Managing your money

Guide to travel money cards

3 min read


Making the most of your money when travelling abroad isn’t always the easiest thing to figure out. There are fees, currency conversion rates and card acceptance to deal with. While cash, credit cards and debit cards offer many advantages when travelling, for everyday purchases, a travel money card might be worth considering.

What is a travel money card?

A travel money card is a prepaid debit card that you load with money before you leave home. Once loaded with money it can be used to buy goods and services in stores and online just as you would with an ordinary credit or debit card. It can also be used to get cash out at an ATM.

How is it different from an ordinary card?

They’re actually very similar to credit and debit cards, in fact, the Cash Passport (we’ll look at this in more detail below), is a Mastercard. The big difference to credit and debit cards is that they are prepaid -- instead of paying for things using credit or money sitting in your bank account, you’re paying with money you’ve already loaded onto the card. What’s more, you can preload the card with multiple foreign currencies if you know you’ll be hitting more than one destination.

Prepay for your foreign currency

By loading foreign currency onto a travel money card like Cash Passport, you can lock in a good exchange rate before you leave home. This means you can budget more accurately while you’re overseas and, since you’re paying in local money, you don’t need to worry about the mental arithmetic that people normally have to do to figure out the true cost of something at the counter.

Load up with multiple foreign currencies

If you’re travelling to a number of different countries you could buy all your foreign cash before you leave. The Cash Passport can be loaded with up to nine different currencies including US dollars, Great British pounds, Euro, Japanese yen, Canadian dollars, Singapore dollars, Hong Kong dollars, Australian dollars and, of course, New Zealand dollars.
Where can I get a travel money card?

Cash Passport is perhaps the most common travel money card and is available over the counter at many outlets, including banks. It’s accepted anywhere Mastercard is and can be used at overseas ATMs to withdraw cash without fees (unless the ATM provider charges a fee themselves). And since you’ll be paying in local currency, there’s no currency conversion fee. Naturally, there are some fees to be aware of, so it’s worth familiarising yourself with these at the Cash Passport website.

Air New Zealand OneSmart is very similar to Cash Passport, in fact, if you collect Airpoints, you may already have one. You can find more details on their website.

How do I get money onto the card?

This is as simple as doing an internet banking transfer so you can load more cash onto the card using internet banking while you’re travelling. Just remember that in some cases it can take a couple of days to show up, so allow yourself enough time should you do this. You can also transfer currency already loaded on your card, so if you run out of US dollars but you have some Canadian dollars sitting there, you can easily convert.

Money travel tips

● When travelling take a mix of cash and cards and always take a backup card if possible.
● Make sure your travel insurance is up to date.
● With cash, just as with a Cash Passport, you can pre purchase foreign currency before you leave to lock in a good rate.
● For travel to Australia, some BNZ ATMs in Auckland and Wellington dispense Australian dollars.
● Always notify your bank of your travel plans.
● If offered the choice of paying in local currency or NZ dollars when using a credit/debit or travel card, it’s always better to pay in local currency to avoid unfavourable conversion rates.
● Always take your NetGuard card (or other second factor authentication your internet banking may require) when travelling overseas.


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