Compare Travel Money Cards

Compare Travel Money Cards (aka Cash Passports) allows a traveler to access pre-loaded money throughout the world. Find the best travel money card for your next trip.

 

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Helpful Travel Card Information

What is a travel money card?

Travel cards are a type of specially-designed debit card so you can spend your own money while travelling overseas. They are popular because they’re a convenient way to load up one card with already-converted foreign currency and take it overseas with you. They’re also more secure than carrying cash or traveller’s cheques.

Another advantage is that you can buy this pre-paid card whenever you want, so you can pick a time when the exchange rate is in your favour and the New Zealand dollar is looking strong. Using a pre-paid card also means you don’t pay a conversion fee every time you buy something in the local currency. You can even pre-load several currencies if you’re travelling through multiple countries.

You can use your card to withdraw cash from ATMs, shop for souvenirs, pay for restaurant meals, and book accommodation. You can even use it for online transactions like a debit or credit card. You can reload your card or switch currencies whenever you need to while travelling, on the internet or your mobile phone.

According to Statistics New Zealand, new Zealanders take around 200,000 overseas trips each month, with the most common destinations of choice tending to be Australia, the USA, Fiji and the UK.

What should you look for in a travel money card?

The ideal card according to CANSTAR’s research is one that allows the following:

  1. Lock in an exchange before you leave.
  2. Load multiple foreign currencies onto one card.
  3. Load your own money onto the card. This is not a travel credit card.
  4. Cheap or no extra fees, such as reloading fee, ATM cash withdrawal fee, ETFPOS transaction fee, or fee charged for ‘non-native transactions’ when you run out of local currency on the card and it switches to a different currency automatically.
  5. Convenient to use the card overseas.
  6. High daily limit so you can spend more on high activity days during your holiday.
  7. Low cost to convert leftover money back into New Zealand dollars.

It can be hard to know what travel money card is the best, so our brightest researchers at CANSTAR have done the hard work for you. Compare travel money cards on our website.

How to use a travel money card

All travellers like to get around differently so we all have individual needs, but there are some common strategies for making the most of a multi-currency travel money card:

  • Shop around for the best travel money card ages before you go.
  • Choose carefully which currencies to use and how much to load, so you don’t run out of one and get charged a non-native transaction conversion fee to use another one.
  • Check your transaction list for the card online every day as you travel, to avoid accidentally running out and to check for fraud.
  • Know how long it will take for an online transfer to be credited to the card, so you know you’re not going to run out before the money arrives on the card.
  • Bring a credit card just in case! You don’t want to get stuck high and dry because you didn’t allow a margin in your budget for things going wrong. It’s always worth taking more than one payment option when you head overseas.

Pro Travel Tip:

If you run out of local currency cash, and you’re staying at a really posh hotel, it’s worth asking at the front desk. Some hotels will give you a cash advance and just add it to the bill for your room.

Usual fees charged on travel money cards

Your “awesome holiday” can start to feel a little less awesome if you return home to find a bunch of unexpected fees have been charged to your travel money card. Keep in mind that a better conversion rate might still make paying those fees worthwhile. The usual fees you might expect to pay are as follows.

  • Initial card purchase fee to buy your new travel money card, as well as replacement card fees and secondary card fees. Can be up to $10.
  • Cash reload fee to reload more money onto your card. Can be up to 1.0%. Check if your card has a maximum cap on the amount you can load on it, too.
  • ATM fees to make a cash withdrawal at an ATM. Usually amounts to a nominal flat flee in the local currency.
  • Wrong currency conversion fee to buy something when you’re run out of the local currency but you have money loaded in other currencies on your card.
  • Monthly inactivity fee if you stop using your card (because you’ve come home) but haven’t closed the account. Easy to avoid by converting leftover money on the card back into New Zealand dollars and closing the account.
  • Closing fee to close the account when you get home and don’t need it anymore.

CANSTAR’s 2016 research found the following minimum, maximum and average fees on the travel money cards we compared.

Min Max Average
24/7 global emergency assist fee $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
BPAY reload fees 0.00% 1.00% 0.50%
Cash over the counter fee $0.00 $10.00 $5.33
Fee for card closure $0.00 $10.00 $2.50
Fee for refunding the balance $0.00 $15.00 $8.75
Merchant (POS) surcharge $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Monthly fee $0.00 $1.00 $0.25
Monthly inactivity fee $0.00 $4.00 $1.00
Negative bal/insufficient fund fee $0.00 $20.00 $5.00
Replacement card fee $0.00 $10.00 $5.00
Secondary card fee $0.00 $10.00 $3.33
Third party network reload fee 0.00% 1.10% 0.55%

Source: CANSTAR Travel Money Card ratings

Whether you use a travel money card or a credit card may depend on how often you travel overseas, the cost of having the different cards, and whether or not you plan to withdraw cash from an ATM.

