Whatever you do, don’t exchange money at the airport.
Whatever you do, don’t exchange money at the airport.

I ditched my Qantas card and this is better

Dosh, dough, cabbage, coin, moolah … whatever you call it, it's a great source of worry for many travellers, especially first-timers, when heading off overseas.

What's the best strategy: travel card, credit card, cash or all three? Should you take your everyday debit card? And how can you ensure you're not getting completely screwed?

Mo Money, Mo Problems, right?

From my first overseas trip to Bali when traveller's cheques were still a thing to my latest trip to Stockholm, which is essentially operating in a cashless economy, I've tried many a money hack in the pursuit to keep fees down.

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On an extended trip earlier this year, I thought I was devoted to my Qantas Travel Money card - exchanging into "wallets" for GBP, EUR and USD when the rates were favourable - but in the end, I ditched it for my everyday ING account.

The conversion rates were on par, if not better.

There was no lag time between loading money and having access.

And not only does ING waive international conversion fees (if you meet some simple requirements), while I was away, they started refunding any fees incurred from foreign ATMs.

Which card is best to use when travelling overseas?
Which card is best to use when travelling overseas?

Which makes me wonder, are travel cards starting to go the way of traveller's cheques? I decided to check in with finance guru, Scott Pape, aka The Barefoot Investor to get his take.

"For many years the banks' travel cards offered fairly good ways to lock in your rates," says Pape.

"There were no surprises; you go to the bank, you buy a certain amount of currency, they'd screw you on the rate, but you're like, you know what, I can live with that. And recently what we've seen is a number of banks dropping their international currency conversion fees."

Finder.com.au recently put everyday transaction accounts through their paces when it comes to spending abroad and found as well as the ING Orange Everyday Account, the HSBC Everyday Global Account, Citi Global Currency Account and NAB Classic Banking with Platinum Visa Debit Card all offer no foreign transaction fees, however there are a few conditions.

"People tend to get really focused on the currency rate that they get … what you need to be watching out for are the additional fees and charges that the banks will put on," says Pape.

"If you're with one of the big four and you've got an everyday transaction account or credit card, I'm probably not using that overseas."

Barefoot Investor Scott Pape. Picture: Jason Edwards
Barefoot Investor Scott Pape. Picture: Jason Edwards

5 MORE TRAVEL MONEY HACKS FROM THE BAREFOOT INVESTOR

1. DON'T RELY ON CREDIT CARD TRAVEL INSURANCE

"It probably won't cover you for the really big stuff. I would be looking independently at what gives me the best, most adequate cover to wherever I'm going."

2. BOOK IN ADVANCE

"If you can book your holiday in advance, obviously you get better deals. But secondly, you actually have the anticipation of saying, in 12 months' time I'm going to be in New York, in Bali, whatever, so you actually look forward to it and enjoy it more."

3. LEAVE THE CREDIT CARD AT HOME

"A lot of people tell me, because I look like this anti-credit card guy, they can't rent a car. I travel a lot, and I've never had that happen to me. Generally what they'll do is hold a bond and then refund that bond. That can kind of suck but … as long as you budget for it, you're going to be better off than if you spend a load of money on a credit card."

4. DON'T EXCHANGE MONEY AT THE AIRPORT

"Only dumb rich people get money out at the airport. It's like doing your grocery shopping at David Jones food court - not many people can afford to do that."

5. KEEP SOME PERSPECTIVE

"People tend to get really freaking OCD about exchange rates. And you go, look dude, it's like $7 that you've spent five hours researching for. Just relax and have a beer."

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