Credit cards for overseas spending

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A trip overseas is so exciting! Whether your work or business is footing the bill for some international exposure, or you're simply on your way to a well-deserved bit of rest and relaxation, the biggest thing on your mind is money.

Overseas credit card charges and hotel bills all add up – and the last thing you want is a stressful holiday.

Likewise, if you can’t afford to shop in New York – but instead shop at New York retailers online – you still don’t want to be charged extra for doing so.

So in order to make the most of your time overseas or shopping on overseas websites, at the least cost and inconvenience, you may wish to carry out a credit card comparison specifically targeted towards low currency conversion and ATM fee credit cards.

How does overseas spending on credit cards work?

There are two main costs to be concerned with when you are spending overseas – currency conversion fees and ATM charges. The good news is, there are many card providers that now recognise Australians’ growing trend to travel and shop overseas and, as such, offer lower fees and charges as a perk for choosing one of their credit cards.

While there are specific travel cards that you can purchase for your overseas trips, if you're looking for a credit card to use on a daily basis too, you may want to look at credit cards that operate primarily in Australian dollars, as they may have special introductory offers or balance transfer specials. For travellers looking for a card specifically for overseas use, international cards that have a few different ‘currency wallets’ may be an option also.

There are even options that offer the best of both worlds – keep all your money in Australian dollars and pay no conversion or international transaction fees – but these credit cards may come with other costs, such as high annual fees or limitations on who can successfully apply for them. Either way, you should conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis in order to find the card that suits your personal situation.

What are the benefits of credit cards offering overseas spending perks?

Credit cards specifically geared towards overseas travel, like frequent flyer cards, are usually kitted out with a very different set of bonus features to your standard credit cards.

For example, complimentary travel insurance, international concierge services for booking hotels and events, and memberships to exclusive accommodation clubs, all beckon the anxious traveller. But frequent flyer and reward cards usually come with higher rates and fees. These costs could be worth it for frequent travellers, but what about for overseas shoppers?

Fortunately, there are some low-rate cards that offer some great overseas spending perks also – such as low currency conversion and ATM fees – while still offering lower rates and fees. So for those that travel less often but enjoy shopping online at international retailers – you may not see value in a rewards or frequent flyer card, but may benefit from a low-rate or low-fees credit card that has overseas spending perks.

When carrying out an overseas spending credit card comparison, make sure you consider the following fees:

  • ATM withdrawal fees
  • Charges from the foreign ATM provider
  • Cash advance fees
  • International transaction charges
  • Currency conversion fees
  • Charges by Mastercard or Visa on top of those from your provider
  • Interest rates and annual fees

Common travel money questions

This all sounds like a lot of money – and it can be. So why not use cash?

Well, any trip over a decent amount of time will have several associated expenses, including food, accommodation and sightseeing. If you had to carry enough physical currency to pay for all of these items, you run the very real risk of losing it all through misadventure or theft. What many travellers find is that a balance of cash and card spending is ideal.

Having enough local currency for small and frequent transactions will keep your overseas conversion fees down, while breaking out the plastic for larger expenses is an ideal way to reduce the amount of cash (and risk) you carry.

Of course credit cards can go missing too, but most providers will be able to cancel your card and get you an emergency replacement wherever you are. Watch out though – there can be hefty fees associated with this too.

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