What else should you get before you travel?

  1. Buy travel insurance in case anything goes wrong while you’re away from home. You can compare travel insurance on our website.
  2. Check the Safe Travel  Travel Advice page to find out the risk of travelling to your chosen country.
  3. Register your travel plans before you go so that someone knows where you’ve gone and how to reach you in an emergency.
  4. Have a copy of all your documentation with you – and leave a copy of all your documentation with someone back home.
  5. Write down the contact details of the New Zealand Embassy in your country of destination – just in case you need it.

What currencies can you put on your travel money card?

The currency you need to put on your travel money card depends 100% on which countries you will be visiting, but not every currency in the world is available. If you’re travelling somewhere where a travel money card won’t do it, you might want to consider a travel credit or debit card and a supply of cash.  We’ve listed the currencies quite commonly offered by New Zealand travel money card providers:

  1. AUD: Australian dollar
  2. THB: Thailand baht
  3. USD: United States of America dollar
  4. CAD: Canadian dollar
  5. HKD: Hong Kong dollar
  6. NZD: New Zealand dollar
  7. SGD: Singapore dollar
  8. EUR: euros valid for European countries including Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain
  9. GBP: United Kingdom/Great Britain pounds
  10. ZAR: South Africa rand
  11. JPY: Japan yen

 (Not all providers will offer all of these currencies. You should check your card’s product disclosure statement.)

At time of writing, these were the currencies on offer across the Travel Moneh Cards that CANSTAR assessed for the 2016 ratings:

Company Product NZ Dollar Australian Dollar US Dollar British Pound Euros Singapore Dollar Hong Kong Dollar Thai Bhat Japanese Yen Canadian Dollars Chinese Renminbi Emirati Dirham South African Rand Vietnamese Dong
Qantas Cash MasterCard Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No No No
Air New Zealand Onesmart Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No No No
Kiwibank Loaded for Travel Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes No
MasterCard Cash Passport Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No No No

 

Written by: TJ Ryan

Benefits of travel money cards

  • Travel money cards can be used for most standard debit transactions, so you’re not weighed down with piles of cash or traveller’s cheques.
  • Use global ATMs to withdraw cash when you do need it for eating on the street.
  • While there are never any guarantees, try to lock in a good exchange rate before you travel. This helps you budget for the trip because you know how much money you have available to spend. If the exchange rate takes a dive while you’re overseas, it doesn’t affect you at all.
  • Avoid currency conversion fees, because you’re spending the local currency already loaded onto the card.
  • Low risk – you can’t lose more money than what you’ve loaded onto the card.
  • Add a variety of currencies to your account. Yen, Euros, dollars, pounds, and more – you’re covered for your favourite destinations.
  • Make purchases in a different currency loaded on the card if you run out of the local currency, and have the funds converted on the go. This is helpful if you get stuck in one place longer than you planned.
  • Keep track of the money on your card through internet banking and top it up from your bank as needed.
  • Most travel money cards come in pairs, so one goes in your wallet while the secondary card stays snug in the safe at your hotel.
  • Earn rewards points with some travel money cards, e.g. Qantas Cash Mastercard.

Disadvantages of travel money cards

  • If the New Zealand dollar suddenly spikes upward, you’ll miss out because you’re locked in to the currencies you chose at the previous rate.
  • Money can take up to three days to load onto your card when you do a reload transfer. You could get stranded without money.
  • You potentially face purchase fees, load and reload fees, and fees when cashing out the remaining balance to close the account.
  • Not as useful for pre-authorisations or holds as a credit card. MasterCard warns that hotel and car hire rental agency authorisations can tie up funds on your card for up to 30 days.
  • Currency conversion fee is charged if you spend money in a different currency.
  • You still need some cash for things like eating and buying souvenirs at local markets.
  • You could pay an ATM fee and a fee for using the wrong provider’s ATM as well.
  • You could accidentally overspend if you’re checking your internet banking for the card but some transactions aren’t visible online yet.
  • If you don’t close the card straight away, you can eat up your leftover money in monthly inactivity fees.

