What’s the best way to access your money overseas?

Figuring out the best way you can access your money can be tricky, especially when you’re overseas. Are you better off taking a wad of cash or should you put the funds onto a travel money card? You could also use your debit or credit card as well. 

With so many options, it can be hard knowing which one is best for you. The sensible route is having a variety of ways to access your money in case of an emergency, but for everyday use, it’s better to pick one method and stick to it.


Cash, for some, is king. If you want foreign currency, you can go to a bank or a post office to buy the currency you need for your trip. It’s useful to have a small amount of cash on hand before you can get to an ATM, and depending on what country you’re going to, you can only use cash.

However, carrying too much can be a safety risk and if your cash gets stolen, there’s no way to trace it and get it back.

Pre-paid travel money cards

These are essentially debit cards that you can pre-load and use overseas. Banks, the post office and sometimes major airlines offer them. You use them just like a normal debit card and can withdraw funds from an ATM if needed.

With the option to pre-load a variety of currencies on the one card, it’s handy if you’re travelling through a few countries. You’re also able to top up the card with ease through your mobile phone.

It can be tricky saving all the money upfront though, and you might get a worse exchange rate than you could get via your normal debit card.

Debit cards

You can just take your ordinary debit card along with you if preferred. It’s already in your name and has all the money you need on it.

However, it can be expensive to withdraw funds from overseas ATMS, as you can be charged a withdrawal fee, currency conversion fee and foreign transaction fee. Another issue is that not all stores accept debit cards.

Credit cards

You can also use your credit card if you want overseas. It’s already been opened, so there’s no hassle of opening a new account and if there are unauthorised payments, the bank you’re with will cover it. It’s also handy in an emergency as you’ll have access to a large amount of cash.

However, you could be at risk of getting your card skimmed and if you’re not careful, you could be left with a big bill once you return home.

Travel credit cards

This is just like a normal credit card, except this card offers no foreign transaction fees. As it’s designed specifically for travellers, you can gain access to airport lounges or travel credits. Some credit cards even provide travel insurance through the card.

However, the high annual fees and interest rates might put you off using this method, especially if you’re not a frequent traveller.

Travellers’ cheques

Ah, these will take you back. Widely used between the 1950s and 1990s, travellers’ cheques were the norm. These are physical cheques that can be bought in Australia with a fixed amount of money.

The cheques can be replaced if they’ve been misplaced or stolen, as well as being able to be used in some developing countries.

Unfortunately, they are no longer widely accepted, even at banks and are more expensive than the other options that have been mentioned.

Last but not least, wiring money

Wiring money is referred to a money transfer service or a bank wire transfer. You can have someone send you money in Australia to an overseas financial services firm, where the traveller can access the funds.

It’s helpful for sending large amounts and good for emergencies, especially if you’re staying overseas and need to pay for housing or education costs.

It can take several days for the funds to be in the account, the fees on the amount sent over can be very high and the exchange rates are usually poor.

What’s your preferred method of accessing your money overseas?