What Travel Card Is Best For You

What Travel Card Is Best For You

Taking a trip overseas is one hell of a lot of fun. Buying clothes, gear and researching where you might go are some of the most exciting parts of the planning stage. And then there are the more difficult tasks like getting visas, saving money to travel and bidding farewell to the family. Another one of the difficult tasks is working out the best travel card option to get access to your money while overseas.

Some 15 years ago it was all about travellers cheques or hiding the cash in your sock. These days you can get money just like you do at home, from the ATM.

A short note before I get started, my knowledge is only from the Australian market so sorry if this doesn’t relate to you but hey all you travelling Australians be sure to read on.

When researching my trip 3 years ago I looked up the options for how I could get my money out abroad cheaply and in the easiest possible way. The options then looked like the following:

  • Get a travel card
  • Take cash and stuff it in your sock
  • Get XYZ currency before you leave home
  • Take your current Debit/Credit card and use that

Travel Cards

All the big banks offer some form of travel card and here are the links to just a few I found quickly, Nab Travel Card, Commonwealth Bank Travel Money Card & the ANZ Travel Card. You’ll also find a bunch of other providers all offering the same sort of cards as well, there is a big up-sell to get travellers to use these. They sound great right? at least they do until you click the fees page.  You have the card fee, the transaction fee, the currency conversion fee, the inactivity fee…. (seriously they charge you if you don’t use the card). I thought these were cards to make life easier for travellers but in my mind they are all a complete rip off so please don’t get one.

Cash in the Sock Trick

This might be great for a week-long trip to Asia where there are money changers everywhere but if your planning a year-long stay or just a 3 month Europe backpacking trip then I doubt you’d get away with 10k stuffed in there. I tend to leave the country with around 20-30 Australian dollars that I can change at airports etc if need be to buy a drink or something to eat but that’s all.

Even if you did get your money overseas, how paranoid would you be staying at a hostel with that kind of money on you?

Get XYZ Currency Before You Leave

With this I’m talking about doing basically the same as above but converting it to Euros, Pounds, American Dollars etc before you leave home. Again great idea for a few days but long-term travel it’s hardly possible. You also stand to lose money if the exchange rate changes dramatically while away. Sure it may never be a big change but hey every dollar counts when on a budget.

Take Your Debit/Credit Card With You

This is one of the options I use all the time. It’s convenient as I can login to my online banking and easily see how much money is in my account. I’ve got the security of my bank that I know to look after me and to be honest the currency conversion fees and so on are far less than that I’d pay with a travel card.

While I can only speak for the parts of the world I’ve used my card (Europe/America) I’ve never once had a problem with it. One great tip for going down this route is you can add parents/friends you trust as authorised representatives on your account so if a card is stolen you can quickly call them to cancel your card. This saves you dealing with calling a bank overseas which can cut your stress levels after having had a card stolen or lost.

Bonus Option

28 Degrees Travel CardThere is of course always a bonus option for those with a good credit record and are willing to signup for a new credit card. In all my research the only card that comes close to what I’d call a real travel card is the 28 Degrees Mastercard (previously known as the Wizard Clear Advantage Mastercard). It charges no fees, no currency conversions fees or withdrawal fees at all.

For travellers serious about making the most of their money this is the card for you.

The best way to use this card is to preload the card with some of your travel funds before heading off to travel. You then use this for all ATM withdrawals and purchases. With the card in credit you’ll not pay any interest if you forget to top it up unlike using it like a credit card that you pay off each month.

How Do I Do It?

For complete security while I’m travelling I use two of the above options. Mainly because if one card gets stolen or lost I want to have a backup solution. Thus I travel with my 28 Degrees Mastercard and my Visa/Mastercard from my bank at home.

The 28 Degrees card gets used for all of my day-to-day needs and I use my local bank cards for big purchases that I have linked to my frequent flyer account. Given all the travel I do its worth getting a little reward with little things like these so the small extra fees are worth it.

How do you get access to your money abroad? Love to hear if you have another option or if your from another country what you use.

Photo Credit : redspotted


100 Responses to What Travel Card Is Best For You

  1. BRIAN May 20, 2013 at 8:55 PM #

    We have specific cards and accounts that we use for international travel. Our basic no-fee Capital One Cash Reward credit card pays us 1% back on all purchases and, most importantly, doesn’t charge for foreign currency transactions. We also have a Capital One Direct Savings account and ATM card that we use specifically for travel. We only keep our travel money in that account so the rest of our finances are never exposed. For longer trips we’ll even pre-arrange periodic transfers into that account based on our expected travel budget. That way we don’t need to have six months living expenses sitting in our travel account.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD May 20, 2013 at 8:58 PM #

      Brian thanks for that info. What country does that apply to? Good tip re having all your travel money on the card. I tend to transfer a month or two across onto my fee-free card so that if it does get taken the thief doesn’t take all my travel funds.

  2. ANDI OF MY BEAUTIFUL ADVENTURES May 20, 2013 at 10:22 PM #

    Great tips mate! 🙂

  3. ALEX May 22, 2013 at 11:59 AM #

    Thanks for this great info! The 28 degrees MasterCard sounds fantastic if it doesn’t charge any fees. Have you looked at the multi currency cash passport you can get from Australia Post? I think you get charged one fee per transaction but less than the cards from the bank (I suppose the advantage is you can lock in exchange rates). Not sure what’s happening with the dollar so the MasterCard might be the way to go! Cheers Alex

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD May 22, 2013 at 12:06 PM #

      Hi Alex, I’ve not taken a good look at the Aus Post card but did know there were fees involved which I can guarantee (providing you keep credit on the card) won’t be a problem with the 28 Degrees card.

      I’m not a big fan of locking in currency either. During my trip to Europe a little while back the dollar wasn’t great verses the euro and then mid way during my trip it improved a fair amount giving me an increase (although small) in what I’d get for my money.

      It’s difficult to decide what is going to be the perfect solution but I think if you can get a card with no fees thats a better start. I’ve also dealt with their support via twitter and via phone quite easily as well if it helps.