Please note that these are a general explanation of the meaning of terms used in relation to travel money cards. Your provider may use different wording and you should read the terms and conditions of your product carefully to understand what you are and are not covered for. Refer to the product disclosure statement from your provider.

Accommodation: Any type of dwelling or lodging where you pay a fee to stay overnight.

ATM: Automated teller machine where you put your card into the machine and withdraw cash from the account attached to that card.

ATM fee: A fee charged to your travel money card to make a cash withdrawal from an ATM.

Balance: The amount of money remaining and able to be spent on your travel money card at any point in time.

Closing fee: A fee charged to close your travel money card account.

Conversion fee: Any fee charged to convert one currency into another. Usually refers to a fee charged to your travel money card to pay for something in the local currency using a different currency loaded on your card.

Conversion rate: Also known as the exchange rate.

Currency: Money.

Currency order: The order in which the next available currency will be selected if you run out of the currency that you are using in the current transaction.

Exchange rate: The ratio at which one currency buys another. For example, the exchange rate from NZD to USD at the time of writing is $0.72 to the dollar. Determines the value of one country’s currency by comparison to another.

Foreign currency: The currency of any country outside New Zealand.

Funds: Money.

Home: Your usual place of residence (where you live) in New Zealand.

Inactive fee: A fee charged to your travel money card for not using it in that month.

Initial fee / Issuing fee: A fee charged to your travel money card for opening the account and issuing the card to you.

Journey: The time period from the day you leave home until the day you return home. Also known as a “trip”, “voyage”, “your travels”, or other terms.

Limit: Travel money cards have a maximum limit to the amount of money you can load onto them, the amount you can withdraw in one day, and the amount you can reload onto them in one go.

Pre-paid: A card onto which you load your own money when you open the account. You cannot spend more money than you have loaded onto the card.

Refund: Cash or company credit given to you as reimbursement for any leftover money remaining on your travel money card, according to the terms of your card.

Reload fee: A fee charged to your travel money card for adding an additional amount of money onto your card.

Secondary card: An additional card that also accesses the funds on the same “travel money card” account.

Travel insurance: A form of insurance policy that covers you for various events happening to you while you are away from home. Depending on the policy, it may include medical emergencies, unexpected changes in travel plans outside your control, and lost luggage or other items. For more information, see our travel insurance page.

Traveller’s cheques: A cheque or bill of exchange, available in fixed denominations of various currencies. Can be accepted as cash in many places.

The following travel money card providers were included in our comparisons in 2016 and details are correct as at that time. Please check the current terms and conditions of the card providers.

Qantas Cash Mastercard: Qantas Cash travel money cards received our Travel Money Card Award in 2016. Qantas is one of Australia’s travel giants so they also offer airline flights, travel insurance, hotel packages, car hire, cruises and more. Their travel money card offers online purchases, emergency fund transfers, earning rewards points, a maximum of 9 currencies (AUD, USD, EUR, GBP, JPY, CAD, HKD, SGD and NZD) and 8 currencies ta any one time. It advertises  no monthly account fees, no fees to pay when loading money and no domestic ATM fees with Qantas Cash within New Zealand.

Cash Passport: Cash Passport is a MasterCard company. At time of writing they have a delightful offer where you get an extra $25 loaded onto your travel money card just for choosing them and loading at least $1,500. Their Multi-Currency Cash Passport MasterCard offers online purchases, emergency fund transfers, a balance at any one time of $75,000. Initial Card fee and Distribution Outlet reload fee the greater of 1% of the initial load / reload amount or NZ$10.00. Domestic ATM withdrawal fee of $2 and cash over counter fee of $10. Monthly inactivity fee of $4 per month and currency conversion fee of 5.95%.

Kiwibank Loaded for Travel: Kiwibank’s travel money card allows 11 currencies to be loaded at an one time with a maximum total balance of $20,000. It charges an initial fee of $12 and reload fees of 1% up to $10. There is no card closure fee, but a $15 fee for refunding the balance. The conversion fee is 2.5%.

Air New Zealand OneSmart: The Air New Zealand OneSmart travel money card provides Airpoints Dollar™ rewards – sure to be a drawcard. It charges a $1 per month account fee, but no loading fee if done online. Domestic ATM withdrawal costs $2, and it offer 3 fee international ATM withdrawals per month. The currency conversion fee is 2.50%.

5-Star Winner