Travel Banking 101 for Aussies

Australian Dollars

No one likes paying bank fees, especially for taking out your own money. If you’re armed with the right plastic and information though, you can get away with never paying any fees.

ATM / Debit Cards

Australia’s retail banking options are absolutely horrible when compared with that of the US or UK. That being said, for travelers there’s only one account that you must have: the free everyday account from Citibank AU. Citi AU is the only retail bank operating in Australia that doesn’t charge for international ATM withdrawals. The big downside to Citi is their horrible customer service and their plan to switch to a new system that requires you to receive a pin code via SMS every time you want to log into your online account.

Pre-Paid Travel Cards

The cards are offered by almost every retail bank and offer customers the “ease of accessing your own money anywhere”. In reality, these cards are cash cows for the banks and are terrible for consumers. You get charged fees for the card itself, for using it at ATMs, for not using it for over a month, for reloading it, and for lots of other things. In other words, don’t throw away your money with these.

Credit Cards

The credit card offerings are just as bad as the retail banking ones. Perhaps even worse. However, there is one card that doesn’t charge international usage fees nor an annual fee: http://www.28degreescard.com.au/

Cash

Cash is still king. In some countries, only cash is accepted. It’s always a good idea to carry some globally traded hard currency such as Euros, Pound Sterling, or US Dollars in small to medium denominations. And despite the march of globalization, there are still many remote towns which don’t have ATMs (such as Capurgana, Colombia or Lanquin, Guatemala).

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