      • JAN January 5, 2015 at 6:57 AM #

        Is this 28 Master card available in Canada?
        I am going to Australia, NZ and Fiji for several months??

        • THE AUSSIE NOMAD January 5, 2015 at 12:01 PM #

          Hi Jan, sorry I’m afraid the card is only available to Australians.

    • JOHN October 7, 2013 at 6:10 AM #

      Hi Everyone,

      I’ve just received notice from GE 28 degrees MasterCard that they will now be charging 3% or $4.00, whichever is the greater, on ALL cash advances, even if the card is in credit with your own money. Maybe this card doesn’t look all that attractive now.


      • THE AUSSIE NOMAD October 7, 2013 at 9:41 AM #

        Thanks for the update John. I’ve not seen any notices on my end but will keep an eye out as it would have some impact for people travelling with this card.

        • EMMA October 29, 2013 at 8:43 AM #

          What John is saying is true. If you go to the 28 degrees website, the new fare rules for cash advances (or any cash transactions) will be charged at 3% of the value or $4 per transaction (whichever is greater) as of January 1st, 2014.

          I very happily used my 28 degrees card for a recent 2 month trip of the US and UK. Sad that I won’t be able to use it in the same way for Europe next year. Still, it’s the perfect card for everyday travel shopping/accommodation/restaurant transactions and the cash advance is still quite competitive against using your regular bank account or other travel money cards.

          If you only withdraw cash sparingly, then it still works out a bargain.

  4. ALEX May 22, 2013 at 1:26 PM #

    Awesome thanks!

  5. KADES May 23, 2013 at 5:36 AM #

    Good advice. I am leaving for Europe in 7 weeks (for 7 months) and have been looking into my fund management options as well. Here is some additional info based on what I have opted to do, to compliment yours 😉

    Firstly, I agree that travel cards are crap, not only do they have all the mentioned fee’s, but the banks sell/buy exchange rates for these cards are not very good (even though they are fixed – which may be beneficial depending on economic change). This is especially bad in the case where you may have a large amount of foreign currency (e.g. Euros) left over at the end of your trip and need to exchange it back to Aus dollars, as the banks ‘buying’ exchange rates are quite high (this is bad).

    Here is what I have chosen to do instead:

    1. I have set up a new fee-free (skeptical yes?) transaction account in through Citibank specifically for my travels (I have primary accounts with a different bank in Aus), which comes with a Visa Debit card (Named: Citibank Plus Transaction Account). I will transfer my funds from my current bank to my Citibank Plus account before I leave.

    The account has absolutely no fee’s. No account startup/closure fee’s, no foreign transaction fee’s, no ATM withdrawal fee’s (apart from ATM operator fee’s if any – can’t help this). As a bonus, Citibank offer free bottles of wine at selected overseas restaurants 😛 (there’s probably only like…1, I don’t know)

    I will use this as my primary account for transactions and ATM withdrawals.

    2. As backup and for mainly EFTPOS purchases only, I have also got myself a 28 Degrees MasterCard credit card as you have dsicussed. As specified, the card is completely fee-free and I have read many reviews of people confirming this and how great the card is (as well as great customer support while overseas). I will never withdraw from an ATM when using the banks credit (cash advance) as the interest free period will not apply to this and I will lose money quickly. To avoid this, I understand the point of pre-loading the card with your own funds, but must add that people should take caution when opting to do this, as 28 Degrees (GE Money) will not insure you for funds spent on a stolen card or via a fraudulent transaction. They will only cover you for money spent from the credit they provide. Thus, losing the card with pre-loaded funds of your own could be disastrous if you load too much. Obviously, this would be ideal if you load small amounts at a time and are willing to risk it.

    3. I am undecided yet, but I may also bring a my Aus bank rewards credit card as a last resort. Even though I will cop all the fee’s, it provides some peace of mind knowing I will be getting frequent flyer points!

    Hope this information helps!

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD May 23, 2013 at 12:39 PM #

      Kades, thanks for the really detailed comment. I’ve heard about the Citibank offering but not had the chance to use it and when I left I don’t believe it was available.

      Given its a bank you’d assume there are better advantages to it over the credit card arrangement and I also agree about only swapping over money as needed but it for that card or the 28 degrees card.

      Would love to know how it all works out for you down the road.

      • BOB December 9, 2015 at 7:19 AM #

        Citibank for cash, 28 Degrees for credit. All you need!

        Citi can be really frustrating though (you need to get it at least 1-2 months before you travel) and their customer service is crap. But if you can put up with a few minor annoyances it’s the best form of travel money.

        Travellers cheques are still good in some countries, especially Thailand, although I dunno if it’s still doable (they’re slowly disappearing). Also some countries take forever to process your TC (I once hung around for an hour waiting for the teller to make his verification calls), so probably not worth it.

  6. JARYD @ AUS GLOBETROTTER May 23, 2013 at 8:09 AM #

    Spot on! When I set off like you a few years ago my best option was to get the commonwealth bank travel money card. It charged me excessively to withdraw in countries that I couldn’t pre-load their currencies on which was crap but my only choice at the time. I started to use my MasterCard instead which wasn’t as hefty until I found out about the 28 DEGREES card and how much of an awesome deal it it is. If you anyone is going overseas this is what you need and it’s only a matter of time until another competitor comes up with another one. Great post, cheers

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD May 23, 2013 at 12:41 PM #

      Jaryd great to hear your feedback on the travel money card from the commonwealth and the 28 degrees card as well. I avoided travel cards from the beginning for all the reasons you mentioned.

  7. CARLO CRETARO June 2, 2013 at 5:39 PM #

    Good information. For us Irish, we dont really have as many options regarding credit cards. Plus, we certainly don’t get any decent rates while abroad travelling.

    Thanks for the info dude.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD June 2, 2013 at 5:53 PM #

      Hi Carlo, that’s unfortunate about the travel cards in Ireland. It’s always a bit of a challenge to find something that’s going to work, even in OZ there is only one or two real options to avoid fees and so on.

