Be money smart when you’re abroad

When you’re 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 tips for being money smart while abroad.

4-minute read

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 if you come across places that don’t accept plastic.

Credit cards offer extra protection. As with debit cards, 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 credit cards 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’ve ticked an item off the to-do list when you first arrive. You can order foreign cash online and then pick it up in store to avoid unnecessary delays.

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 of having alternative access to money will be invaluable if disaster strikes.

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 some ATMs. It’s also a handy safety net should you lose your debit card. Please note, this service isn’t available in all countries. It is only available at some ATMs, and not at terminals.

Let us know

Contact us before you leave and let us know where you’re travelling and when. That way we’ll know it’s you using your card overseas and not a criminal. If we don't know it’s you, you run the risk of having your card temporarily blocked as we try to ascertain whether there’s fraud being committed.

Use 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, but in local currency. It can also be used to get cash out at an ATM.

The big difference from credit and debit cards is that travel money cards 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.

Cash Passport is perhaps the most common travel money card and is available over the counter at many outlets, including BNZ stores. 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.

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.

And finally…

Ensure you have written down your bank’s phone number to call from overseas and don’t forget to take your 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.