How to get the most out of exchange rates while travelling: 5 tips

Heading overseas? Make the most of currency exchange rates and modern technology to get bang for your buck while travelling.

1. Travel with a cash passport

Cash passports have quickly changed the travel scene over the past 10 years or so, and countless Aussies are now using these handy cards all over the world.

Basically, you pre-pay Australian dollars and choose up to 11 different currencies to load onto the same card. Therefore, you can travel around the US, Canada, the UK and more, and whenever you use the card, it will automatically select the correct currency.

It can work like a credit card when necessary or like an EFTPOS card in stores for small purchases, or simply as a card to use at an ATM for withdrawals. And when you run out of funds, you can reload online from anywhere in the world through BPAY, card to card transfers or your Debit Card.

2. Order your currency at the bank

Stocking up on cash can be one of those dull pre-travel tasks that you leave until the last minute. After all, you can simply do it once you get to the airport while you’re waiting to fly, right?

Technically speaking, you can certainly grab your cash at the airport, but expect to pay more for your currency exchange. According to consumer group Choice, fees in the terminal are as much as 8 per cent, whereas banks only charge roughly 2.5 per cent. When you’re exchanging large amount of cash, the difference in prices could be the difference between trying a fun experience while on holiday, and not being able to afford it at all.


3. If you’re going to withdraw cash, withdraw plenty

If you come to a point where you need to withdraw cash, don’t just get $50 out at a time. Every withdrawal will cost you fees, both from the ATM and from your home bank account, so the fewer withdrawals the better.

But be sure, for your own safety, to avoid carrying a lot of cash on you at once by making the most of your hotel safe and splitting your funds between you and your travel companion. This will reduce the risk of you losing everything if you accidently misplace your wallet or run into trouble on your trip.

4. Stock up in advance

As soon as you book your flights, start looking at the currency exchange rate. Take a look at how the Aussie dollar has performed against your destination’s currency over the past few months to see how it’s trending, and you’ll quickly get an idea of what’s a normal rate – and what is a good one.

Even if it’s still months away from your trip, stock up on cash as soon as you spot a great rate. Not only will you know you’ve done your homework and got a good deal, it will help with budget planning for the trip itself.

5. Use a credit card for big spends

If you have a credit card then always consider taking it with you during travel – if nothing else, it’s the ideal back up plan in case of an emergency.

Mainly however, a credit card is perfect for larger spends during your travels. Say you book in a luxurious hot air balloon ride in Turkey, a credit card will likely only charge 0-3 per cent on the purchase, and it will help keep your cash and pre-paid travel card funds free for smaller expenses.