  8. JUSTIN June 7, 2013 at 1:32 AM #

    Hey Aussie Nomad,

    Thanks for all the info. It’s very enlightening. My brother and I are heading off to Europe (Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy) for 2 months in August.
    This has, however, been my biggest dilemma to this point. Which is the best card option?
    It sounds like the 28 degrees card is a good option, but is there any way to keep account of what your credit balance is before you use the mastercards ‘credit’ services? Also, can you use this card to withdraw cash from ATM’s? My concern is the dropping AUD value to the EUR. If you only get the current exchange rate (determined by MasterCard) then that value could be less then the current rate…. Then am i getting less for my dollar?

    My other options is the Multi-Currency Cash Passport listed here:

    As far as i can tell there is not ATM or withdrawal fees and no card start-up fee (however, you are charged 1.1% of whatever you initially load on to the card and 1% for every further cash loaded on).
    Sounds okay considering i can lock in the current exchange rate esp considering the recent decline in AUD-EUR value. No one can predict the future, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it drops even further…. However, i do see the downside of it if you have $$$ left over and you won’t get too much back from the balance….
    What are you thoughts considering the current dollar value?

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD June 7, 2013 at 9:21 AM #

      Hi Justin, the 28 degrees card works just like a normal credit card would. You can check your balance online via their website and getting money out in Europe generally does’t give you options for cheque, savings etc it just comes off whatever is in there.

      You are stuck with just getting whatever rate the card offers at the time but considering your saving on the fees most other cards charge in my opinion it normally works out fairly well on par as the other standard credit cards do the same and charge a fee.

      I wouldn’t worry to much about dropping aussie dollar to be honest. By all means evaluate it when your trip comes but take for example 1 AUD at the moment is worth 0.72 euro cents. When I travelled 3 years ago it equalled around 0.66/0.68 euro cents. The margin for change generally isn’t that much so the additional fees associated with putting money on the card and getting it off would quickly eat up any saving you had from locking in a fee.

      Just my thoughts.

  9. ANDREW June 24, 2013 at 9:27 AM #

    I use Citibank plus visa debit card , its fantastic and its cheaper than any of the travel cards and a hell of alot safer than loading your own cash on a 28 degrees card. I have used my card in Thailand , Malaysia , Singapore and Indonesia with great success.

  10. MARY August 15, 2013 at 5:40 PM #

    I wish I’d found this website before my last trip to Europe last week! Just to show the extent of the ripoff of the nabtravelcard. I only went for a week and took a NAB traveller card into which I loaded $2110 Australian dollars (as euros, giving me only 1270.23 euros in my bank. however the direct conversion app on xe currency showed it should have been 1441 euros had there been no fees.) Starting on 3 August and returning 12 August I spent only 982 euros, leaving me with a theoretical balance of 459 euros.( around $A669). I actually have 322 euros left or approx $A469 ( before I try to convert it back at further exorbitant rates). So far I lost approx $A200 in 1 week in $2110 close to 10% on a very modest spend! I recognise that there are currency fluctuations involved – but someone just made a packet out of me – and I will NEVER be sucked in again by the bank travel cards – massive ripoffs – plus the NAB card is a nightmare to use online overseas – information on your balance and spend is very difficult to compute (I wonder why???) . Will follow your advice next time!!! Poorer but wiser!!!!

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD August 15, 2013 at 5:49 PM #

      Mary thanks for the feedback on the travel card you used. You are right there will be some movement in currencies also the banks never give you the rate you see listed with xe and similar either.

      But wow to miss out on that much money and deal with all the troubles using it online just makes them an even worse idea. I’ve not used the citibank option others have listed here but can confirm the 28 degrees card is easy to transfer money and use online.

  11. AKI September 5, 2013 at 3:58 PM #

    Thanks to all of you above, and another whirlpool forum on this topic (which exalted similar stuff about 28 Degrees and the Citibank Pus Account for its Visa Debit Card).
    I am going from Sydney to Brazil, Germany then the Middle East/South Asia, in Oct 2013 for more than 2 months, on a holiday of a lifetime. Main security concerns are potentially Brazil and South Asia.
    I applied for and received very promptly the 28 Degrees card recently. And thanks to such forums, today i have made an online application for the Citibank Plus Account for its Visa Debit Card, the process for which was fairly easy. I might also carry my main Aussie bank’s credit card as 3rd back up!!
    I better carry a money belt as well, to carry one of the back up cards, or better still to keep it/them in a locker at a ‘reliable’ hotel in Brazil and other locations. Loading (top ups) small amounts was a good hint.
    These forums are amazing! Thanks heaps to all for their valuable input.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD September 5, 2013 at 8:30 PM #

      Hi Aki good luck with the cards. When I travelled I kept one card on me and one locked in the safe in my hostel at all times just in case I lost one while out and about. There’s always the chance something bad could happen but as long as you are careful and take precautions I’m sure your adventure abroad will be a safe one.

  12. MATHEW September 21, 2013 at 3:37 PM #

    Hi Nomad travel guy,

    Cool website man I pretty much was coming to the conclusion with my upcoming trip that these two cards are the way to go, definately happy for the confirmation. One question though in regards to overseas atm’s how much do they usually charge on their own? Are there certain atm brands in asia or europe that you would avoid? I have a bunch of other questions as I am leaving my life behind and intend on travelling for a few years and my travel experience is not great, but I’ll probably ask another time.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD September 21, 2013 at 3:55 PM #

      Hi Mathew, most ATM’s (at least in Europe/UK) have places that say the ATM won’t charge anything and then you are only left with any fees your bank card provider will charge. Using the 28 Degrees card this means no fees at all.

      Also many of the ATM’s will tell you what they are going to charge if there is a fee from them. Most of the time I’ve only seen it be 1-2 euros/pounds. I can’t help you with Asia but in Europe you are generally safe everywhere in my opinion. I normally opted to use ATM’s near banks etc anyway just to be sure.

