Debit & Credit Cards for Aussies Travelling


I used my NAB visa debit and NAB Visa credit card on my first two trips to Hawaii.

Some months later, when I went back to look at how much a specific thing cost me on the statements, I suddenly found there were all these international transaction fees which I had not seen at the time I was there or when I returned. NAB charges a 2.5% fee on international transactions *plus* 2% foreign transaction fee per currency conversion plus a 1% processing fee on any international transactions.

That right there is $55 dollars per thousand you will never see again, and that is without actually considering what the exchange rate is at the time.

These all appeared as separate fees for each transaction, so it would look like small amounts but they really added up.. This plus exchange rates meant for example, when I recently booked a tour which cost $480 it ended up costing me over $50 more due to exchange rates being not so great at the time (NAB were giving 88 cents per USD when the USD was at 93 cents, so you lose 5 cents per dollar right there and then the fees on top of that! EGADS!)

They also charge a $4 fee for atm withdrawals, and a $1 fee to simply check your balance! So I was pretty sure this time, I wanted to find other options. I found 3, and I ended up going with 2 of them so I would have options.

Check Before You Go –

So to learn from my mistake, you want to do some investigation into the fees and charges your bank will be charging you. Most of them have this information on their website. Some of them put the fees into different categories, just to make it more difficult to figure out. NAB is one of those – first they have the Service Charges then the NAB international transaction fee.

So make sure to read the *entire* fees and charges document, in case they have split things up so more charges will come to you as a surprise.

What works for you –ย 

might not be the same as what works for me, and I do not pretend in any way to be providing financial advice here. You should seek your own financial advice from someone qualified to provide it. ๐Ÿ™‚

What I am saying is these particular accounts exist, I have looked into them and found out they will work for me, and you might want to check them out and see if they would work for you.

Most Important Thing Of All –ย 

You *must* be aware of what your current setup is going to charge you in fees, and budget accordingly.

Nobody wants to end up eating instant noodles on vacation because fees came to you as an unpleasant surprise and ate up money you had depended on being available.

Visa Debit Card Choice –ย 

For a Visa Debit card, I chose the Citibank Plus Visa Debit card – Whirlpool Knowledge Base has a good summary of the card features – click here to read it. Whirlpool is a great site for finding this stuff out – they have a travel lounge where people can ask these kinds of questions and get Aussie centric results.

For me, the most important card feature for the Citibank Plus is –

Citibank charges no fees at all for transactions made at International ATMs (Some bank operators may charge a fee at the ATM, this is not a Citibank charge โ€“ many operators have fee free ATMs overseas) or In Store purchases. There are no withdrawal fees or commission rates at all.

So my plan is to load most of my cash on the Citibank card.

Citibank Plus was a bit of a hassle to set up because they need to do an ID check – don’t bother with the online ID check, it does not work in my experience. You are better off printing out the form and taking it to the post office, it is much quicker than waiting the 48 working hours to see if the online check worked.

You can apply for a Citibank Plus card here.

Credit Card Choice –ย 

For a credit card, I went with the 28 Degrees Mastercard via GE. This has many of the same features of the Citibank plus card, but it is a proper credit card and I wanted one of those for things like deposits where they are going to place a hold on the account etc.

With the Citibank card it can take up to 10 days to get hold money back. I am not a fan of that plan, so I did want to have a credit card option as well.

You can apply for a 28 Degrees Mastercard here.

Kthxbai for now, NAB –

I will put the NAB cards somewhere safe in case of emergency or something dire happening, but my plan is to not use them at all on this trip.

One other option –ย 

The other option considered was the BankWest Zero Platinum card – I did apply for it and got it approved but it was on the backburner of my mind and I forgot to activate the cards, 3 months later they cancelled my accounts! Not optimal.

I will leave you with – some screenshots of my NAB statements for 2011 –ย 

nab1 nab2