How to use your travel money card

Follow these hints, tips and tricks and make sure you’re getting the most out of your travel money card.

Kiwis are frequent flyers, with technology and competition making travel more cost-effective than ever. In fact, we made 210,600 overseas trips in the month of May 2016 alone (Statistics New Zealand).

Technology and competition is also changing our payment methods, with traveller’s cheques having become all but obsolete. The modern-day equivalent is multi-currency travel money cards: specially-designed prepaid debit cards that can be loaded with your choice of foreign currencies before leaving home.

So – how do you use a travel money card to get the most out of it? While all travellers have individual needs, some common strategies to get the most from your multi-currency travel money card include:

Plan your card choices in advance

Shopping around for your card well in advance of your trip will ensure that you can select a card with the currencies and features that suit your needs. Look for a card that charges no fees on ATM withdrawals and EFTPOS transactions, as these small fees can accumulate to a big chunk taken out of your travel pocket money.

We can help you out there – check out our award report to compare your options.


Compare Travel Money Cards

Load it up

Similar to debit cards or even gift cards, you have to load your card with money before it can be used. This is typically done in-store or online when you are ordering your card.

Allocate currency amounts carefully

In which countries are you likely to spend the most money? Think carefully about the allocation of currencies on your card as any purchases you inadvertently make in the “non-native” currency can cost you a currency conversion fee.

What currencies are available, you ask? Well, we rated 4 cards in 2016 for the Travel Money Cards Award, and there are 11 currencies on offer at the time of writing:

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

Source: Canstar database, current as at 11 July 2016.

Swipe, tap, or digits

Just like other types of debit cards, travel money cards typically allow you to swipe or insert them into a card reader, tap and go for contactless payments, or enter the card number digits for online purchases.

Minimise your fees

If you have a card that charges for ATM withdrawals, make sure you take out a bunch of cash in one go and don’t withdraw again if you can help it.

If your card charges a reload fee, be sure to reload your card with the method that has the lowest fee. For example, fees to reload online can be around 1.00% compared to 1.10% to reload using a third party network (for cards that charge this fee).

Check out the usual fees and charges on travel cards here.

Monitor your card online

Get in the habit of checking your transaction list daily as you go, to both avoid fraud and accidental overspending. 3 out of the 4 cards we rated for this year’s award allow you to check your balance and view transactions online.

Know your timeframe

When loading or reloading your card, be mindful of the time it takes for an online transfer or BPAY to be credited onto the card. In some instances it could take several days for money reloaded on your card to come through – that’s a long time to be high and dry in a foreign country without any money!

Make sure you are familiar with what these timeframes are.


Compare Travel Money Cards

Share this article