  13. SANDY PATRICK September 30, 2013 at 7:37 AM #

    Thanks for your info, very informative site. My 15 yr old daughter is heading to USA for a months in december, with her Aunty. I am worried how she should carry cards sound shocking but unsure of any alternative. Guessing she is too young to qualify for a credit card to use overseas.
    Any ideas or thoughts greatly appreciated.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD September 30, 2013 at 11:49 AM #

      Hi Sandy, I’d say she would be to young for a travel card yes. I’d maybe look at the Citibank Plus Account as it provides a visa debit which might fit for her age but you’d need to check with the bank to be sure.

  14. AKI September 30, 2013 at 1:05 PM #

    Hi Sandy and Nomad, just my thoughts for Sandy’s daughter. Yes, it is worth trying the Citibank Plus Debit card but its unlikely they would give it to a 15 year old.
    Better to try a supplementary card from one of them 2 Travel Money Card companies. I am fairly sure that 28 Degrees allows this. So Sandy, ask 28 Degrees this asap, if they say yes, then get a card for yourself, and apply for a supplementary card for your daughter. Or if Citibank allow this as well, then presto, you have a choice!
    What do you think of that, Nomad?
    Btw, i got them 2 cards recently, 28 Degrees as well as the Citibank Visa Debit Card (from Citibank Plus Account), and as per advise from this site (or was it Whirlpool forum, can’t remember exactly), have used it to make sure they work prior to my long holiday in mid Oct 2013 across 3 other continents, South America, USA, Europe, Dubai (UAE) and the Indian subcontinent. Let you know how i go with the 2 travel money cards.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD September 30, 2013 at 4:21 PM #

      Aki that’s great advice and not something I’d thought of re getting a supplemental card. That should hopefully solve all the problems with you being the account holder.

      And yes always make sure you use the cards before you go to clear any potential problems and of course notify the banks you intend to use them abroad to that there are no nasty surprised when you go to buy something.

      • SANDY PATRCK October 1, 2013 at 2:30 AM #

        Thank you AKI and Aussie Nomad for your quick response and ideas. I got straight on the phone to 28 degrees, supplementary card holder has to be 16 yrs old. Citibank has to be 18 yrs old so unfortunately no go. I may have to go with a travel money card like CBA but am worried about the problems and bad rap these cards get. Any other ideas would be greatly appreciated.

        • THE AUSSIE NOMAD October 1, 2013 at 11:23 AM #

          You can’t give the money to her auntie can you and have her withdraw it as needed? Otherwise I think you are left with getting a travel card I’m afraid.

  15. SANDY PATRCK October 4, 2013 at 3:06 AM #

    Hi Nomad, just wondering why my last post regarding the travel cards has no appeared on here so
    AKI could see the outcome. In an email a reply from you shows up but none of that is on this website? Thanks

  16. SANDY PATRCK October 4, 2013 at 3:08 AM #

    Hi Nomad, My last post hasnt appreared here yet? I would have liked Aki to see outcome of his suggestions. In an email I received a note from you but it doesnt appear here? Thanks

  17. SANDY PATRCK October 4, 2013 at 3:10 AM #

    Sorry Nomad, a glitch happening here. As soon as I posted comment, the others appeared that I could not see on here 5 minutes ago? Sorry about that. Keep up the great work 🙂

  18. AKI October 4, 2013 at 8:31 AM #

    Hi Sandy, and Nomad.
    Yes, i saw your msg Sandy. Ta.
    I second Nomad’s idea to see if giving money to Auntie directly or in her bank account she could draw on overseas is worthwhile. If Auntie is trustworthy enough, lol. However, after 1 year the daughter would be eligible to get her supplementary card. If you would like any more advise, feel free to contact me on 0409914984.
    Going overseas for over 2 months, like i am after 2 weeks, is a huge thing, so much to take care of. An experience. I am almost there.
    Best wishes.

  19. AKI October 8, 2013 at 4:45 AM #

    Dear John and Nomad. Thanks John for alerting us about the news that 28 Degrees would be charging fees. I have not received any communication from them yet.
    I rang them today to inquire about that. This is what i was told. There will be a charge on cash withdrawals from Australian and overseas ATMs of 4% or 3% whichever is the greater amount, effective from Jan 1, 2014. There is still no change to transactions which is nil fees. They are letting customers know, apparently. Must be by slow mail.
    Nomad, this makes this card much less attractive, doesn’t it?! I might ditch it after returning from overseas in Jan 2014. Nil fees only on transactions does not cut it for me. What do you think?
    Just as well i got the Citibank Visa Debit Card for the future, thanks to such forums. .

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD October 8, 2013 at 11:02 AM #

      Aki the changes they are making does impact on the use of the card for a few people yes. While its still great for making purchases and so forth, if you want to use it as a cash withdrawal card as well its not going to work.

      I’ll be making an update to the post as soon as I have all the details from them so that everybody can be well informed.

  20. MATT October 18, 2013 at 10:20 PM #

    I really can’t find a subsitute for the 28 degrees, does anyone else have a recommendation?

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD October 19, 2013 at 5:20 PM #

      Hi Matt I think the only alternative is the Citibank Plus account you can get. It does require putting your money into there but could be a good solution. It seems all the good options are going away first it was the NAB Gold Account now the 28 degrees card is only good for purchases.

      I’ll update the post as soon as I find an alternative.

  21. DAMIEN October 21, 2013 at 10:33 PM #

    The following is directly from the 28 Degrees website – still worth a look

    Cash Advance Fee There are currently no fees for cash advances on your 28 Degrees MasterCard but you may be charged an ATM owner fee. You can avoid this in Australia by using Westpac ATMs. Please note: As of January 1, 2014, a cash advance fee of 3% of the cash advance or $4 (whichever is greater) will be charged to the account on each occasion on which you obtain a cash advance or make a cash equivalent transaction (except that if the cash advance is made by a direct transfer to a bank account nominated by you, this fee will not exceed $30 for that transaction).

