2021 Travel Money Guide | Finder Canada

Travel Money Finder

Discover how far your travel money can take you.

Traveling overseas involves a lot of planning — and that includes your money.

Which option is right for your next trip?

Compare travel credit cards

Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Purchase Interest Rate Annual Fee Min. Credit Score Description
American Express Cobalt Card
45,000 points
Up to 5 points per $1 spent
19.99%
$120
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn up to 45,000 bonus Membership Rewards points in your first year as a new Cobalt Cardmember. Apply by May 5, 2021.
Choice Card from American Express
12,500 points
1 point per $1 spent
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn 12,500 Bonus Membership Rewards points within the first 3 months as a new Cardmember. Apply by May 5, 2021.
HSBC +Rewards™ Mastercard®
30,000 points
2x points per $1 spent
11.9%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($25 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 680
Earn 30,000 Points ($150 travel value), plus get a full annual fee rebate for the Primary Cardholder for the first year ($25 value). Apply by April 19, 2021. Conditions Apply. This offer is only available to residents of Canada other than the province of Quebec (Quebec residents eligible for separate offer).
BMO Rewards Mastercard
10,000 points
Up to 2 points per $1 spent
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 725
Get a bonus of 10,000 BMO Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. Apply by October 31, 2021 . Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers for 9 months. A 1% fee applies to transferred balances.
BMO World Elite Mastercard
30,000 points
Up to 3 points per $1 spent
19.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($150 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 760
Get up to 30,000 points and the $150 annual fee waived in the first year. Apply by October 31, 2021
Brim Mastercard
Up to $200 worth of bonuses
1 point per $1 spent
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn up to $200 worth of bonus points when you shop with Brim retailers for the first time through the Brim mobile app.
American Express Aeroplan Card
15,000 points
Up to 2x points per $1 spent
30% annual interest rate applies to balances not paid in full each month
$120
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn up to 15,000 Welcome Bonus Aeroplan points and a bonus Buddy Pass as a new cardmember.
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What is travel money?

Travel money is essentially the options of credit cards, debit cards, prepaid cards and foreign currency — all designed for travel and foreign transactions. Each form of travel money has different benefits and depending on the destination, one may be suited as better than another.

When considering travel money, be sure to do your research. It’s wise to always take a combination of products to ensure that you’ll have an acceptable option of payment no matter where you are.

A quick comparison of travel money cards

FEES
Travel money feature

Prepaid travel card

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Credit card

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Debit card

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No currency conversion feesYesYesNo
No ATM withdrawal feesYesYesYes
No initial currency load feeNo
CURRENCY
Travel money feature

Prepaid travel card

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Credit card

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Debit card

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Pre-load currenciesYesNoNo
Instant reload (no delay)Yes
CONVENIENCE
Travel money feature

Prepaid travel card

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Credit card

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Debit card

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Worldwide acceptanceYesYesYes
Emergency cash facilityNoYesNo
Purchase over the counterYesYesYes
SECURITY
Travel money feature

Prepaid travel card

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Credit card

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Debit card

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Chip & Pin protectionYesYesYes
Emergency card replacementYesYesNo
Backup cardsYesNoNo
ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT
Travel money feature

Prepaid travel card

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Credit card

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Debit card

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Mobile applicationYesYesYes
Online account loginYesYesYes
REWARDS
Travel money feature

Prepaid travel card

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Credit card

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Debit card

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Reward points for spendingYesYesYes
Frequent flyer benefitsNoYesNo
Promotional interest rates
(0% purchases, 0% balance transfers)
NoYesNo

This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

How to decide which type of travel money is best for you?

The best travel money option for you will depend on your destination, how you plan to spend and what you can afford. Prepaid travel cards, credit cards and debit cards all have their uses, but the differences lie in their features and fees. To be safe, many travelers bring more than one type for convenience and security.

Here you can compare the different travel money options available to discover which one offers you the best value for your next trip.

Prepaid travel money cards

To determine whether a travel card is the right choice for you, weigh up some of the pros and cons below.

Benefits of using a prepaid travel card

  • Multiple currencies. When you load dollars onto a prepaid travel card, you can transfer them into a supported foreign currency so that you can spend or withdraw your own funds without the cost of currency conversion fees.
  • Locked-in exchange rates. When you convert your dollars into a supported foreign currency, the funds will be locked in at the current exchange rate. Depending on which way the currency goes, this can be a good way to avoid negative exchange rate fluctuations while traveling.

