Getting cash from ATM overseas while travelling

Sometimes it’s tricky to figure out how much foreign currency you need in cash for your travel. Large transactions such as flights and hotels you’d most likely pay electronically but smaller items are often still easier to pay with cash.

First, you should always carry a small amount of foreign currency before you leave. You may need cash to to pay for small things like taxi, phone calls or food as soon as you arrive and may not be able to immediately find an ATM.

Most credit cards will allow you to withdraw cash from ATM but with the following fees and caveats:

  • international transaction fee; this is charged when the transaction is in foreign currency including cash withdrawal
  • cash advance / withdrawal fee; pretty self-explanatory
  • interest rate; pretty much all credit cards will start charging interest immediately for cash withdrawal

The aim is to avoid these as much as possible.

There are debit cards out there, such as the Orange Everyday VISA, which do not charge international transaction fee and cash advance fee. Interest is not applicable, it is a debit card after all. This is a great option if you can get one.

There are also a number of credit cards, such as the Bankwest Platinum, which do not charge international transaction fee. And if you transfer fund into it and bring the balance into positive, you will not get charged interest as long as your balance stays above $0. You are practically turning it into a debit card for the duration of your travel overseas. Most still charge cash advance fee though. For example, Bankwest charges $4 or 2% whichever is greater per withdrawal. Based on this you’d want to withdraw at least $200 each time to minimise fee.

There are also other products such as theĀ CBA Travel Money Card, which you can get for free if you have a CBA credit card. These are like debit card but in foreign currency so you can lock in the exchange rate prior to your travel. They are geared more for card transactions and still charge cash withdrawal fee.

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