  22. SUEB November 1, 2013 at 1:04 AM #

    Hi all,I am heading off to Scotland for four weeks . Am I better to use the Citi Bank Plus Transaction acct or 28 Degrees or Nab Visa Debit?.All the accomodation is prepaid so will only need money for trips,shopping and food

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD November 1, 2013 at 10:58 AM #

      Hi Sue, I think for a 4 week trip the 28 Degrees card will still be best. You will still avoid fees by buying things on the card so shopping, food etc, its only if you wish to get a cash advance against the card that it becomes a problem and you’ll have to pay a fee from the new year.

  23. AKI November 4, 2013 at 10:39 PM #

    Hi Sue & Nomad.
    Just a point to answer Sue’s query; very relevant to travellers!
    I am from Sydney, and just finished visiting Brazil (the Amazon, which was amazing), and currently in Berlin, Germany; later heading to USA via Dubai.
    I have used both the 28 Degrees and Citibank Visa Debit Card in Oz before I left to make sure they both worked as well as after I left for transactions as well as withdrawing cash. At Brazil in one ATM, the 28 Degrees card did not work, that was weird and disappointing although i wondered whether I pressed the wrong button to answer to choose between the options of Savings/Cheque/Credit Card account. From memory, the Savings option did not work, but Credit Card option did at the 2nd time I went to visit the ATM. But it was really reassuring to have had (& used) the other card I had – Citibank Visa Debit Card after the 28 Degrees did not work the 1st time.
    This is my main msg – consider having a back up card. Not only for the above reason, but others as well; like losing one card, etc.
    it’s a shame 28 Degrees has decided to apply the fee on cash advances from next year. It will become much less attractive/useful just to be used for transactions to save on the fee for cash advances.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD November 5, 2013 at 1:50 PM #

      Aki, that is a great tip and one I think everybody should take note of. While I traveled with my 28 Degrees card I also had my NAB credit cards and at the time the Gold Card which offered no fees for getting money out as well. I always left one card locked in a safe where i was staying and took the other with me just in case it was stolen etc.

  24. SEB November 27, 2013 at 12:50 PM #

    Hi Everyone,

    I’d just like to thank everyone for taking the time to comment and give their thoughts, it has really helped me a lot since i am going overseas to central/south america next year for about 10months. to summarise everything?

    1. use Citibank Plus to withdraw money from ATMs (cash advance) as there is No account startup/closure fee’s, no foreign transaction fee’s, no ATM withdrawal fee’s (apart from the ATM fee, if any)

    2. Use a 28 degrees Mastercard for purchasing at stores, restaurants , groceries etc as there is no conversion fee and you are not charged for this, as long as you have a little bit of credit on the card as to not be charged for this.

    3. Possibly take your general credit/debit card you use everyday in AUS.

    4. Have 2 copies of the citibank card and the 28 degrees card, 1 for going out and the other in a safe location

    I hope that is all correct, but feel free to correct me if im wrong.

    also: can you just use the citibank card for groceries, stores, restaurants etc without being charged?

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD November 30, 2013 at 8:40 PM #

      Hi Seb, what you have written is pretty much spot on. The 28 Degrees card used to be great for everything but now with the advent of cash advance fees etc its lost a little of its charm. It can still be used to pay for things via eftpos/credit just not for getting cash out of the wall. You also don’t need to have money on it but it helps to save you from forgetting to pay it off and get charged interest.

      From what I’ve seen of the citibank card you can use that for everything the 28 degrees card (except as a credit card) does now. Only its not a credit card so you need the money in the bank to buy for something. Thus having both still makes travel sense but you could as you say just use the citibank card.

      Hope that clears it up for you.

      • SEB December 2, 2013 at 11:07 AM #

        Thank you so much, you have been a great help!!

    • KAYLIE May 25, 2014 at 12:19 AM #

      You are a lifesaver
      I am about to set off on a similar trip doing all of central and South America for about a year or two.
      I have been rearching like crazy for the best banking options and you have just confirmed all my research 🙂 thank you so much! I will be opeing the same accounts! Have you started your trip yet?


  25. BRENNAN December 6, 2013 at 11:39 PM #


    Thanks for helping my research. Traveling in December/January so get hit with the 28 degrees fees pretty much a week into travels. City bank for cash out, 28 degrees for general purchases.

  26. LSW December 10, 2013 at 1:47 AM #

    Hi. Do you know if there is a card that will allow me to load USD that I have at home without converting it back to AUD and then again into USD? It seems like such a simple concept yet I can’t find a solution. Thanks.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD December 10, 2013 at 11:05 PM #

      Hi LSW, so if I have this right you have USD that you want to load onto a card directly as USD and not going via AUD in the process? I’ve honestly never looked into that before but I’d ask the bank directly if you haven’t already.

  27. MELISSA December 13, 2013 at 3:24 AM #

    I am about to move over to the UK next year, and am trying to transfer a large amount of savings overseas before the exchange rate drops even further! I have found a company called ‘transferz’ which apparently offer no fees for international transfers, and can lock in the exchange rate whenever you like without having a UK bank account set up yet. Have you heard of this organisation at all? It sounds a little too good to be true…however they are affiliated with “ozforex” which I’ve heard is a reputable company.
    We are planning on traveling around Asia and then to Ireland before the UK too, so will probably need to get a travel card for this part of the trip also. I would love to hear your thoughts! Thank you for the informative website.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD December 13, 2013 at 5:04 AM #

      Hi Melissa, with anything to do with money I’ve be extremely careful. If you want to do something for the UK look into HSBC. They are a global bank and popular in the UK so believe they can help you get an account setup in the UK before you leave Australia.

      Otherwise look at the Citibank card people are talking about. Lets you take your money out without extra fees and as for the exchange rate well I don’t see it dropping much more but I guess you never know.

