How to minimise credit card & FX fees

Choose your credit card wisely to avoid those nasty post-travel shocks when you get your credit card bill.


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  2. Australia Post has a new pre-paid multi-currency Visa cash pasport called a “Load&Go” card. It’s similar to the OzForex Mastercard in that there’s no load or reload fee, however this card only supports 5 currencies (Australian Dollars, New Zealand Dollars, United States Dollars, Euros and British Pounds), compared with OzForexs’ 9 currencies. This card has no establishment fee, but there’s an ATM fee of $2 (in addition to any ATM owners’ fee) for cash withdrawal or balance enquiry (Ozforex is $2.95/$1 for cash/balance), and there’s a $4 fee for live operator telephone customer service call, other than for PIN retrieval (Ozforex is free for the first call or if your card has been lost or stolen or you need to reset your password, otherwise $7.95), and a $15 (or less) closure fee. The website provides none of this useful information, instead in you have to drill down into the PDS at Auspost. If you can live with it’s low number of currencies supported this seems to be on paper as good, if not slightly better than the OzForex card.


  3. Edited to include the new charges to 28Degrees from 2014.

    Here are some tips from Beverly, a friend who travels a lot, on taking credit cards overseas. Her advice relates to Australian travellers who want to minimise the quite horrendous international transaction fees that you can be charged for using your credit card overseas (about $4 per transaction plus 2-3% of the transaction value)!

    There’s a good Australian Mastercard credit card, called 28degrees. We find it good for travelling and online overseas shopping because it doesn’t charge any overseas transaction/commission/exchange fees on purchases and also has no annual card fee. Of course, it is a credit card so you’ll get hit with interest charges if you take money out of an ATM here or overseas and the new cash advance fee of the greater of 3% or $4. There’s no interest on Eftpos purchases, and you have up to 55 days interest free. If you limit it’s use to eftpos transactions it’s a good card.

    Citibank has come out with a new account called Citibank Plus which is a normal bank account with a Visa debit card which also doesn’t have any overseas commission/exchange fees so you could take that on your trip and draw out cash from ATMs once you arrive without having to worry about interest charges like with credit cards. It has no account keeping fee (but also pays no interest). You could also use it the same way as a credit card in shops but it comes straight out of your bank account (so remember to load it up before you go). NAB has a similar product with its gold classic account but it charges an account keeping fee.

    Both cards offer fee-free ATM withdrawals at over 3,000 Citibank, Westpac, St George, Bank of Melbourne and Bank SA ATMs around Australia.

    One thing to remember the ATMs overseas will usually have a charge to use them which should come up on the screen when you do the transaction, but straightforward eftpos purchases are fee-free.

    So, in summary, if you have no bias between Visa or Mastercard, it then depends if you intend making a lot of cash advance withdrawals or not. If you aren’t (or you are, but you feel you can keep control of the amount you spend), you could use either card and just load a healthy balance before leaving. The major advantage of the 28Degrees card is that it allows you to delay payment for eftpos purchases by up to 55 days and you don’t have to load it up before you go (if you don’t use it for cash-out), BUT a disadvantage is that foreign amounts are converted to USD first, then to Australian dollars, so there is the possibility of losing something on a double exchange (more noticeable for larger amounts), and the new charges for cash-outs.

    The best compromise seems to be to use the Citibank for ATM cash-out (loading it with currency before you go), and then use the 28Degrees for eftpos transactions.

  4. Qantas Card
    This is a new card which is combined with your frequent card. It’s quite difficult to work out how it all works from the marketing material, but this is a brief simplistic summary which doesn’t include all the nitty gritty details:

    Initial Load/Reload and subsequent BPay reload fee: None. This is good, as there’s few cards with no fees.
    EFTPOS and ATM withdrawal fees in Australia: None (apart from possible ATM owners fees)
    International ATM Fees: Different for each currency eg. EUR1.50, USD1.95
    8 Currencies supported: USD, GBP, EUR, NZD, SGD, KHD, CAD, JPY
    Cash over the counter fee: $AUD10 approx
    Monthly inactivity fee: $1 after 12 months of inactivity
    FX fees: This is where it gets complicated. When you load/reload money into a currency other than AUD, which would be the main point of using this card, you will be charged a FX Fee (+margin) determined by Qantas/Access. This seem to be a worrying grey area as this fee is calculated on the day, and I don’t believe there’s any way for a non-Cash Card user to find out how competitive these rates are.
    If you spend in a currency not supported by the card, or you exceed your available currency and have to transfer funds from a different currency on the card to make up the difference you will be charged the normal Mastercard FX rate + 3%.

    This card has a few very good features, and a few very worring FX fees.