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Finance and money

Finance and money forum

curreny and which cards to take to S.E.A...help me!!

Posted by owenbooy84 on 20/2/2009 at 10:57

im off to k.l,thailand,cambodia,vietnam,laos etc for up too 7months.i've got a bankwest credit and direct debit card,im also thinking of getting a cash pass port from the post office.but i'm not sure what to put on it ????usd or ausd???
when i put my money on this card i can either put ausd on there en it will go up en down with the market.
or put usd on there en it will be on that days currency rate (fixed).Untill i put more usd on there,then it will change to the currency rate of that day for the usd...please help.im lost.cheers

#1 owenbooy84 has been a member since 20/2/2009. Location: Australia. Posts: 5

Posted by brucemoon on 23/2/2009 at 08:09


You can pretty well do anything. However, the issue is not what to do, but how much the transaction costs will be.

For example, in Cambodia (but especially Siem Reap) the ATM charge is US$5 per transaction. In Vietnam, the transaction charge is about 20,000 VN Dong per transaction.

And, in Cambodia, the withdrawal limit is generally US$300, while in Vietnam it is around 4million dong - except at the ANZ bank where it is 9million dong.

It matters little what denomination you organise, when you transact into a foreign currency electronically your bank will use Visa, Mastercard or Travelex to determine the exchange rate. The worst rate ALWAYS is Travelex. Visa used to be best, but they are creaming a little extra these days.

So, if you go to an ATM in Thailand and withdraw money from a DEBIT account, your bank will charge a fee (usually about A$4 or A$5) per transaction. Say you withdrew A$500 from your DEBIT account from a Thai ATM, then the 'exchanger' (say Visa) will exchange the A$500 into Baht at the exchange rate that Visa posts for the day (every day is different). Today, the international 'exchange rate is A$1 = 22.897baht. Yesterday Visa was exchanging at A$1 = 23.10baht. BUT, your bank will have an agreement with Visa to take a percentage (anything up to 5%). So, the actual exchange rate will be as above less the percentage that your bank will charge.

NOTE: most Australian banks are very coy at telling you the 'take agreement' they have with Visa.

The Visa exchange rate any day can be found at:


I mention DEBIT card because I've found that to be best.

The 'cash passport' card option is generally (but not always) operated by Travelex. If it's by Travelex, I've found that Travelex are ALWAYS expensive. Today's Travelex rater is A$1 = 21.09 Baht. And, with the 'cash passport' card option, there is a 1% deposit charge and a 1% withdrawal charge. If it's a Visa option, then it may be worthwhile.

Most banks offer a 'cash passport', as do travel agencies.

As for exchange rates, how do you know what's best for you. Will the US$ - A$ rate worsen or get better?

My reading is that it'll probably get better. But, equally, it could get worse for a while: we 'little' people really can't know. In any event, I personally don't believe it will get much worse, and will probably get better.

If you are so interested in locking your 'value', use US$.

My experience is that I try and withdraw as much as I might need for up to a fortnight (to reduce transaction costs) and look at XE.com to see what the exchange rates are. So, when I go from (say) Thailand to Cambodia, I look at XE.com and I then see what I should get in Cambodian currency via money exchange. As the amount I have is usually relatively small, it doesn't matter greatly.

Hope this helps.


#2 brucemoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by brucemoon on 23/2/2009 at 13:35


I rang Bankwest and they charge 2.5% on top of the Visa exchange rate for the debit card, and $5 + 5% for a cash withdrawal on the credit card.

I learnt that for Visa based debit cards most Australian institutions charge around 2 to 3% 'exchange rate fee' as well as an atm withdrawal fee.

To see the visa exchange rate, go to:


* * *

I noted on the 'Choice' website that:

Cash: here’s what getting $1000 of foreign notes could cost:

Cheap credit card

$0 (no conversion or cash advance fees). However, interest would apply from the date of the cash advance and watch for late payment fees; $1000 accruing interest for one month at 13% pa would give an interest bill of around $11. You may be able to avoid this by loading your card with sufficient funds before your trip.

Australian bank

$25 (assuming typical fee and exchange rate margin for foreign notes, adding up to 2.5%).

Standard credit or debit card

$45 (five $200 withdrawals, $4 cash advance fees and 2.5% currency conversion fees). As noted above, interest would also apply.

Prepaid card

$49 to $88 (assuming five $200 withdrawals, 1% to load the card, $3.75 per withdrawal and conversion fees ranging from 2% to 5.95%).

Airport exchange for cash or travellers’ cheques

$80 (exchange rate margin and fees adding up to 8%). Additional fees to cash each travellers’ cheque overseas can range from nil to over $5.


So, the cheapest option seems like a 'pre-loaded' credit card.

Choice also referred to the 'cheapest' O/S option being the Wizard card. Because there is no charges for annual fee, or on cash or transaction withdrawals as long as your account doesn't go into the red. Refer:


But, I don't know the Mastercard exchange rate.


#3 brucemoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by dageshi on 12/3/2009 at 17:16

owen might I suggest that whatever you do make sure you have two working atm cards. if one gets stolen you need a backup.

#4 dageshi has been a member since 1/3/2008. Posts: 56

Posted by fivesilver on 12/3/2009 at 19:54

I'm setting off soon and got a few bits of advice from my bank.

As brucemoon pointed out, the credit card is a good option. My bank told me there are no charges as long as the card stays in credit. So I'm going to load it up before leaving. I also use online banking and I've got a "bill pay" set up, so that I can go online any time and transfer money from my current account (checking account for North Americans) to my Visa card account, to keep it in credit.

