The best and worst ways to access money overseas

In the past, travellers’ cheques were the most popular way to access your money overseas. Today, travellers rely on credit cards and ATM withdrawals because of the better exchange rates and lower fees. Cameron Blair lists the best and worst ways to access money overseas.

Credit cards

Pros: They are best for large purchases such as airline tickets, hotel bills, car rentals and restaurant meals. Credit card purchases are exchanged at usually the best rate you can get for currency exchange.

Cons: Some restaurants, shops and hotels won’t accept credit cards. It is only local shops who may or tiny food places who will not accept them. Good for emergencies, easily used in many restaurants and hotels. Make sure the card does not leave your sight as they are easily compromised by unscrupulous merchants. If withdrawing money from an ATM you will also be subject to any charges your credit card company imposes. Make sure you’ve made arrangements to pay the upcoming bill if you are away for a long time!

Debit cards

Pros: They are best for getting cash in local currency. Withdrawing money from ATMs using a debit card is the cheapest and easiest way to get cash.

Cons: With each withdrawal you make you will be subject to currency conversion fees, foreign ATM fees or other charges from your bank or the local bank that owns the ATM. If your card is lost or stolen you may not have the same protection as a credit card would and it is quite difficult to replace


Pros: Cash is best for the first 1-2 days of your trip until you find an ATM. It can handle your immediate expenses such as buying a meal or taking a taxi to your hotel.

Cons: You may not get a great conversion rate and you may also have to pay fees or commissions. You can get cash from the airport before you leave but try your local bank first as they may waive fees for certain account holders. It is also not a good idea to be carrying around lots of cash when you get to your destination. Around $100-$150 worth of local currency cash is suggested.

Wire Transfers

Pros: Places like Western Union have made a fortune off stranded travellers reaching out for help when they’ve found themselves in a bad situation. They are a quick way of getting out of a pinch quickly. Should only be used in an emergency.

Cons: Expensive transaction fees

The best and worst ways to access money overseas

First and foremost, let your bank know when and where you’re travelling overseas to avoid a temporary hold being placed on your cards. This really is the best/worst ways to access money overseas.

Do your homework and don’t leave purchasing your foreign cash, cards or traveller’s cheques to the last minute.

Take a combination of foreign cash, your credit card and your debit card. This way you will never be stranded without access to your funds.

Ensure you have requested a PIN for your debit card and credit cards.

Consult your bank and consider locking in your exchange rates up-front with foreign cash or your travel cards. This way you know exactly how much currency you have to spend.

If you need to increase your credit limit, arrange it before you leave the country.

If you plan to transact on your account while overseas, make sure it is linked as the primary savings account on your debit credit card or keycard. The primary savings account is the account you access when you press the ‘savings’ option at an ATM or at the checkout.

Download your bank’s app onto your smartphone/tablet so you can manage your accounts while you’re overseas. Alternatively, you can read this article published by the Huffington Post on Bank Safety

Finally, arrange travel insurance to cover you in case the unexpected occurs!