  28. AGGIE February 25, 2014 at 5:03 PM #

    My son had a travel card from CBA and he first used it at the hotel (day 1) and the hotel refused to take it as it wasn’t the card used to pre book but they made an error ( how I don’t know) by swiping it and taking out 500.00USD. Okay they apologised and said it had been refunded. It should be in his account in a couple of days. 10 days later he hasn’t been able to spend that money as it is still not credited to his account. Rang the hotel up and they claimed it was our bank that was the issue. Ring them up! He decided to wait another few days , just in case. 2 days before we flew out he rang CBA and found out that even though the error was made by the hotel, he needed to fax the bank of the transaction etc to release his funds! Fax? While on a road trip in a foreign country? Two weeks after he got home he was finally credited the amount. What a joke!
    We use our Visa and MC extensively while abroad. Even though we lost a wallet on the Qantas fight recently and had to cancel all the cards that were in that wallet.

    Tip here would be not to put all your credit / debit cards in the same place. Does any one know how to get a replacement Qld (in this case) drivers licence while abroad with out having to go home? It was lost with the wallet 🙁
    Happy travelling …

  29. CB February 26, 2014 at 4:14 AM #

    Many excellent (and spot on) suggestions here. In particular the one to steer well clear of all the various travel cards – unless of course you really do want to make a serious contribution to their owners bottom line.

    Been a satisfied 28D cardholder for many years and – like most – was horrified at the fee change this year. I’ve kept the card but now only use it as a credit card, both O/S and for online purchases. I now also have a Citibank Visa Plus Debit Card for ATM withdrawals. The application process is a little tedious so allow 3-4 weeks to get it done. I use this account purely for travelling, transferring money in a few days before departure and transferring the remaining balance out on return. I trialled this arrangement on a recent South African trip and it worked brilliantly.

    Some other general suggestions:

    1. Apply for a supplementary card (be it 28D or Citbank Visa Debit) if not travelling alone. This gives an extra level of backup if one card is lost.

    2. Always let 28D or Citbank know (via their customer service call centre) your intended travel destinations. This saves some potentially very awkward situations if a card is blocked or a transaction is declined.

    3. Consider setting up a direct debit to pay off the 28D balance in full each month. This saves a lot of hassles, particularly if you’re O/S for an extended period.

    4. Always take a standard credit card as a backup but only use it in a genuine emergency.

  30. FRASER March 23, 2014 at 9:41 AM #

    This post has been an immense help in planing for my next big trip, always used the commonwealth travel card but found i was getting stung with fees, thinking the Citibank Visa Plus Debit Card is the way to go!

  31. NICOLE May 4, 2014 at 11:31 AM #

    Hi All,
    I know it’s been over a year since the last post on thread, but I’d love to know how people went with the Citibank Visa Plus Debit Card for Overseas travel?
    I’m off to Europe and Amercia shortly and I have a 28 degrees card, but can’t decided if I should go with a Citibank debit account or a Pre-Paid Travel Card?
    Would love to hear people’s feedback!!

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD May 4, 2014 at 11:36 AM #

      Hi Nicole, from all accounts people have had no problems with the Citi Bank card that I’ve seen. Now that the 28 Degrees card charges some fees for withdrawing money it seems to be the best option. You use the 28 Degrees card for credit purchases and anything else with the Citi Bank card.

      I’ve a pending update for the post due soon to reflect the changes to the 28 Degrees card that happened earlier this year.

    • CB May 5, 2014 at 2:39 AM #

      Forget the pre-paid travel cards, Nicole. Almost without exception they’re a complete rip-off. I fully recommend the Citibank Visa debit card. The application process is a little tedious – mine took nearly 4 weeks before everything was in place. I used it earlier this year in South Africa and I couldn’t be happier – I found suitable ATMs everywhere and not a fee in sight. Based on feedback from others (both here and elsewhere) I don’t expect that the experience in most other popular destinations would be any different.

      I also have a 28D which I use purely as a credit card now. In this latest trip I found I tended to use it more than I have in the past for expenses such as meals, hotels, shopping etc. It meant that I didn’t have to handle as much cash as I have previously (and less worry in having to find suitable ATMs). I’ve also found that setting up a direct debit to pay off the balance in full each month a huge convenience.

  32. AKI May 4, 2014 at 2:43 PM #

    Nicole, it makes sense to take both 28 degrees as well as Citibank’s Visacard. I was OS recently, Brazil, Germany, Dubai and then Florida USA. One ATM in Brazil wouldn’t accept of those 2 cards, and thankfully the other one did. A back-up like that is god-sent. They are both free to get, so why not? Also if you lose one of them, may want to keep them separate. I have posted in this forum before.
    Unfortunately, 28 Degrees has slapped a charge on withdrawals as of this year, i confirmed that with them. If and when i go overseas again, i will do the same, take both. Btw, there is no limit to top-ups for 28 degrees but these top-ups are not insured only the credit limit is; didn’t matter to me.
    I checked out many pre-paid travel cards before i left late 2013, and they all have charges galore, not worth it. I am anal with my research generally, so, as above, consider taking both cards. Dont forget to try them both out BEFORE you leave, so you know they are working and there are no hitches OS.
    And have fun!

  33. NICOLE May 5, 2014 at 10:15 AM #

    Thank you so so much everyone for your responses, much appreciated!
    I think I will go with the Citibank account for withdrawals and the 28 degrees card for accommodation, etc.

    Thanks heaps everyone!

  34. MERRI May 28, 2014 at 1:24 AM #

    Hi, have found all the posts very helpful. Thank you. Was interested to know if any one has looked at the Westpac Global Currency card?

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD May 29, 2014 at 11:43 AM #

      I’ve not looked at the Westpac card Merri but from most experience looking around if its the type of card you load currencies onto its not a good deal.

  35. GRANT July 29, 2014 at 12:54 PM #

    Friday morning in Thailand for kids Holiday, looking to get some local cash from our travel card only to find that the cards had both expired, even though the bank had taken our funds only a week earlier and had not informed us of the expiry. Long distance calls to the bank were worse than hopeless. Their call centre staff were useless, the case manager was even worse. No empathy for our situation, no effort to rectify the issue. No urgency in getting our funds back. I can strongly recommend never use the ANZ bank for anything, particularly travel cards. They ruined a substantial part of our holiday. Please feel free to distribute this advice as widely as possible. Thanks. Grant

    • AARON ANT August 16, 2014 at 4:14 PM #

      ANZ have also sabotaged most of our travels. We spent years saving for this. Cutting a long story short. I’ve banked with them for over ten years and had two mortgages with them. After being robbed of all my possessions I rang ANZ (not reverse charge which it claims you can do). The guy on the phone had the audacity to say “I’m sorry YOU HAVE put yourself in this situation. Anyway 5 months later and I’m still cardless, no access to my accounts and my Fiance has had to pay for everything!

