The best debit/credit card for international travel - do not loose money by paying extra fees

MysticRiver

Administrator
Staff member
Messages
16,006
Points
113
This post is entirely based on my personal experience.

Long time ago, the first time I decided not to carry cash while travelling, I started searching for the best option in terms of debit and/or credit card. I know a lot of my friends and colleagues who use regular debit/credit card while in abroad. But I found out that to be a disaster because you'd be loosing in two fronts:
  1. The foreign transaction fees
  2. The poor foreign exchange rate

The first one, foreign transaction fees, is common with most of the cards where the bank charges you a percentage of your expenditure when you use that card overseas. However, point 2, i.e. poor foreign exchange rate, is the one which most people overlooks. For example, first time I was talking to a CBA representative about my options, he was selling me their special "Travel Money Card" as if that's the best thing it could happen to me. Furthermore, being a student, he was offering me the card free of cost which is otherwise $30. I was very happy for the nice gesture, but soon after I found out the catch. While the CBA travel money card is a better alternative compared to a regular card in the sense that you are not charged any foreign transaction fees, the FX rate of CBA is always poorer compared to MasterCard or Visa.

The above issue is true for almost all the banks which charge you ridiculous amount for foreign transaction or cash withdrawal. So, I kept searching for a better alternatives and found out there are two credit cards which does not charge any foreign transaction fees AND follow the MasterCard/Visa FX rate (which is almost guaranteed to be better that Bank's own FX rate) while converting to AUD. Below is a comparison of those two cards along with CBA travel card

Card TypeAnnual FeeFX rateForeign transaction feeEligibility
CBA Travel Money Card (debit card)$30 every 3 yearsFollows CBA FX rateNoneAnyone can get
28 Degree Master Card0Follows MasterCardNoneComparatively easier to get approved
BankWest Platinum Zero Master Card0Follows MasterCardNoneComparatively harder to get approved


Note: CBA Travel Money Card offers you to store fix FX rate before you travel while the other two uses the current FX rate. But I didn't find that very much useful keeping in mind the large margin between CBA and MasterCard FX rate.


Okay, so in terms of foreign transaction, 28 degree and/or BankWest Platinum Zero Master Card seem to be an easy choice. But one major issue with both of them is, they charge you a lot if you need to withdraw cash from an overseas ATM. Fortunately, Citibank Australia offer a nice solution for that. If you open a Citibank Plus account, you can use Citibank Debit card to withdraw money from anywhere in the world without being subjected to any transaction fee. The sweet cherry on top is, they also follow MasterCard FX rate and there is no account maintenance fee associated with a Citibank Plus account! If you want to use Citibank locally in Australia, the only issue you might face is the lack of Citi ATM/branches around. However, with big 4 now offering zero ATM transaction fee, you can now use Citibank card in their ATM in Australia to withdraw money without any fee.

Note: When you withdraw cash overseas, you can be affected by two kind of fees - (1) The transaction fee charged by your bank, and (2) transaction fee charged by the ATM network. With a Citibank plus account, you can get rid of (1) while if you search a bit before withdrawing money overseas, I always found ATM options which does not charge (2).

So, to conclude:
  • For shopping/spending overseas, get a 28 degree or BankWest Platinum Zero MasterCard. If you are not eligible to get a credit card, CBA Travel Money Card is better than using your regular debit card overseas.
  • For overseas cash withdrawal, manage a Citibank Plus account.

Final Notes:
  1. One might ask what is the problem in using Citibank debit card for shopping as well. Well, no major issue but
    • Credit cards are more secure against fraudulent activities
    • Credit cards are better to get a quick refund (e.g. when you deposit in hotel or rental cars)
    • Usually, the major rental cars do not accept debit cards, or at least need a credit card or credit check for deposit
  2. The above discussion is based on the cards with no annual fees. There might be other options which might suit you better among the cards with Annual Fees.
 

Dileep

Moderator
Staff member
Messages
1,887
Points
113
MSA
2017-04-27
Skill
233512
SC
189
Point
75
EOI
2017-12-29
Inv.
2018-01-03
App.
2018-01-16
CO
2018-06-26
PCC
2017-12-13
HC
2018-01-21
Grant
2018-09-18
IED
2018-12-10
That's a great compilation you got there! We have to more like these on multiple topics, though am unsure of what those topics should be. :wacky:
 
  • Like
Reactions: MysticRiver
MSA
2017-04-27
Skill
233512
SC
189
Point
75
EOI
2017-12-29
Inv.
2018-01-03
App.
2018-01-16
CO
2018-06-26
PCC
2017-12-13
HC
2018-01-21
Grant
2018-09-18
IED
2018-12-10

