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Foreign currency fundamentals

Miss Money Box is heading overseas and she’s been investigating her foreign currency options. Before she loosens her purse strings and splashes out on items she probably doesn’t need, here’s the run down on the top five ways to organise pre-trip funds.


Try to have cash on hand for when you immediately arrive at your destination. You can buy foreign cash at a bank – though choose a large branch that specialises in foreign exchange as the smaller branches only have available what is sold to them. While banks are easy to find, you won’t get the best rate. Another option is to order cash online in advance through Australia Post, or through a specialist money transfer service like Travel Money Oz, Travelex or Western Union.

I found the rates offered by these money transfer services the best, and while pre-ordering online is convenient, many can be accessed in-person at shopping malls and in city centres. As an aside, I would never recommend exchanging cash at these places at the airport because rates are notoriously bad and you will come away much worse off than if you’d been a bit more organised.

Credit cards

Super convenient. Credit cards are great for big expenses because while you’ll get stung with an international transfer fee every time you use it, this is usually less than what you would pay converting your money to cash. Not recommended for buying smaller items, because the fees will add up so use cash for these. One big bonus of the credit card is some come with included travel insurance if you pay for certain items of your trip with them like, flights and accommodation.

Debit cards

Also super convenient, and these can be used to withdraw money in the local currency via an ATM. However, every time you withdraw cash, you will be charged a currency conversion fee as well as a fee for accessing a foreign ATM. It’s worth checking in advance if your bank has any agreements with their international partners, because you may save on fees if you use specific ATMs.

With both credit cards and debit cards, call your bank ahead of time to let them know your travel dates. Having you card cancelled due to “unusual activity” while you’re away could ruin any fun you planned to have.

Travel money cards

The secure alternative to cash, travel money cards are available through most banks and Australia Post. You can lock in an exchange rate before you go but the rate is typically not as competitive as the rate you’d get in cash. They are a great alternative to using your credit card as you won’t get stung by fees when you are using them in store to pay for an item. They are also secure in that they are protected with a pin number. I wouldn’t recommend using this type of card to withdraw cash from an ATM, because you will get charged a fee as you would on your debit card.

Traveller’s cheques

OK, I just put this in as a joke. Its 2016 people, who even uses these anymore?


  1. Dividends Down Under Dividends Down Under September 27, 2016

    Nice summary MMB. We haven’t gone overseas recently, so before we’d just exchange as much as we thought we’d need into cash before we left. If we ran out we’d pay for more on the debit card – not the best move..all those fees and poor exchange rates!


  2. Miss Money Box Miss Money Box September 27, 2016

    I don’t think your plan is too bad actually, as you tend to get stung whatever you do. It just depends what works for you, what kind of trip you’re planning and how careful you are with the cash you do carry.

  3. Mrs. ETT Mrs. ETT September 28, 2016

    I’ve been seeing some advertisements around for credit cards that don’t charge a foreign currency fee (28 Degrees Platinum and ANZ Travel Adventures). I haven’t done any investigation yet so there is probably some other way they will get you, but those are two options I will look into when the time comes.

  4. Miss Money Box Miss Money Box September 29, 2016

    I’d be interested to find out more about those Mrs ETT. Thanks for the info.

  5. Gavin Bottrell Gavin Bottrell October 18, 2016

    Great blog. I am currently planning an overseas trip at the moment and had been tossing up the best way to transfer my money over. The convenience of debit and credit cards are hard to dismiss. It makes the transaction fees seem worth it! Thank you for your insights.

  6. Miss Money Box Miss Money Box October 18, 2016

    I’m glad this was helpful to you Gavin. I hope you have a great trip.

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