A backpacker’s guide to spending money overseas
Leaving Australian shores to see the world is a rite of passage, but before you begin your travels, there are a few things you need to sort out. Among them are your passport, a backpack, a foreign language dictionary or two, and your finances.
Whether you saved money prior to starting your journey or have a travel blog for some extra income, accessing money overseas isn't always as simple as withdrawing cash from the local shop, so it's best to be prepared before you head off.
If you've been saving up for your next big adventure, there are several different options for how you manage your money overseas.
Safe spending overseas
Once you know what currency you'll be spending – and how much – your next challenge is to find a safe and convenient way to access your money.
It might seem easy to exchange your money in Australia and carry cash with you, but this might be the least secure option. If your stash is lost or stolen, it’s game over. Traveller’s cheques were popular in years past, but they're not as widely accepted as they once were.
You can withdraw money from your regular bank account from many overseas ATMs. Just keep an eye on any fees your provider charges. This might include a fee for cash advances or foreign currency exchange fees each time you use an ATM – we recommend speaking to your bank about the best ATMs to use whilst travelling & ways to reduce your fees.
Prepaid currency cards or travel money cards allow you to deposit funds before your trip so you can withdraw from overseas ATMs, often at a reduced rate. You can also lock in the exchange rate when you open the account, so you won't need to pay a fee for exchanging money at the time of each transaction. These types of cards can have initial fees, reload fees and even inactivity fees, so it’s important to do your homework before buying one.
Finding the right solution
Consider how a personal loan or a credit card might make it easier to manage your finances while overseas. You can put the personal loan straight into your everyday bank account or onto a prepaid currency card, while most credit cards can be used overseas like normal. Some providers might charge an extra fee for currency exchange and foreign transactions.
However, if you’ve saved the cash or taken out a personal loan before you leave, you may want to consider using a rewards card for your overseas transactions. Many offer frequent flyer points that you can cash in for your next trip. And while some charge higher interest rates than other options, if you can pay the balance during the interest-free period, you won’t incur any interest.
Considering your options
When you’re away on holiday, the last thing you want is money troubles. So what will happen if you run out of the local currency? Or if your ATM card isn’t accepted at every hostel? A combination of cards and cash could help you to access money whether you’re in a big city or off the beaten track.
No matter what option you choose, it's important to do the research so you understand completely what fees you will and won't be charged.