Access money overseas

We are often asked how to carry and access money while travelling. Here’s some ideas:

We’d recommend a prepaid travel card if the country you are visiting uses the available currencies. Wise cards have become very popular as it is app based and you can top up and convert 40+ currencies at mid market rates in real time. It can be used with Google and Apple Pay as a digital card on your phone. Wise don’t charge ATM withdrawal fees up to NZD$350 per month.

Cash Passport is an alternative offered by Mastercard and can be purchased in 9 foreign currencies  EUR/USD/GBP/CAD/AED/JPY/AUD/SGD/HKD. You lock in exchange rates each time you load and reload.

There are also Onesmart cards from Air New Zealand – the main benefit of these is that you earn 1 Airpoints Dollar for each NZD$100 spent overseas on your purchases. You can load up to 8 foreign currencies – EUR/USD/GBP/CAD/JPY/AUD/SGD/HKD. It’s also underwritten by Mastercard.

In those instances, get local cash from ATMs where possible, when you run out use your credit card, and as a last resort exchange some cash at a money changer (avoiding the booths in the airport).

Withdrawing cash from ATM’s is the most convenient and you usually will get the best ‘interbank’ conversion rate this way. However, there are several fees – a “Currency Conversion fee” charged for withdrawing foreign currency and you may also be charged a Local ATM Fee – by the local bank  for using their ATM when you’re not a member of their network.

There is a “Global ATM Alliance” – a joint venture between several international banks which allows clients to make free overseas ATM withdrawals. In New Zealand, the only current member is Westpac. They have an electronic account that has no monthly fee and no transaction fees. Once you have an account with Westpac, you can withdraw money from any alliance member’s ATMs. The Global ATM Alliance doesn’t cover all countries, and currently has no banks in Asia.

ANZ has branches throughout Australia and Asia and other parts of the world, and if you’re an ANZ customer you can withdraw from their ATMs without paying fees.

With both an ANZ and Westpac account, you should be able to enjoy free ATM withdrawals throughout a good portion of the world.

Remember also – if your Eftpos card has a PLUS or Cirrus symbol on the back, you can use it at any ATM in the world marked with those two symbols (most are).

We recommend that you always tell your bank that you are travelling, and to which countries, so you won’t have your card blocked for ‘suspicious’ transactions.

Also, when using your credit card and the vendor/ATM asks if you would like to pay in NZD, say no as most of the time there will be a big markup on the rate, and it will be cheaper to just let your credit card handle the conversion for you. You will find this practice to be very popular in airports.