted everywhere. Remember our blog posts about Travel Money Tips for East Asia or Travel Money Tips for South East Asia? We showed you that even in countries like Japan, cash is king. In fact, there are places in Japan where you simply won’t be able to find an international ATM or pay using a credit card.

Don’t be left at the mercy of ATM or EFTPOS terminals. When you pay by cash, you have the local currency you need, when you need it. With cash, you are never stuck with payment options.

Bargaining power

When you pay by cash you have the opportunity to haggle for a better price. Whether you are visiting a market in Nepal, and haggling the price for a silky soft Pashmina scarf, or buying cheap souvenirs at a Thai night market, cash is universally accepted. Don’t get ripped off with tourist prices. Flash a (small) wad of cash and bargain hard.

At Crown Currency Exchange, we recommend using cash for your foreign currency needs. It offers you better value for money and genuine practical advantages over travel money cards. Need expert advice about exchanging foreign currency? Get in contact with your nearest Crown Currency Exchange and our helpful team can help you score an unbeatable rate.

We charge zero fees, no commission and buy and sell over 80 foreign currencies. Talk to us today about your currency needs and plan for your trip of a lifetime.


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