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Ways to carry currency when travelling

How to carry currency when travelling

You've been saving hard for your next overseas trip – perhaps you’re going to take advantage of the gorgeous European summer, or maybe heading to Japan for the Rugby World Cup.

The options for how to carry currency when you’re travelling can be confusing and vary between destinations. So what's the best method - cash, credit cards, travel cards? It often depends on where you’re going, what currency you’ll need and what’s commonly accepted. Here’s what to know before you go about the best way to spend abroad.


Unlike Australia, where credit and debit cards are the most common way to make purchases, for many overseas countries, cash is still king.

In many parts of Europe and places like Japan, cash is still much more widely accepted than its plastic counterpart. It's highly recommended that you obtain at least some foreign currency before you leave home - that way you can get around when you arrive until you can get to an ATM. Most times, it's cheaper to buy your foreign cash before you go, rather than at the airport. Shop around to find the best rate, because the dealer will generally charge a fee or commission for the service, with some being higher than others.

You can order more than 50 types of foreign currency at any P&N branch, thanks to our partnership with Travelex. You can choose your denominations - smaller notes are generally more welcomed in most cities.

If you have any unused foreign banknotes when you return home from your trip, we can also generally convert them back into Australian dollars for you.

For your own protection, avoid carrying too much cash and have a backup money source.

Find out more about foreign cash and currency exchange.

Pre-paid travel money cards

Just like a debit card, a pre-paid travel money card, such as Cash Passport, allows you to load your own money onto the card and convert it to the local currency. either ahead of time, or on the go.

Travel cards allow you to lock in the exchange rate on the day you load it, and load multiple currencies – ideal if you’re travelling through multiple locations, such as the UK and parts of Europe where you’ll need both pounds and Euro, and potentially other currencies as well.

Find out more about Cash Passport.

Debit cards

The easiest way to access cash while overseas or make purchases is by using your debit card. You simply need to let your bank know that you’re going overseas, and you can withdraw your own money at ATMs, or make purchases in stores and restaurants. Note that charges may apply to withdrawals from foreign ATMs.

When making purchases in a store, avoid using the EFTPOS machine’s dynamic currency conversion (when an overseas sale is offered in Australian dollars). It usually offers an uncompetitive exchange rate.

Credit cards

Just like your debit card, credit cards can be used in most overseas countries, and are ideal for big purchases, such as accommodation, tours and pre-booked transport. You’ll often need a credit card when checking into hotels.

As with all card transactions when making purchases overseas, know the exchange rate and be aware of any conversion fees to track your spending. Avoid using your credit card to withdraw at foreign ATMs also, as most cash advances attract a higher interest rate than purchases.

You’ll also get Visa’s purchase protection in the event of any unauthorised purchases while you’re travelling. Plus, with P&N’s Visa Platinum credit card, you may also be eligible for travel insurance. Chat to us about how to take advantage.

Travellers' cheques

Travellers’ cheques – physical cheques which can be exchanged for cash overseas - are much less common now and are no longer widely accepted. Unless you’re travelling to a country where they are still commonly accepted, cash and cards are much more convenient and cost-effective options.

Before you go

The key to a successful trip is to let us know before you go. We constantly monitor your transactions, so giving us your travel dates before you leave ensures we don’t put a stop on your card for overseas purchases. Simply let us know where you’re going and how long you’ll be away.

There are a lot of different ways to carry cash when you're travelling. The best option is to have a variety of ways to access money in case of emergencies and to research your destination to find out what you’ll need so that you can spend more time enjoying your holiday.

Still not sure? Chat to our friendly staff at your nearest branch or your travel agent.

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