Accessing your finances while travelling


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Accessing your finances while travelling

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In this activity, you’ll find out about the safest ways to access your money while travelling, especially travelling overseas.

You’ll learn about how your credit card works overseas, withdrawing cash from ATMs, and how your financial institution works to keep your money and information secure.

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Accessing your money is much easier than it used to be

In previous decades, travelling overseas meant purchasing travellers cheques or finding a bureau de change to get Australian dollars converted into a local currency.

You can still change cash at airports and other transport hubs (such as some train stations), but why not just use your ATM or credit card, exactly like you do at home?

Credit cards work on an international system

If you have a VISA or MasterCard credit card, you can use it in a wide range of countries, exactly as you do at home. Whatever you are paying for is automatically converted from the local currency into Australian dollars.

You will need to pay a small conversion fee each time, however. This is about the same as if you exchanged a lot of cash at a bureau de change - but of course you don’t need to risk carrying around a lot of cash!

A credit card and different locations around the world pinned
The globe and the visa and mastercard logos

You can use many ATMs

Many large overseas banks have agreements with Australian banks to let customers withdraw cash from local ATMs for a small fee.

You can put your ATM card in the ATM and follow the screen instructions as normal.

Some ATMs might only work if your ATM card is also a credit card. This is called a cash advance and may attract some extra fees.


eSafety tip

When you use your credit card or ATM card overseas to pay for something or withdraw cash, you will have to pay some fees for the convenience.

There will be a fee for the currency conversion from Australian dollars to the local currency (for example US dollars).

Your bank might also charge you a fee if you use a credit card to get cash from an ATM. This is called a cash advance fee. You might also have to start paying interest on this withdrawal right away, instead of having a 55-day interest-free period, so it’s best to use this option as a last resort.

Credit cards have additional security features

One important benefit of using a credit card when you travel, is the extra security systems on the card.

Your signature is one security feature, but the PIN you use to authorise larger purchases (over AUD$100 for most cards) keeps your finances more secure too.

And the three numbers on the back of the card, called the CVV or CV2 code, makes it hard for scammers to use your card online for unauthorised purchases.

A credit card with a PIN and CVV displaying
An icon of a padlock

eSafety tip

One common scam to steal your card details, is to install a device on an ATM called a skimmer. These are a bit like hidden cameras that record your card details so that crooks can use them later.

Many ATMs have anti-skimmer features now, but it is worth checking an ATM for anything suspicious. If the ATM looks damaged or broken in any way, don’t use it!

A credit card with a lock icon

Your credit card provider takes security seriously

Banks and other credit card providers are very conscious of your card’s security. The back of your card will show a number you can call in an emergency here in Australia, if you suspect anything untoward has happened.

When you are overseas, this number won’t work, but your card should show alternatives or a website you can visit to get in contact with your bank.

Don’t second guess yourself if you think there might be a problem with your credit card. Your bank prefers it if you call right away!


eSafety tip

Before you leave for your trip, it’s important to let your bank or credit card provider know when you will be travelling overseas. If you give them a call on their credit card enquiry number, they will make a note of when you plan to travel, and where.

This will help prevent false alarms and stop your card from being cancelled automatically the first time you try to buy something via EFTPOS in Moscow, or buy a French mobile phone SIM.

Download your free banking app

Your bank probably has an official app that lets you use your mobile phone to check your balance, make transfers, or even contact your bank using the internet.

It’s a good idea to download, authorise, and sign-in to this app before you leave. That way, anywhere you travel where you have a data or a secure Wi-Fi connection, you can keep on top of your finances.

A mobile device with the mobile banking app displaying

eSafety tip

Free public Wi-Fi at places such as libraries, cafes and hotels may not be secure. Never use public Wi-Fi to access websites that require you to enter personal information, such as your banking details.

Checking transactions on a banking app

Check the fees you're incurring with your banking app

You bank’s official app allows you to see useful information, such as your transaction history, and what you are paying in fees for cash conversion, cash advances, and using foreign ATMs. These fees will usually appear as individual transactions, right after the transaction you made.

You can learn more about mobile banking in the Getting started with mobile banking course.

Well done!

You’ve completed the Accessing your finances while travelling activity. You’ve learned how to access your money while travelling, and some of the costs involved in spending it overseas!

Next up, you’ll learn how valuable your smartphone can be, in the Using your mobile phone to make travel easier activity.

A mobile device showing a banking app