Debit & Credit Cards for Aussies Travelling

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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 

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Pre-Packing

So. You want all the “fun” of packing without the actual reward of a trip?

Then pre-packing is for you! ๐Ÿ™‚

We purchased the very small Ricardo Superlight Carry On Spinner. Here is a similar suitcaseย on Costco.com – Here is a post re that suitcase from a new blog I just discovered – Costco Couple. Ours is slightly lighter at 6.4 pounds or 2.9kg.

This is probably the smallest suitcase we have ever travelled with. So we wanted to make sure we would be able to fit in everything we needed to. In particular running shoes needed to fit in because we want to wear boots on the plane – we are going to the Mauna Kea summit on the Big Island, where it has just begun to snow – as seen in this post on A Darker View.

Boots are not usually something I would take to Hawaii but in this instance I feel justified. In every day life, I am a huge boots person, even in summer when it is 39 degrees I will sometimes wear them because I have many outfits which go with my boots. Mine are super comfortable, leather, worn in and I can walk many miles in them, and I am happy to wear them on the plane because they do not smell, yay!

So here is a fascinating fact about myself and my partner. We have the same size feet. I am a 10-11 womens and he is an 8-9 mens. I can wear his shoes, he could wear mine but given what I choose it is unlikely, lol. Currently I have a pair of hot pink Skechers, he has a pair of blue and black ones. They fit pretty neatly into the suitcase.

Can you believe I have been wearing these sneakers pretty much every day for over a year now and they still look like I just took them out of the box? I do not wear them for workouts – I have a specific pair of Adidas which I got for $29.99 last trip for that – but I do wear them to work and out running errands.

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Shoes go in first. Then we needed to work out a list of what we needed to take. It will be 3 nights (4 days) before we can get to a shopping centre. I’ll put the list up as a separate post when I get a chance. However here is what we ended up with.

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I’ll be taking all the clothes out and giving them a final wash and they will be packed into ziploc bags before we go. The shoes are currently needed, so they were taken out after we finished. The day before we leave, they will be cleaned, pretty much sanitised, wiped over with anti bacterial wipes and a few drops of essential oils (peppermint & sweet orange) dropped inside.

We still have some space in there even with all the stuff we are taking and while this bag probably looks big in the photos it is *tiny* in real life. I am flat out shocked we managed to fit all our stuff in there. Plus, when we weighed it, it was a mere 10.7kg – that is including the 2.9kg that the bag weighs!

So, if you want to spend a couple of hours having fun “discussions” with your other half about the virtues of one pair of shorts VS a different pair of shorts, and why one needs so many pairs of underwear, and other fun topics weeks ahead of your trip so that you can avoid having these discussions the day before you leave, might I suggest you have a crack at pre-packing. ๐Ÿ™‚

Don’t worry, you will still have the fun of packing your carry on the night before. Though you could mostly pre-pack that too – with the exception of your electronics and money wallet. I’ll have a try at pre-packing the carryon this week.

Financials Updated

I have just updated the Financials page with some actual figures from some of the things I have now paid for and booked. FYI. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I will like now to mention a small financial setback which has occurred – one of our cats became quite ill. She has spent over a week at the vets on IV fluids and having tests done.

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A very grumpy face on arrival home from 7 straight days at the vets

Of course, as it is me, my cat cannot have something normal wrong with her – she got something which is really rare for cats, pancreatitis. This is good news because it was fixable, and it was not caused by cancer which is also great news.

It was bad news money wise – over 2 thousand in vet fees. Of course I paid it without a quibble, she is my much loved pet. And I managed to do it without touching my savings, which currently is sitting at $7099. It did mean I could not add anything to the savings for a couple of weeks, so I am a little behind. I plan to try and catch it up – and to that end, I have grabbed an extra shift each week at work – one last week, one next week.

However I was already working 5 shifts a week the past few weeks, so adding in that extra shift means I am working 6 shifts each week. They are only 6 hours long but they are very tiring. It also means I have a bit less time to research and blog, sorry all!

I’m going to need a holiday to get over preparing for the holiday and then taking the holiday. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway I do have the prepacking post coming up which I finally finished, and then I want to do a post for you on no international fee credit cards. After that it might get a bit quiet around here while we take our trip. I will try to make sure at least one photo gets posted each day leading up to and during the trip, if I can.

Riding TheBus On Oahu

English: A TheBus New Flyer DE40LFR bus crossi...

English: A TheBus New Flyer DE40LFR bus crossing Nimitz Highway on Bishop Street in downtown Honolulu. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While searching for bus info, I stumbled across this excellent Wiki-How post on how to ride TheBus on Oahu –

How to Ride TheBus in Oahu, Hawaii

TheBus is an excellent way of getting about. Here is a link directly to TheBus website.

