International travel is well and truly back on the cards, so it’s time to get yours in order.
There’s a lot to think about when heading overseas and choosing the right way to spend money is at the top of many travellers’ ‘to do’ lists.
Regardless of whether you’ve got a trip coming up, travel debit cards can be very useful when shopping with overseas retailers online.
Like with many things, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to travel debit cards in Australia, which can be a blessing and a curse if you tend to get easily overwhelmed like me.
We’ve taken the liberty of rounding up the best travel debit cards of 2024 to have on hand. Keep reading for our top picks.
What is a travel debit card?
Travel debit cards offer an alternative to carrying cash with the convenience of spending with a credit card.
Linked to a transaction account, debit cards are designed for everyday money transactions, while travel debit cards are simply armed with a series of travel-specific features such as low or no overseas transaction fees.
Why go overseas with a travel debit card?
Behind the social media posts hides a more practical part of travel. Safe and convenient access to cash when travelling is non-negotiable.
While having some cash-on-hand can be useful depending on where you’re overseas, having access to money on a card is a much more practical way to travel.
A good travel debit card will allow you to call anywhere at any time to cancel your card within minutes of it being lost or stolen.
Nightmares aside, budgets are often paramount when travelling, which is why spending your own money with a travel debit card can be a good way to manage your spending when you’re away.
Our best picks: 5 best travel debit cards of 2024
Australian-based travellers have a host of good travel debit cards to choose from, with each offering different features.
Not all debit cards are created equally, so it’s important to shop around and assess which features benefit your individual travel and spending habits.
Best travel debit cards of 2024 at a glance
The table below offers an outline of the features and benefits that each card offers.
It is important to note that while account holders won’t incur a fee at most major bank-owned ATMs in Australia and overseas, some external ATM operators may pass on their own fees.
How do I get a travel debit card
Getting a travel debit card is usually fairly quick and painless. All the travel debit cards we’ve mentioned accompany a linked transaction account, which you’ll need to apply for.
Most applications will involve an easy online form that can be completed in around 10 minutes, while some banks still allow customers to apply over the phone or inside a branch.
As a general rule, you’ll need to have your identification on hand. Once your details have been verified, you’ll receive your new debit card in the mail.
Which travel debit cards should I avoid?
It is likely possible to use your existing debit card overseas, however, it is important to check the fees first.
Most cards that aren’t geared for travel will pass on pesky ATM and foreign transaction fees, which can really add up!
In saying that, some of the big banks offer travel debit cards that still come with sneaky fees, which defeats the purpose of a travel card anyway.
While it can seem easier to go with one of the bigger banks, it usually makes more sense to do your research and open up a new account with low or no international fees before you head overseas.
Our expert tips
Saving up for a holiday can be tricky enough, so you don’t want to be diving through hoops to avoid fees once you’re away. Here are a few extra tips to keep up your sleeve to ensure you travel with ease:
- Research travel debit cards issued by smaller neo-banks before you head away. These banks are often backed by the bigger banks (ensuring your money is safe), but usually pass on lower (or no) fees.
- Carry a back-up debit card to ensure you still have access to money in the event that your primary card is lost or stolen. We suggest having one card with you and leaving another securely stored in your luggage.
- Use your travel debit card for online purchases to avoid foreign transaction fees when shopping with overseas retailers online.
Summing up: The best travel debit cards
Whether you’re heading overseas, saving for a trip or staying put, choosing the right travel debit card may offer value for travellers who want to benefit from no hidden fees.
Neo-banks usually offer low to no fee options that come armed with various travel-friendly features for the modern banker. In saying this, many smaller banks don’t offer the convenience of stepping into a physical branch, which may not suit everyone.
While it is likely possible to take your existing debit card away with you, we suggest having a good look at the fee structure first, as the big banks often pass on sneaky fees, even when their debit cards are geared towards travel.
Travel aside, your debit card may come in handy between trips when shopping with overseas retailers online or saving for your next journey.
From cashback to referral bonuses and competitive interest rates, every travel debit card comes armed with different perks, so it’s important to choose the card that works for you.
Be sure to check out our individual travel debit card reviews when researching which card best suits your globetrotting needs.
FAQ – Best travel debit cards
What is the difference between a debit card and travel card?
The key difference is that travel cards are preloaded with foreign currency at a set exchange rate. A debit card, on the other hand, only has Australian dollars on it, so (depending on the card) you may pay a currency conversion fee with each overseas purchase.
Is a travel card better than a debit card for travelling overseas?
A travel card will generally have better exchange rates, however, debit cards are usually more convenient to use. Shopping around for a good travel debit card with low to no fees means you can travel with ease and use your card as normal in Australia too.
Can you use an Australian debit card overseas?
You can use most Australian debit cards overseas, but it is important to notify your bank of your travels in advance to know for sure and avoid overseas purchases being mistaken for suspicious activity.
Which travel debit card is best for international travel?
The best travel debit card is going to have low or no international transaction fees, as well as the features that best suit you.
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