Managing your money

Be money smart when you’re abroad

4 min read


When you’re travelling overseas, one of the biggest headaches can be the simple act of spending money -- or rather, how to do it wisely and safely. Here are our best tips for being money smart while overseas.

Cash or Card?

Minimise the risk of being stuck without money overseas by taking a mix of both cash and cards, that way you’re covered should you lose one, or even if you come across places that don’t accept plastic.

Tip: Credit cards offer extra protection. They offer a zero fraud liability guarantee which means you’re covered for any fraudulent transactions as long as you’ve complied with the terms of service and some even come with free travel insurance.

Buy cash before you leave NZ

Even though getting cash out at an ATM once you arrive is easy, it’s a good idea to take at least some foreign currency with you. This means you’ll be able to get the best deal on exchange rates and fees, and ticks an item off the to-do list when you first arrive.

Tip: You can order foreign cash online and then pick it up in store to avoid unnecessary delays. Some BNZ ATMs in Auckland and Wellington also dispense Australian dollars.

Take a backup card

When it comes to overseas travel, don’t put all your financial eggs in one basket -- along with cash, take a couple of cards with you. The second card could be a credit card or your debit card, but whatever it is, the peace of mind having alternative access to money brings, will be invaluable should disaster strike.

Tip: Make sure you don’t keep both cards in the same place. Take one with you when shopping and leave the backup in the hotel safe if possible.

Load your bank accounts onto your credit card

If you haven’t done this already, make sure you load access to your bank accounts onto your credit card. This is not only convenient, but will be more cost effective than getting a cash advance off your credit card. With your regular accounts loaded, you can simply choose ‘cheque’ or ‘savings’ at an ATM. It’s also a handy safety net should you lose your debit card.

Tip: Contact your bank or card issuer before you leave and let them know where you’re travelling and when. That way they’ll know it’s you using your card overseas and not some criminal. If the bank doesn’t know it’s you, you run the risk of having your card temporarily blocked as your bank tries to ascertain whether there’s fraud being committed.

Be smart when using overseas ATMs

Be vigilant when withdrawing money from ATMs. Avoid placing yourself in unnecessary physical danger by using ATMs that are in out of the way places like darkened alleys. Also, be on the lookout for potential skimming devices that may have been attached to an ATM.

Tip: If you have a BNZ card, try and use it in any BNZ ATM as soon as possible after returning home. BNZ ATMs and cards use special liquid encryption technology that changes the information stored on the card’s magnetic strip, rendering card skimming scams useless.

Use a Cash Passport

A Cash Passport is a bit like a credit card, except you preload it with funds before you leave. Even better, you can load up to nine different currencies onto the card if you know you’ll be hitting multiple destinations in your travels. Cash Passports can be used to pay for stuff anywhere that accepts Mastercard and you can also get cash out at an ATM.

Tip: If a Cash Passport sounds like your cup of tea, you can start loading foreign currency onto it well in advance of your travels. That way you can get the most of favourable exchange rates.

Be fee savvy

Fees can mount up when travelling, so ensure you’re aware of how you may be affected. In addition to having to do the maths on currency exchange with each transaction, you may find some ATMs will bring extra fees on top of those charged by your own bank.

Tip: Ensure you have written down your bank’s phone number to call from overseas and don’t forget to take you second factor authentication (for BNZ this is your NetGuard card) so that you can access internet banking. Avoid public Wi-Fi networks for accessing sensitive information wherever possible.


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Whether you want a card that earns rewards or a low interest rate, BNZ has got you covered.

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