Fares

There is a 4 day pass which can be purchased for $25US for unlimited bus rides. If you choose to buy this, it makes sense to build your itinerary for those 4 days around things you wish to access via TheBus.

Alternatively, you can pay per trip. Fares can be found here. For most riders, you will pay $2.50 for a one-way trip and you are also entitled to one 2 hour transfer per fare which you can use on other buses for the next 2 hours.

Obun Hawaii produces an excellent brochure for TheBus which can be purchased at ABC stores for $5 or so (the Japanese version is more expensive) which advises on how to get to all the locations a tourist might want to go to. If you cannot see it, ask the person behind the counter.

One other resource that you can use is the Google Maps, however, there have been reports that the results can be a bit less than accurate.

There is also this visitor quick reference guide available online from TheBus.

However TheBus does have some downsides –ย 

– You cannot take luggage on TheBus so it is not suitable for airport rides unless you have carry on only

– Cell phones must be on silent or vibrate mode

– You may not consume food or drinks while on board

– TheBus stops a lot, and what seems like a short trip on a map can take much longer than expected, eating up valuable vacation time

– The rules are pretty strict and you can face a $500 fine for breaking them!

– Some buses to popular locations can get very full – EG the bus that goes to the KCC Farmers Market on a Saturday morning will be standing room only and there will come a point where they will stop picking up and you will have to wait for the next bus to come along.. For these buses if you need to sit for health reasons it would be best to try and get on them before they pass through the heart of Waikiki which is where they will fill up with people. The Ilikai stop is probably your best chance of getting a seat if you require one.

In order to get about –

You have to choose the option that is going to work best for you on your holiday. For many of us Aussies we do not want to hire a car because we will be driving on the wrong side of the car, on the wrong side of the road. There are many options to get about including TheBus, shuttle buses like VIPtrans, tours, taxis, flat rate transport operators who will give you a fixed price before you go (eg Hawaii23, Johnnycab, ABC Limo Service)

If in doubt Ask –

– If you want to know before you go, you can ask on the Tripadvisor forums and you will usually get a reply

– You can try emailing your hotel for specific answers before you leave, your success with this option may depend on how busy they are

– Your hotel concierge once you arrive will always be able to assist you with transport queries

– Tourist maps are available for free in most locations, many of the free magazines you can find at the airport, in your hotel lobby, on the streets of Waikiki will have maps available

Ziploc Bags Are Awesome

Here is something you did not know about me, until now.

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A lot of my underwear is sparkly. Plus, it is in pretty amazing condition seeing as these have been my wears since 2011 now. This is by no means the full extent of my underwear – what you are seeing is 7 pairs, plus one bra that snuck into my underwear drawer as an accident – I was trying to get a good range of colours.

The ones I wear the most of these you see here are the ones that look like a watercolor painting with grey lace edging – that is by Maidenform which is one brand you should become familiar with if you plan to visit the US – we do not have it here in Australia as far as I know.

The sparkly ones are Vanity Fair Illumination. Both of these brands are available at Macys and often found on the clearance rack.

All of the underwear you see here cost me less than $5 per pair US, in most cases it was on the clearance rack for $2-3.

So why am I showing you my underwear? It is to show you that you can use a Ziploc bag to pack it into a smaller space. You can squeeze a lot of air out of the ziploc bag – you can even use a vacuum to suck more air out of it, if you wanted to.

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This is a standard quart sized Ziploc bag. This is the one you use to carry on your liquids. To help you work out what size you need if you can only get a glad bag, here are the measurements of the Ziploc in centimetres.

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So, you roll your underwears up all pretty like, and place them inside the ziploc. Then you seal most of the top, and squeeze out as much of the air as you can.

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Sitting on the bag seems to do the most good if you do not have a vacuum handy. I do not tend to vacuum pack because I never know if I will have access to one on the other end.

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Why would you want to do this?

Here are a couple of quick and good reasons –

1. So that you have more space in your carryon.

2. So you can easily find your underwear.

3. So when you unpack your bag, you can keep the underwear in the ziploc in your drawer – keeps them neat and tidy.

4. If you label the clean ziploc clean, take a spare ziploc and label it worn, you can put your worn underwear together in there – for ease of taking to the laundromat, or for packing to take home and knowing which ones are dirty and need washing.

5. You can take this concept and run with it, through all your packing. You might want to get some larger ziplocs if you are going to do this – I have the extra big “gallon” sized ones for this purpose.

Speaking of neat and tidy, what if you have to rummage through your carryon at security? What if they ask you to take everything out of your bag because you have something that they want to take a closer look at? Have you ever seen those people with their underwear all over the counter? Pack it this way, that won’t be you. People won’t even know what is in that ziploc unless they get up close and personal with it.

More awesome uses for ziploc bags will be coming to you as a surprise over the next few weeks. ๐Ÿ™‚