      I can’t pay her back until we’re home and NEVER will I bank with ANZ again. If it wasn’t for my fiance our 12 month journey would have came to a bitter end only 3 months in.

  36. ANA August 18, 2014 at 11:12 AM #

    Has anyone traveled to Cuba? What Australian credit cards or debit cards did you use?
    Unfortunately 28 degrees master card & Citibank Visa debit card do not work as it has connections with American banks.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD August 22, 2014 at 7:36 PM #

      Hi Ana, nobody I know of has been to Cuba sorry so I’m not much help.

  37. BRITT January 8, 2015 at 5:51 AM #

    Is there an updated post on travel cards?
    I was going to get the 28 degrees card but unfortunately with the fees for pulling out cash now it is not really worth it.
    I love this blog post as I find it really hard to find good honest advice on the Australian cards and accounts available for overseas travel.
    For my next travel I’ll probably use a combination of Qantas Cash (yes it is a travel card but doesn’t have the same fees as other cards and you actually earn frequent flyer points as you are travelling) and Citibank account. Qantas Cash for all card transactions and Citibank for cash withdrawals.
    I’ll probably also take my own credit card and home account card as backup as I’ve heard of too many bad experiences with cards being swallowed etc overseas.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD January 10, 2015 at 10:21 PM #

      Hi Britt, I’ve an update for this post coming soon but essentially the best plan for people now is to take the 28 Degrees card and get a Citibank Plus Transaction Account as well. That way you have a credit card for transaction free purchases and a visa debit card for getting money out of a cash machine while abroad.

      Taking your personal bank cards as well can be useful just for backup because you’d hate to be caught short while abroad.

  38. JAZ January 8, 2015 at 9:01 AM #

    Hi, we are heading to america in a couple of months. I have been researching different travel cards and originally was going to go with one we were offered at a Travelex -a travel visa? I don’t have too much information on it. We want a card we can put the money we have saved onto. Not have to worry about any transaction fees or exchange fees. Atm fees not so worried about. What’s our best option?
    Also, is it best to put small amounts of money on the card every so often instead of all of it at once?
    Thanks 🙂

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD January 10, 2015 at 10:26 PM #

      Hi Jaz, the Citibank Plus Transaction Account would be your best bet as it lets you take money out your own account here in Australia without fees. This works like a visa debit card so you can put as much money as you like in there but I’d be inclined to just transfer over smaller amounts as needed to protect you incase the card is stolen.

  39. JANE February 5, 2015 at 3:48 PM #

    Hi everyone,

    Thanks for all your comments – they’ve been so helpful as the variety of travel cards/options out there can be a bit confusing!

    I will be travelling around Europe and the UK for a month in May and have decided to get the Citibank Plus Card. I applied for a Qantas Cash Card a few weeks ago but some of the reviews have been horrendous so I have been reluctant to use it.

    I will be using my relative’s place in London as a base for most of my stay in the UK (about 3 weeks). Would it be better to just exchange some GBP, leave it at my relative’s house and take what I need each day? And take the Citibank card as a back-up and for Europe (1 week)?

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 10, 2015 at 10:25 PM #

      Hi Jane, I’m always careful of money and prefer to only get it out of the hole in the wall. As the citibank card lets you get money out for no fees I’d be inclined to just use that as your main card and keep your normal bank card for backup. And/or apply for the 28 Degrees card and use that for any purchases needed and just transfer money over to pay it off as needed.

    • CB February 11, 2015 at 7:36 AM #


      I concur with the comments of TAN above. Get your cash as you need it from an ATM using the Citibank card. There should be no shortage of these in London. You should also be able to do this at the airport on arrival if you’re someone (like my partner!) who feels naked if they’ve arrived somewhere without local currency in their pocket.

      A 28D card is also a good idea but only for credit purchases (ATM cash withdrawals attract a fee as of Jan 2014). Been a long time user of this card and cannot recommend it highly enough.

      Some other general suggestions:

      1. Apply for a supplementary card (be it 28D or Citbank Visa Debit) if you are travelling with a partner. This gives an extra level of backup if one card is lost/damaged etc.

      2. Always let 28D and Citibank know (via their customer service centre) your intended travel destinations. From personal experience both have quite vigilant fraud departments and will save potentially awkward situations if a card is blocked or a transaction declined.

      3. Consider setting up a direct debit to pay off the 28D balance in full each month. I’ve found this to be a huge convenience, particularly if you’re O/S for an extended period.

      4. Always take a standard credit card as a backup but only use it in a genuine emergency.

  40. ETHAN CONROY February 24, 2015 at 10:44 AM #

    Hi aussie Nomad,

    Thanks for your help with the UK VISA information you have on your site, I obtained mine and im heading to Europe in a couple weeks, well im off to Asia first for a month.

    I’m terribly unorganised and only now have I started to think about how I will spend my money in Europe, lol so well i’m heading there with only the bank cards I have in Australia, I decided against a travel card because i’ve only heard bad things.

    I wish I organised this 28 degree card, but I have left it to late as I leave in less than 10 days. I bank with ANZ , and I’m taking a couple cards with different accounts, do you have any advice on how to manage my funds?? I suppose my options are limited now that I havn’t set up any alternative cards.

    Thanks !


  41. LINDSAY February 25, 2015 at 10:15 AM #


    I see this article was posted in 2013 and I was wondering if anyone had any advice about cards still on offer. I have been looking into the 28 degrees card and have feedback from friends who have used it, which has all been positive. The only issue I have is when I need cash fast, I would not be using the card to withdraw cash. Does anyone have any advice on the best cards to use for withdrawing fast cash?
    I am going to the US for 5 weeks, Iceland then the UK and hoping to find work in London and travel Europe from there.

