From pounds to euros to yen to dollars, it pays to know your currencies when travelling. Whether you’re carrying cash, credit cards, a Currency Pass or a combination of all three, here’s all you need to know about how to spend your money overseas.
Before you go
In the lead up to your trip, you should decide how much currency you plan on taking with you and keep an eye on exchange rates in order to get the best rate available. While you can usually exchange money when you reach your destination, it's generally advisable to have some local currency with you prior to arrival, particularly if you arrive late at night to pay for any incidentals you may require.
Foreign currency can be exchanged at most banks, hotels and selected outlets at your destination. It is less advisable to exchange your money at an airport or at street kiosks once you’ve arrived, as both are likely to charge a hefty commission. Should you need to change your money once you’ve landed, banks and licensed currency exchange outlets are likely to offer the best rates available on the day.
Types of foreign currency
Fluctuating exchange rates can impact on holiday spending habits, so understanding the value of the Australian dollar is helpful when it comes to managing your travel budget. One of the easiest ways to pay for goods and services overseas is to carry a sensible amount of local currency.
Major currency exchange specialists such as Travel Money Oz carry stocks of all major currencies, while a wide range of other currencies are readily available to order in advance of your departure. Paying in cash helps avoid additional surcharges and ensures your travel funds are easily manageable.
Don't keep all of your cash on you when you're out and about. Take what you need and leave the rest securely at your accommodation.
Credit and Debit Cards
Where once travellers’ cheques were the preferred form of payment for holidaymakers, today credit cards have largely replaced them for making transactions overseas. The benefits of using either your credit or debit card overseas include not having to carry large amounts of cash and taking advantage of wholesale bank exchange rates.
Credit and debit cards can nevertheless incur additional surcharges, including fees of around 3% - 3.5% on all international purchases, as well as withdrawal fees for every ATM transaction. Your credit or debit card may also not be accepted in certain stores and ATM network coverage is not always extensive, so carrying a combination of cash and card is advised.
Make sure to tell your bank when you are travelling overseas. If they see different activity on your account they may freeze it, which can be quite a hassle when you're in another country!
Currency Pass / Pre-loaded Travel Card
A Travel Money Oz Currency Pass is useful for travellers visiting more than one international destination. It allows you to pre-load a travel card with multiple currencies at a fixed exchange rate, as well as top up the balance of your account on your travels. You can manage your funds online at your convenience and avoid currency fluctuations by locking in a fixed rate prior to your departure.
Even if you’re only travelling to one international destination, a Currency Pass is a useful alternative to carrying cash, which is less secure and cannot be replaced if stolen or lost. You can top up your account on your travels and use your travel money card to withdraw cash at participating ATM outlets. Pre-loaded travel cards are fast becoming the preferred way for most travellers to take money overseas.
Mastercard Prepaid Management Services Australia Pty Ltd (ABN 47 145 452 044, AFSL 386 837) arranges for the issue of the Currency Pass card in conjunction with the issuer, Heritage and People’s Choice Limited trading as Heritage Bank (ABN 11 087 651 125, AFSL 244310).
Getting your foreign currency
Buying major foreign currencies can be as simple as visiting your local bank, Post Office or a Travel Money Oz outlet and purchasing your foreign currency on the spot. More exotic currencies can be pre-ordered in advance in person or online and collected prior to your trip.
A multi-currency prepaid travel card can be purchased in person from banks, Post Offices and currency exchange outlets, as well as from Travel Money Oz stores around Australia.
Though less prevalent than they once were, travellers’ cheques are still accepted in some international outlets, including stores and restaurants, and can be ordered from participating post office outlets and selected banks.
Travellers’ cheques have been largely superseded by alternative methods of payment and as such cannot easily be cashed, making them a largely redundant form of payment.
Travel Tip: Currency Passes or pre-loaded cards can be ordered online and posted to your preferred address.
Airport departure and arrival taxes are a common feature of international travel, however most taxes are included in the cost of your airline ticket. As a precaution against situations where departure and arrival taxes are not included in the cost of your flight, it can be helpful to carry a small amount of local currency with you to help pay for such costs.
Currencies by Country
The United States of America
United States Dollar - USD - $
- British Pound - GBP - £
Most European countries
- Euro - EUR - £
- Japanese Yen - JPY - ¥
- Indonesian Rupiah - IDR - Rp
- Thai Baht - THB - ฿
- Singapore Dollar - SGC - $
- Hong Kong Dollar - HKD - $
- New Zealand Dollar - NZD - $
- Canada - CAD - $