NaveenS

Wanderer
Messages
42
Points
8
MSA
2019-01-08
Skill
233214
SC
189
Point
80
EOI
2019-01-08
Inv.
2019-01-11
App.
2019-01-19
PCC
2019-01-30
HC
2019-01-24
Grant
2019-04-18
IED
2020-01-31
That's a great compilation you got there! We have to more like these on multiple topics, though am unsure of what those topics should be. :wacky:

Hi.. can we have a thread on "renting a home", "buying car", "driving license"...?? If you guys feel if there is anything to update.
 

watchsachin

Wanderer
Messages
31
Points
8
SC
189
Point
65
EOI
2017-01-27
Inv.
2017-03-04
Grant
2017-09-06
If you are travelling frequently to US , Europe , UK , Australia,Middle east etc. you can try Revolut. Better than any other Credit card of Travel Card if you are a frequent flyer . Real time FX rates (whatever you see on Google, no extra conversion charges) , a digital bank, quick transfer/coversion to any currency and then revert back if unused (Sterling, USD,AUD, Euro, AED,CAD etc .) If you are involved in Crpto currencies then you have additional advantages. You can have mutiple digital bank accounts with it ( Australian, UK, US) if you have address and id proof off course.
Disclaimer : Experience based on personal usage, feel free to explore by yourself. I am in UK, and all my collegues use it now who travel. Seeing them i also started using it and found all others far less than Revolut.

(Unofficial Third party links not entertained)
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Messages
7
Points
3
MSA
2018-07-26
Skill
233211
SC
189
Point
70
EOI
2018-07-28
Inv.
2018-10-11
App.
2018-11-14
CO
2019-02-04
PCC
2018-11-10
HC
2018-11-20
Grant
2019-03-13
IED
2019-11-21
Great post, Thanks for sharing the information @MysticRiver . The tabular column comparing different cards is the perfect to get a clear picture.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MysticRiver
MSA
2018-07-26
Skill
233211
SC
189
Point
70
EOI
2018-07-28
Inv.
2018-10-11
App.
2018-11-14
CO
2019-02-04
PCC
2018-11-10
HC
2018-11-20
Grant
2019-03-13
IED
2019-11-21

Robbert

Commoner
Messages
54
Points
8
MSA
2019-02-14
Skill
261112
SC
489 (QLD)
Point
70+10
EOI
2019-02-14
Nom.
2019-03-08
Inv.
2019-03-18
App.
2019-05-03
CO
2019-10-29
PCC
2019-04-06
HC
2019-05-23
Grant
2020-10-27
IED
2021-10-27
Thanks for your article.

Is this still current in 2021/22?

Regards,
R.
 
MSA
2019-02-14
Skill
261112
SC
489 (QLD)
Point
70+10
EOI
2019-02-14
Nom.
2019-03-08
Inv.
2019-03-18
App.
2019-05-03
CO
2019-10-29
PCC
2019-04-06
HC
2019-05-23
Grant
2020-10-27
IED
2021-10-27

MysticRiver

Administrator
Staff member
Messages
16,006
Points
113
Mostly current, except probably CBA doesn't charge $30 for Travel Money Card anymore.
 

kyanar

Commoner
Messages
95
Points
6
SC
189 NZ
App.
2020-04-22
PCC
2020-04-24
HC
2020-05-14
Grant
2021-04-19
A relatively important extra note with the Citibank Plus card though, Citibank does some sneaky stuff where if you activate a feature called "Smart Wallet" then they stop using the Mastercard FX rate and start using a Citibank FX rate instead, which will cost you up to an extra percent or so on the conversion. If you created a new foreign currency account, you have enabled Smart Wallet.

The FAQ implies they automatically turn on Smart Wallet for new customers, not sure if this is the case for the Citibank Plus account.

Also think it's worth considering options like Wise with the Wise Borderless Debit Card and Revolut. I find I get quite a lot of value from using Revolut and even better FX rates than the Mastercard rate, as well as being able to lock in the rate by transferring between wallets at the right time, and I can even send the money fee-free to my other accounts (Citi US account, Citibank AU USD currency account, etc).
 

MysticRiver

Administrator
Staff member
Messages
16,006
Points
113
Citibank does some sneaky stuff where if you activate a feature called "Smart Wallet" then they stop using the Mastercard FX rate and start using a Citibank FX rate instead
Ahan, good to know. Yea, Internal bank rates are almost universally worse than Mastercard/Visa FX rate.
 
Top