Things to consider using prepaid travel cards

  • Availability. Most prepaid travel cards are either Visa or Mastercard, meaning you can use them worldwide.
  • Fees. The fees you’ll have to pay will depend on the card, but some include a purchase fee, loading or reloading fee, currency conversion fee, inactivity fee and account inactivity fee.
  • ATM withdrawal limits. If your prepaid travel card charges a fee per transaction and you need a large amount of money, it could get expensive quickly if the ATMs you withdraw from only allow a small amount per transaction .
  • Currencies. Your prepaid travel card will support a number of foreign currencies, though the exact ones will depend on the individual card.
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Travel credit cards

Enjoy financial security, flexibility and extra features with a credit card. Look for a credit card that is designed for overseas use, preferably one that doesn’t charge currency conversion fees, foreign transaction fees or overseas ATM withdrawal fees.

Plus, credit cards come with features like travel insurance, a concierge service and rewards programs.

Benefits of using a credit card overseas

  • Access to credit. A line of credit is often larger than your savings, which can come in handy for large or emergency purchases. Remember that you have to repay everything (plus interest) to the card.
  • Rewards. These cards are typically more expensive, so make sure that the value of the rewards you redeem will outweigh the costs.
  • Extras. Complimentary travel insurance, purchase protection and concierge services will surely benefit any traveler.

Considerations when using credit cards for travel

  • Availability. Visa, Mastercard and American Express should be accepted widely around the world. Some cards can’t be used in some locations (such as Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan and Syria) due to economic sanctions. Check with the provider to confirm whether your card can be used in your destination before you leave.
  • Fees. If you use your regular credit card overseas, it’s likely you’ll be charged currency conversion or foreign transaction fees. You’ll also be charged cash advance fees — which tend to be pricey — if you use your card for ATM withdrawals
  • Currencies. Look for a card that will waive currency conversion or foreign transaction fees, otherwise you’ll rack up fees every time you use your card for purchases in the local currency.

Compare the full range of travel credit cards with our complete guide

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Travel debit cards

The advantages of using a debit card can include international ATM alliances , no withdrawal fees, no currency conversion fees, no foreign transaction fee and access to your personal money. And since it is your personal money, it allows you to budget effectively.

How debit cards can benefit you overseas

  • Access and manage your own cash. Unlike a credit card with a line of credit or a prepaid card with a loaded amount of funds, a debit card gives you direct access to your savings. This saves you the inconvenience of loading a prepaid card, but might deter the overspending that comes with credit.
  • Fewer fees than credit cards and prepaid travel cards. If you get a debit card designed for overseas use, you might not have to pay ATM withdrawal, currency conversion or foreign transaction fees.
  • ATM availability worldwide. If your debit card is a Visa or Mastercard, you should be able to withdraw from ATMs around the world. To avoid ATM withdrawal fees, look for a card that belongs to the Global ATM Alliance like a Barclaycard or Bank of America card.
  • Fraud protection. Your provider is likely to offer protection against fraudulent transactions made on your account so long as you follow the necessary steps to report unusual activity.

Considerations to keep in mind

  • No backup or additional card. Debit card accounts don’t provide a backup. This means that you may have to wait up to two weeks for a replacement to arrive to your overseas destination.
  • Daily currency exchange rate. You’ll receive the daily exchange rate for your withdrawal from Mastercard or Visa. Due to the uncertainty of exchange rates, it is wise to do market research to find which option may be better for you.

Comprehensive guide to using debit cards overseas

Foreign cash

Holding a certain amount of foreign cash provides you with convenience and payment flexibility. Some stops on your destination may be cash-only and having extra on you can provide a smooth transition to wherever your destination may be.

Exchanging money is as easy as ordering online and picking up in store.

Knowing how the dollar has performed against foreign currency in the past few years and months will enable you to get the best exchange rate for your foreign exchange transaction.

Traveler’s cheques

Traveler’s cheques were once a widely used form of travel money, but they’re going the way of the dinosaur. You can weigh up whether they’re worth your time below — but we’d advise looking elsewhere.

How a traveler’s cheques could still work for you

  • Secure. Traveler’s cheques are an extremely secure method to spend money overseas.
  • Safe. They can be easily replaced if lost or stolen.

Considerations to keep in mind

  • Cost. You might be charged a purchase fee when you first pick up your traveler’s cheque.
  • Acceptance. Traveler’s cheques are generally accepted less than Visa or Mastercards.
  • Difficult to use. Can be bulky and awkward to carry. Plus, you’ll have to go to the effort of getting them cashed rather than having immediate access to your cash like you would with a card.

The most commonly asked travel money questions on the internet

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