4 Best Ways to Take and Access Money Overseas

Back in the early 1990’s when I  backpacked around Europe the main ways to take and access your travel money abroad were cash, a traveller’s cheque and putting your credit card into debit.

These days traveller’s cheques are no longer in use and the banks charge hefty fees for each withdrawal you make through your credit card – even if it is in debit.

So how should you carry your hard-earned holiday savings whilst you travel and keep your money safe when overseas?

In this Article About How to Take Money Overseas You’ll Learn:

Travel tips and ideas on how to take holiday money overseas when you travel on a vacation. The pros and cons for 4 ways to access travel money abroad.
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Options for Taking Money Abroad

1. Cash

The most basic form of taking money overseas is cash.  However, you do run the risk of your wad of cash being stolen.  To prevent your entire bounty of holiday cash from being stolen utilise the hotel safe or hostel lockers.  Then take only small amounts (eg. a couple of hundred dollars) with you for each day.

As you are overseas you will no doubt have to exchange your money for local currency.  Visit a reputable exchange booth to ensure your transaction is correct.  Be wary of the small hole-in-the-wall exchange booths that offer great exchange rates.  Always count your money after the transaction and before leaving the booth.  If there is any discrepancy this is the time to make it known.  Put your money into your RFID travel wallet* before leaving the exchange booth.


I also recommend you exchange small amounts of cash into your holiday destination’s currency either before leaving home or immediately upon arrival.  You will be quite surprised with the little things you need cash for straight away eg. tipping, buying public transport tickets or taxi fares – you can’t always use credit cards, debit cards or travel cards for some of these things.

Find out which is the…

2. Credit Card

Having a credit card is great for pre-travel arrangements.  You can book your flights, hotels and tours directly through online booking sites like Booking.com* and GetYourGuide* or through individual travel company websites.  Of course, at the end of the calendar month, you receive a bill to pay back the amount credited to you by the credit card company.  I recommend you try to pay back the full amount at the end of each month to ensure you don’t pay any interest.

If you choose to access cash through your credit card whilst travelling overseas you may be charged interest at the time of the transaction plus international ATM access fees.  The exchange rate for your cash withdrawal or purchase is the best available on the date the transaction occurred.  Please refer to your credit card supplier for further details.

I recommend, that you take your credit card when on holiday as a backpack plan.  It is handy to pay the refundable hotel deposits that otherwise will eat into your holiday travel money should you pay by cash, debit card or travel card.  Plus it’s also handy if you run short of holiday money.

Before you travel don’t forget to advise your bank that you are going on holiday.  This will prevent your credit card from being frozen, as your bank may think there is fraudulent overseas activity taking place, not knowing that it is you.  Many banks now offer an online form to complete.  The form asks for details including your travel destination and your dates away.  This is also good should your credit card get skimmed whilst away and some bad person tries to access your funds after you return from holiday.  Your bank will know that you are now back from your travels and that the transaction is fraudulent.

3. Debit Card

The debit card works in the same way as your credit card except that you deposit your cash onto the card, and there is no credit limit.  So whilst you won’t incur any interest fees from cash withdrawals from ATM’s you may incur international transaction fees.  Again the exchange rate will be the best available on the date of the withdrawal.  Refer to your bank for more details.  Also, advise your bank that you are travelling overseas.

4. Prepaid Travel Card

These work similarly to debit cards because you put your own money onto them.  The difference between a debit card and a travel card is, at the time of depositing your cash into the card you choose the currency you would like to access on your holiday.  The exchange that is used is the one at the time of depositing your cash, not the withdrawal.  Therefore, when planning to use these options watch the exchange rates, when the best exchange rate becomes available this is your time to deposit your holiday travel money.

Once you are overseas you can access your money/cash through an ATM withdrawal.  Some prepaid travel cards may charge an ATM fee and others may not.  The prepaid travel card also gives you the option of being able to pay for items like tours and hotels just like a debit card.

