Money and Travelling Overseas 12

It’s all very exciting planning your overseas holiday.  But once that initial excitement has calmed down it’s time to start getting some of the logistics prepared before you depart.

One of those is sorting out what to do about money when travelling overseas.

  • Should you take cash and if so what currency?
  • Should you use a credit card, debit card or a travel money card?

It all sounds a bit confusing so I have created a guide for you to refer to when planning your money for overseas travel.

Money and travelling overseas

A guide for Money and Travelling Overseas

1.  What do you need the money for?

  • Are you backpacking and require all your cash money to be accessible as most things will be paid for in cash?
  • Have you paid for a package holiday or cruise before departure, therefore only require some spending money?
  • Even if you have a package do you still have to pay to go out to restaurants and see attractions?  How will you pay for this?
  • Will your travel accommodation require a bond?
  • Do you have to pay cash for entry or exit visas?  If so what currency?

2.  Options to access your money?

  • Withdraw cash from an ATM with a credit or debit card.
    • Are there ATM’s available at your destination?
      • I have been caught out on this one.  I went to a small town in Europe for a few days that had no ATM’s, I had left the bulk of my luggage and travellers cheques with a friend 500+km away.
  • Load a travel money card.
    • Load this with your choice of currency.
    • The travel money card is not connected to your bank account.
    • There are many options available so do your research.
    • You can withdraw cash from an ATM.
    • Or use it as you do a credit card.
  • Exchange Australian currency at exchange booths.
    • You will have to shop around to find the best deal.
  • Take all foreign currency with you – having exchanged cash before you left home.

3.  Security

  • Register with your bank that you will be travelling overseas.
    • Whilst this prevents any unauthorised use of your credit card, it also prevents your credit card being cut off when it is actually you using it.
    • Many banks now have an online form to complete.
    • Take your banks contact number.
  • When going out for the day only take as much cash with you as needed.
  • Keep a portion of your money separate from the bulk of it in case of unforeseen circumstances.
  • Utilise the safe included in your room for you cash, credit cards and passports.
  • Travel money cards are not connected to your bank account and therefore your banking details are safe.

4.  Be aware of fees

Every bank and every type of card has different fees.  I am not a financial controller and therefore I am not equipped to give you all the answers.  With that in mind I do know this:

  • If you draw cash out of a credit card you will pay interest immediately.
    • However you can put your card into debit to avoid this charge.
    • You may incur an access charge for using a foreign ATM.
    • For more information about credit card charges refer to your banks website.
  • Debit cards are used to access your own bank account.  They may incur an ATM access charge just as you would use another banks ATM here in Australia.
    • Refer to your banks website for more details.
  • Travel money cards can charge for loading money onto the card and withdrawing the money.
  • When exchanging cash be aware that all exchange booths charge different exchange rates – shop around.

5.  Long term travel

These days it’s a lot easier than it use to be with Internet banking and many travellers are now taking a Smartphone or e-Tablet (don’t forget to include in your handy things to pack the charger and perhaps a power board).

  • Ensure the Internet location is secure
  • Don’t leave your passwords in the e-Tablet in a separate document or preloaded in your device.
  • Have a trusted family member be co signing or being able to access your accounts to help pay bills that come in whilst you are away.

How I Travel with Money

In the past

When I use to backpack in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

  • I would put my credit card into debit with most of my savings I wanted to use for the trip.
    • This meant  I was not paying interest on the withdrawn cash as I was using my money.
    • I kept a tally of how much money I spent to ensure I didn’t go over my budget and therefore did not go into credit.
    • I would only withdraw enough to get by for a days, thereby limiting the risk of losing cash.
    • During this era there was no charge for overseas ATM withdrawals if your account was in debit.
  • I also bought travellers cheques (no longer in use) in case an ATM was not available.
  • I also pre bought a small amount of foreign currency for each country I was planning to visit to get by when I first arrived.


At the moment on our family travels we tend to organise a package with flights and hotel prepaid before departure.

  • We take the bulk of our spending money in Australian currency.
  • We exchange a small portion into small notes of the local currency before we leave home.
    • This saves the stress of needing to change money as soon as we arrive for things like taxis or a meal out that day.
  • We usually find that the exchange rate is better once we arrive at our destination.
  • I take a credit card for the room bond and any other major expenses.
  • We store a portion of the cash separately in a secure place.


I hope that these tips have helped you to work out how to handle your money when travelling overseas.

How do you manage your money whilst travelling overseas?

* I am not trained in any financial services, these tips are provided as a guide only and I cannot take responsibility for any misinformation.  

* I strongly encourage you to research your preferred payment methods with your financial institution.

About Sally-Ann Brown

I am Sally-Ann the author of Toddlers on Tour. I am a wife and mother who has always had a passion for travel. I love sharing my experiences and lessons learned to help you have a better family holiday or day trip. Read "All About Me" under the "Home" tab to discover my story and what lead me to here.

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12 thoughts on “Money and Travelling Overseas

  • Mumma McD

    Great tips, will keep these handy for our next adventure.

    I forgot to inform my bank I was heading overseas on our last trip & had a few days of not being able to access my account – nightmare!!!

  • Aroha @ Colours of Sunset

    Great resource for people traveling overseas. We have had a couple of hiccups traveling with different forms of cash/travel visa cards etc and withdrawing money – the fees that you incur, plus one card thought out details had been stolen and cut off access to it, not realising we were overseas! It’s such a hassle sometimes! Good to be prepared! -Aroha (#teamIBOT)

  • Malinda @mybrownpaperpackages

    Great tips here. I remember the days of travellers cheques – do they even still do these? I try to prepay for things as much as I can before we leave home, then it is a combination of having a little bit of the currency on me when we land so we can at least grab something to eat and transport to the city/accommodation. Then I use credit for accommodation bookings and a travel cash card for everything else. Making sure of course that when we withdraw we get big chunks out to minimise the fees each time.
    Thanks for joining in #Wednesdaywanderlust

  • Lyn@The Travelling Lindfields

    If you keep going back to a place it is worth considering opening a bank account there. The U.S and New Zealand are two destinations where it is easy for Australians to open accounts. You want non-interest bearing though so there is no question of having to pay tax.

  • Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me

    Gosh it’s been so long that we’ve travelled to a country with another currency (NZ doesn’t count) that I’m a little bummed that it’s probably going to be another 2 years before we do so. Mind you my youngest will be 5 and oldest nearly 9 so I suppose that’s okay!

    • Sally-Ann Brown Post author

      Oh Emily it will be worth the wait. Whilst obviously I’m advocate for travel with babies and toddlers it is definitely so much nicer once they get a little bit older and really interact with the destination.