Save money on international transaction and foreign ATM fees
When you’re traveling abroad, there are a number of ways to access your money. You can find debit, credit and travel cards that charge little or no foreign transaction fees. Some cards even offer a range of travel benefits. Here we’ll unpack the features, benefits and drawbacks of a debit card to help you decide if it’s the best way to access your money abroad.
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How does a debit card work for overseas travel?
A debit card especially for overseas travel is best for occasional travel overseas. This type of debit card comes linked to your bank account, giving you easy access to your funds while you’re traveling.
Mastercard and Visa are accepted worldwide and are a good debit card for international travel. Choosing a debit card that doesn’t charge international transaction fees and belongs to a strong ATM partner network can help reduce your overall travel costs.
What are the features of a debit card?
The features that come with your debit card will vary from card to card, but here’s some of the standards you expect:
Access your own funds and not worry about interest
Using a debit card will allow you to access your own funds while travelling overseas. Unlike a line of credit, spending your own money can help curb your spending and keep your budget in check.
Visa or Mastercard global acceptance
As long as you have a globally accepted debit card such as a Visa or Mastercard, you should be able to access your funds easily when you’re traveling abroad. You can use such a card for purchases, to withdraw cash from ATMs and to make purchases online.
Easy account management
You can manage your account and keep track of your travel budget using online account management. Most banks offer online banking and mobile phone apps, so you should have no trouble managing your funds on the go.
Easy to apply
Getting a debit card is easier than getting a credit card because you don’t have to meet minimum income or age requirements. You simply need to have a checking or savings account.
World-class security and fraud protection
Most debit cards have microchip technology, which provides increased protection against fraud when compared to cards that rely on magnetic strips. Both, Visa and Mastercard, have online security programs in place to offer extra peace of mind when your personal information is in the online world.
Always notify your bank when you plan on leaving the country. This way your bank or credit card can expect purchases from abroad. Visa and Mastercard, both, have zero liability policies in place, so when you use your card overseas, your card provider does not hold you liable in the case of fraudulent and suspicious transactions.Back to top
What are the benefits and drawbacks of using a travel debit card?
- Access your funds anytime, anywhere. A debit card with the Visa or Mastercard logo gives you instant access to money in your bank account, no matter where you are.
- Avoid fees if you use the right ATM. If you use a partner ATM, you don’t have to pay any additional fees.
- Avoid international transaction fees. Just about every US debit card will require that you pay currency conversion fees every time you use your card overseas. Though, some cards will waive the international fee.
- Safe way to spend your money with fraud protection. Debit cards give you a safe and secure way to access money when traveling overseas, given that multiple security layers work in keeping your information secure.
- Getting your card replaced overseas is difficult. Replacing a lost or stolen debit card when you’re traveling overseas can take up to 10 business days, and can be costly.
What else should I consider when using a travel debit card?
Before you get a debit card, know that not all are the same, even if they come with Visa and Mastercard affiliations. As a result, consider the following:
Is your card part of the Global ATM Alliance?
The Global ATM Alliance is a group of major international banks that allow their customers to use international ATMs without charging additional fees.
Bank of America debit cardholders, for instance, can access ATMs across Europe for free, and Commonwealth Bank customers can find Commonwealth Bank ATMs across Asia.
Does the card charge international transaction fees?
An international transaction fee is charged when you make a transaction in another currency that’s not US dollars. When you’re shopping overseas, these will slowly add up, so you may want to get a card that doesn’t charge this fee.
Also, think twice before choosing to pay in your home currency. Debit card readers in stores and hotels can often detect that you’re using a card from another country, and they may ask to debit the purchase in US dollars rather than the local currency. It may be significantly cheaper to select the foreign currency because exchange rates at the point of sale can be much higher than those offered by your debit card issuer.
Does the card come with linked travel insurance?
Some debit cards come with complimentary travel insurance. Depending what you’re eligible for, you could find that these come in handy if you lose or misplace your luggage or find yourself confronted by a medical emergency or flight cancellation.
Are there any international Visa and Mastercard benefits?
Visa and Mastercard debit cards give cardholders access to a range of special global offers and promotions.
Why do credit cards charge foreign transaction fees?
A foreign transaction fee is charged when you make a withdrawal, purchase or make a transaction in a currency other than the US dollars. The fee is charged for converting currency into US Dollars.
How do I get complimentary travel insurance on my credit card?
Complimentary travel insurance is typically offered with high-end rewards credit cards. These cards usually require you to pay an annual fee and you may also have to satisfy certain requirements in order to activate cover, such as paying for your vacation with your card.
Is it possible to deposit Hong Kong dollars into my bank account?
Yes it is, as long as you have a foreign currency or multi-currency account.
Is there a debit card that lets you load the euro?
Yes, there are multiple travel money cards available that allow you to load multiple currencies, including the euro. These cards are offered by banks, foreign exchange specialists and even the US Post Office.
What’s the best travel card to bring to Malaysia?
Look for a card that can be loaded with Malaysian ringgit and that also offers minimal fees on foreign transactions.
I’m traveling to Fiji – should I exchange currency here or in Fiji?
As a general rule, it’s always better to exchange currency at your destination than in the US as you will most likely receive a better exchange rate.
What happens if I think my account has been scammed overseas?
If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank or card issuer immediately to cancel the card and begin the process of recouping any lost funds.
How do I move money overseas to and from accounts?
You can send an international money transfer via your bank if you wish, although you will typically find a better exchange rate and cheaper transfer fees if you use an online transfer services such as OFX or Currency Fair.
Can I use chipped cards when traveling to other countries?
Yes, chip cards are widely accepted around the world.
How do I send funds to someone overseas?
You have several options when you want to send an international money transfer. You can send a wire transfer through your bank, an electronic transfer using an online money transfer company such as Western Union that offers a cash pickup option. You can even send an international check or transfer the funds using PayPal.
Can I still access US bank websites when overseas?
Yes, in most cases you’ll be able to access your internet banking account from just about anywhere in the world. Speak to your bank about accessing your money overseas before you begin your journey just to be sure that your funds will be available whenever you need them.
Can I send money overseas to India using a bank account?
Yes, your traditional bank account should be able to send money to loved ones in India. However, you may be hit with expensive fees and a low exchange rates. You may want to consider using an international money transfer instead.Back to top
Debit cards vs. travel money cards
There are benefits and drawbacks to using a debit card over a travel money card internationally. With a prepaid travel money card you can load it with your own cash before travelling overseas and lock in an exchange rate. But with a travel debit card, you are subject to the daily exchange rate for your withdrawal. However, it takes time to reload your travel money card with funds, which could leave you in the lurch if you don’t have another payment method with you and you have run out of money on your card.
Fees are another thing to consider when comparing a travel debit card to a travel money card. A debit card designed for overseas might not come with ATM withdrawal, currency conversion or foreign transaction fees. You’ll also be able to access more ATMs around the globe with a debit card. With a travel money card you’ll be met with more fees, like a purchase fee, loading or reloading fee, or currency conversion fee. A travel money card is also subject to withdrawal limits and isn’t as accepted worldwide.
Use a globally accepted debit card to gain access to your money without the temptation of overspending. The fees and rates that come with using your card will vary from card to card, so compare your options to ensure the cost doesn’t outweigh the benefits.