You also have the added security of knowing that if your travel card is stolen you can arrange a replacement card.  Please note there may be fees attached to the replacement and the replacement card could take a few days to arrive.  Personally, I would suggest you have an additional backup card, safely packed away in the hotel safe or hostel locker.

You can get a prepaid travel card from your bank, the post office or an official travel exchange booth.  Please ensure you read all terms and conditions when choosing your card.

Top Trip Tips: Taking Money Abroad

  • Read all terms and conditions related to the use of your credit, debit or prepaid card.
  • Review your hotel accommodations’ in-room facilities – do you have a safe or locker?
  • Take the safest travel wallet possible suitable for your travel style.
  • Keep an eye on the exchange rate during the lead-up to your trip and whilst on holiday.
  • Stay vigilant and aware whilst in currency exchange facilities and ATM booths.
Travel tips and ideas on how to take holiday money overseas when you travel on a vacation. The pros and cons for 4 ways to access travel money abroad. Cash, credit card, debit card, prepaid travel card
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  • I am not a financial professional.  This is just a guide to help get you to get started with the options for organising how to access and take your money overseas when you travel.  Please ensure you read all Terms and Conditions before choosing your credit card, debit card or prepaid travel card.
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  1. These tips are so awesome and practical, Sally-Ann! Which is your favourite way to accessing money abroad?

    1. Thanks Agness, these days I use a credit card to pay the hotels and debit card to access cash.

  2. Great tips! I used to work in a bank and used to tell travelers not to buy travelers cheques because they were no longer in use. You wouldn’t believe the amount of older travelers who still want to use them, come back from their trip and have to cash them in bc no one would accept them. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. I can’t believe the bank sold the traveller’s cheques knowing they couldn’t be cashed. A bit of a rort.

  3. A prepaid travel card seems like a good option if your bank charges you a lot for an withdrawal. We carry some cash with us when we travel, after all Cash is King, as they say. Most of the time we use our credit cards for purchases abroad, or we withdraw cash from our debit card directly into the respective country’s currency. Our banks here in the USA don’t charge us but a few dollars for withdrawals, so it’s not a problem. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. You’re lucky Anda that your bank doesn’t charge much in fees, for the debit card. The only problem would be if you were withdrawing money frequently whilst away then the fees could start to add up. It sounds like you’ve worked out the balance to keep all those fees to a minimum.

  4. I had not heard of a travel card. This is an interesting concept. We typically use our credit/debit card. #weeklypostcard

    1. Do you incur any fees attached with your credit and debit cards when withdrawing cash overseas Laryssa?

  5. Good tips! I use a Charles Schwab bank account which allows for withdrawals in any country with no fees and also a Bank Of America Travel Credit Card that also has no fees. It’s great for me since I live out of the country. Thanks again #TheWeeklyPostCard

    1. Thanks for the tips on some more financial institutions that offer travel cards with no fees to access your money Victoria.

  6. A helpful post with good points Sally-Ann. We also find our Qantas Cash cards useful and as we travel to France a lot we have French bank accounts connected to credit cards. All so much easier than the days when we travelled with AMEX travellers cheques! #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. I hadn’t thought of opening a foreign bank account Annette. That’s a really good tip if you are visiting the same overseas country all the time.

  7. Totally agree with all of your points! If I have to exchange cash, I prefer to do the bulk of it in-country, as I figure you’ll get a better rate (demand for your currency exceeding supply, etc.). Also away from airports. But sometimes you get the same rates in the airport as outside it!

    1. Yes, the rule is usually exchanging your cash away from the airport Michelle. But as you mention there are a few exceptions to the rule. We’ve travelled to Bali a few times and have discovered the some of the best exchange rates on the island are at the airport.

  8. Agree you do need to be careful and watch out on the fees. I have a credit card that does not charge a foreign transaction fee so I try to use that as much as possible. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    1. Yes there are a few credit cards that don’t charge the transaction fee Anisa. You just have to read the fine print for each card before making your choice.

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