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Using a credit card in Australia
How easy it is to use a credit card in Australia?
Australia is among the rare countries where you can pay with plastic almost everything — even for your taxi. And along with Mastercard and Visa, you’ll also find spots accepting American Express.
If like how cash feels in your pocket, you’ll find ATMs across most of Australia. Keep in mind that cash withdrawals come with additional fees when you use a credit card.
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A travel card is a good choice if you travel frequently outside of the US. You’ll save money on foreign transactions by avoiding extra fees, and you’ll earn points you can use toward travel purchases. Even if you don’t travel often, you could look into a no-annual-fee travel card and only use it when you’re abroad.
Potential credit card fees in Australia
When you pay with a credit card in Australia, you may be hit with the two types of fees, depending on your provider:
- Foreign transaction fees. You might pay up to 3% in fees on each transaction. This may not sound like much, but it quickly adds up over a vacation — by charging $3,000 on your card, you could pay up to $90 in fees.
- Currency conversion fees. Some merchants offer you the option to pay in US dollars instead of the local currency. Called a dynamic currency conversion, this type of transaction often comes with high fees and a poor exchange rate.
Will I pay both fees on a single transaction?
You might. Even the most basic travel card can save you from paying foreign transaction fees. And by simply paying in local currency, you’ll avoid an unfavorable exchange rate and additional fees.
Which credit card issuers are accepted in Australia?
American Express and Discover cards are accepted in Australia, but Mastercard and Visa take the lead when it comes to reliable acceptance.
If you’re looking for an ATM that accepts your Amex, know that major banks like ANZ, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, St. George Bank and WBC allow cash withdrawals with your card. For Discover cards, look for Bank of China, Bank West, HSBC, iCash or ING ATMs.
Should I use my credit card to get cash in Australia?
You may not need much cash in Australia, given the wide acceptance of credit cards. But if you prefer keeping some cash for smaller expenses, you can withdraw cash from an ATM with your credit card — it’s just not your cheapest method of getting cash. Credit card providers charge fees of up to a 5% of your cash advance, and you’ll also pay a cash advance APR from the moment you make the withdrawal.
Avoid these fees by using your debit card instead. Debit cards generally impose no cash advance fees. And there’s no APR to worry about, because you withdraw from your own money, and not the bank’s credit.
Do taxis in Australia accept credit cards?
Yes, but you may pay a 5% surcharge for the convenience. An alternative to taxis is Uber rideshares, which are cheaper and also accept credit card payments through the Uber app.
Chip-and-PIN credit cards
Chip-and-PIN cards — also called EMV microchip cards — are widely accepted throughout Australia. But the US has some catching up to do when it comes to embedded EMV microchips.
As of 2018, you may find that your newer cards include chip-and-PIN technology. If not, your cards requiring a signature are also accepted.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Australia?
Yes. Even so, you should take the same precautions you would anywhere else in the world:
- Use ATMs within a bank. Your chances of encountering a skimming device are often lower at a bank. And on the off chance your card is trapped inside the machine, you can easily get help to get it back.
- Take two credit cards. If something happens to one of your cards, you can rely on the second to avoid being left without cash.
- Keep your card in sight. When paying for items or a bill, keep an eye on your card until it’s safely returned.
How to prepare before traveling to Australia
- Get a card without foreign transaction fees. Save on unnecessary fees with a card designed for the frequent traveler.
- Take along a Mastercard or Visa. You can pay with your Amex or Discover card in most places, but you’re sure to be OK with a Mastercard or Visa.
- Get a backup card. That way, if you end up losing your card, you’ll have a softer landing as you work to replace it.
- Get some cash. You may not need it, but it might be nice to have on hand. If you withdraw cash, use your debit card to avoid cash advance fees and stiff APRs.
- Let your bank know you’re traveling. If your bank is hyper vigilant about fraud, it could inadvertently block your card if it sees a charge from Australia.
- Write down your bank’s number. Most credit card providers advertise a toll-free number for cardmembers traveling abroad to use in a cardholder emergency.
If you frequently travel between Australia and the US, learn more about cards designed to reward your adventures:
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card (see rates & fees)
- United℠ Explorer Card from Chase
All three cards offer $0 foreign transaction fees, and you’ll earn miles to redeem for flights between Australia and the US.
Credit cards are widely accepted in Australia. But to avoid foreign transaction fees that can come with most cashback cards, look into a good travel card and decline to pay in US dollars, if it’s offered.
If you enjoy having cash around, you can easily withdraw money from an ATM. But using a debit card abroad can help you avoid cash withdrawal fees that come with credit cards.
Frequently asked questions
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.
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