    Any and all advice will be appreciated!


    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 25, 2015 at 1:53 PM #

      Hi Lindsay, the article might have been written awhile ago but I try and keep all the content updated where possible. Outside of using the 28 Degrees card you can look at a Citi Bank Plus transaction account as mentioned in some of the comments above. It works like a visa debit card letting you get your own money out of the wall with no fees.

      • LINDSAY April 16, 2015 at 9:47 AM #

        Hi there,

        Thanks again for your response, I am now in the states and have been using the card and have had nothing but trouble with it. I called the Australian contact line before I left to ensure there would be no international ATM fees which they confirmed. However, I have been charged every time when using the card to withdraw money. I am not sure if anyone has had problems with this also but I have contacted Citibank and they have been fairly slow to respond to me directly about this issue. Pretty disappointing! Just to let others know anyway.

    • CB February 26, 2015 at 6:29 AM #


      A Citibank Visa debit card is definitely the way to go for cash withdrawals. The application process is a little tedious – mine took nearly 4 weeks before everything was in place. Easy to use and not a fee in sight.

      The 28D card is also excellent but should only be used as a credit card.

      • LINDSAY February 26, 2015 at 7:02 AM #

        Thanks a lot for the responses, much appreciated.

        I am keen to go with the Citibank and 28D for their respective purposes.

        That has helped a lot!

  42. PETER March 19, 2015 at 7:43 AM #

    We have used the Citibank card successfully on many trips since the demise of the NAB Gold card. Except for the UK. My card would not work for ATMs but my wife’s card on the SAME account did work. Citi sent me a new card as they said no problem with the account (express delivery and free) It didn’t work either. Worked in HongKong, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe – then not in the UK – then worked OK in Italy and the USA. Still haven’t sorted that one, and can’t test it without going to the UK!

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD March 20, 2015 at 12:45 PM #

      Cheers for posting your experience Peter, always good to get feedback from people out there using these cards.

  43. LIZ March 20, 2015 at 10:38 AM #

    Hi, I’m going to the USA for 3wks holidays. How do you you compare 28Deg to Bankwest Platinum Credit Card? Which one is better? I have got the Bankwest card and planning to get Citi Visa Debit card too. Thanks in advance.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD March 20, 2015 at 12:57 PM #

      Hi Liz, I’ve not seen what the Bankwest card offers so am unsure but if it offers fee and transaction free use like the 28 Degrees card then there would not be much difference. The big plus of the 28 Degree card is there is no currency conversion or any other fees associated with using it and you don’t pay a fee to have the card either.

  44. ANDY STAV April 1, 2015 at 12:02 PM #

    Hi guys,

    I will be travelling to Europe in July and currently looking @ my options.

    As it stands it is looking more likely that i will have 2 cards.
    A Credit Card (TBA) and a Debit Card (Citibank Plus Transaction Account for Overseas Travel)

    I like the 28 degree card in terms of fees, however it has no travel insurance.
    When booking tickets, hotels and cars – Travel insurance is a must.

    Any suggestions guys?
    Appreciate any response.


    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD April 4, 2015 at 11:18 PM #

      Hi Andy, I think you’ll struggle to find a no/minimum fee card that offers insurance on bookings etc as well. For that I’d look at just using your main CC from home that covers you there and then the other cards for all your other misc transactions etc. I doubt there will ever be a card that did everything we want.

    • CB April 7, 2015 at 7:09 AM #


      I’ve had a 28D for many years and use it as a credit card when overseas (and for on-online shopping). I also have a standard visa card which I use to prepay flights, and other travel to qualify for the free travel insurance. It’s a system that’s worked very well for me over the years.

  45. LILIANA April 10, 2015 at 8:49 PM #

    Is this the Citibank card that is recommended for fee free ATM withdrawals overseas?

    Also, can someone elaborate on what the free travel insurance is with a visa card?

    Thanks 🙂

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD April 14, 2015 at 3:06 PM #

      Hi Liliana, yes that looks like the account to me. As for travel insurance on a visa card.. honestly it pretty average as most only provide 2 weeks coverage. Its often on amex, platinum and other yearly fee credit cards.

  46. JASON April 24, 2015 at 6:41 AM #

    Hi. i have applied for my Citibank Plus Transaction Account. Does anyone know about depositing salary regularly. Is it a strict condition of the account? I’m going to Patong Thailand.. having difficulty searching atms i can use with citibank card.

  47. MONS May 16, 2015 at 6:18 AM #

    Can anyone comment on the ability to use citibank debit card in Scotland ,,, there are no citibank branches, and wondered about any fees that other banks would charge for the use of their atm network?

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD May 25, 2015 at 2:25 PM #

      Hi Mons, the idea of the citibank card is to be fee free but there are plenty of card machines that say they are fee free all over the UK from my experience. Look in train stations for them normally.

  48. CHRIS July 1, 2015 at 9:11 PM #

    I have used the Qantas cash card overseas before…ie Europe/uk and us and found it to be great. However, this Citibank card fee free for cash out of ATMs has me intrigued for my next trip.

  49. JOELEEN August 13, 2015 at 11:27 PM #

    I leave for Europe on the 5 October for a month. Whilst there, I will be needing 3 currencies as I will spend 4 days in Switzerland and another 4 in England but the rest of the time I will be using euro. I am confused…was looking at a travel card but thinking not the go now after reading this thread. I realise I need two options. Is it satisfactory to go with my existing ANZ credit card with access to my savings account + a visa debit card that I have set up with NAB’s classic?

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD August 28, 2015 at 5:33 PM #

      Hi Joeleen, taking your own cards should be fine to get money out but just be wary of the fees your banks charge. many opt for the citibank visa debit card as it does not charge fees and I also believe there is now a Bankwest account that doesn’t charge fees either but I need to research that more.

  50. CHARLENE March 3, 2016 at 4:05 PM #

    Wow, found this way too last minute. I suppose no one would happen to know if Citibank could do a 1 day express or sending the card overseas?

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