Also, as dageshi says, you could get a second ATM card as a backup. Make sure it's enabled for Cirrus or other international use. I just got mine. I was briefly worried that if I lost it I'd have to cancel both ATM cards - thus making the whole backup idea pointless - but that's not the case. The card number and PIN are different from my original card, so if I lose one I just cancel that one.

Finally, as a further layer of (ultra-paranoid) security, I have a second current account, for which I have no ATM card. I'm thinking of keeping the majority of my money in that one. That way, even if someone gets hold of your ATM card AND your PIN, AND gets to an ATM before you can cancel the card, they only have access to a limited amount of your money. I can go online at any time and transfer money from my non-ATM account to my ATM account.

I'll also take a certain amount in traveller's cheques and cash - they'll come in handy at some stage.

So that's my multi-level security system - now if I can figure out a way to stop after five beers, that should be my finances sorted.

#5 fivesilver has been a member since 3/8/2008. Posts: 39

Posted by brucemoon on 13/3/2009 at 03:34


If you're an Australian, your bank teller LIED to you.

First, EVERY Australian bank using Visa takes a cut of around 2.5% of your transaction. The cut is HIDDEN in the exchange rate.

Your bank teller isn't told these 'facts'. So, if you want to know more, you have to contact the head office of the bank.

Second, just trust both CHOICE magazine and I on this one. I was alerted via the CHOICE website, and I have pursued the subject with various banks!

I put the Visa site up, above, look and you'll see you have to put in the 'fee'.

The Wizard Clear Advantage was recommended by CHOICE Magazine as the ONLY credit card that does not charge either as a fee on exchange or for transactions.

So, if you are to put A$1000 into your credit card account, and you use Visa, your bank will take around 2.5%. What could YOU do with that A$25?


#6 brucemoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by neosho on 13/3/2009 at 12:51

Watch your receipts also. Some still print your entire account number on them. I bought a plane ticket home (USA) last year from an agency I have used several times and when I got home home the card company called and wanted to know if I was buying luggage and such in Hong Kong. To the tune on $7000. So either the airline or a Thai bank had a dishonest employee. I don't think it was the agency as they are a very small outfit and I know them. It was also the only time I had used that card in Thailand. Now I do all my transactions at bank branch atm's.

#7 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386

Posted by brucemoon on 13/3/2009 at 14:16


Sounds like you were 'skimmed'.

The term 'skimmed' refers to the situation wherein a person takes your credit card out of your sight and makes a copy of your details (and whatever else they need).

This 'problem' was VERY big some years ago in Asia.

Most banks (+ others) advised:

(1) Do not to let your credit card out of your sight - FOR ANY REASON!

(2) Make sure you look at the electronic 'machine' used for the credit transaction and see if there are 'gadgets' involved. If so, ask that the transaction be done on a 'gadget-less' machine.

(3) If paper is involved (rare nowadays), make sure all the carbon copies are left with you.

(4) If in doubt, but everything seems sort of OK, NEVER use a pin. Always sign. Apparently, while a signature can be copied, more often than not your signature is sufficiently 'distinctive' to show the copy to be that.

I suppose also, that if you are dealing in a location that may be 'inappropriate' then use cash and withdraw later from an ATM (assuming you have a transaction-less ATM account).


#8 brucemoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by fivesilver on 16/3/2009 at 04:25


I'm not Australian, nor am I out to hoodwink unsuspecting Aussies. Still, banks in Ireland lying isn't beyond the realms of possibility (just google Ireland and banks and you'll see what I mean).
I went in to the head office of my bank, Permanent TSB, and checked with them. I was assured they don't charge for ordinary credit card transactions.

#9 fivesilver has been a member since 3/8/2008. Posts: 39

Posted by tunks21 on 19/4/2009 at 07:53

A lot of sound advice so far concerning money management in Thailand, Canmbodia and Laos-thanks to everyone for helping us out. However, we still remain confused with advice from Travelex. We are Australian and will be leaving for SE Asia at the end of June. We were told that to put $AU on our cards. We put the minimum because all advioce tells us to put $US on our cards.
So, which ($A or $US) is the cheapest to cash in these three countries?
Which is the most convenient to carry?
Why would the Travelex advice be to fill up one of their cards with $US?
Advice would be welcome, as we will be away for three months.

#10 tunks21 has been a member since 19/4/2009. Posts: 2

Posted by scamb66 on 19/4/2009 at 15:36

We recently travelled to Vietnam and Malaysia on two different occasions and just put our Mastercard in the black before we went and had a backup credit card and some cash in AUD and USD. We found little use for the usd and arrived home with the bulk of it and had no probs at all with Aussie $$$.
As for the credit cards the withdrawal limits are rather low ($300 in Vietnam)and you may go through it quite quickly (depends on how tight you are). We basically withdrew all the money we needed from ATM and kept the cash as backup.

Bank fees wereas follows.

Vietnam - Less than A$250 on A$4000
Malaysia - A$80 on $1500 spent.

Personally I dont mind paying the fees if I dont have to carry wads of cash around. Maybe not the cheapest way but easy

#11 scamb66 has been a member since 19/4/2009. Posts: 1

Posted by tunks21 on 19/4/2009 at 17:54

We have a Travelex passport card loaded with $A depite our reserve, this following the advice of the salesperson. We now wonder why he seemed so assured that we shoujd have $A on the Passport card, instead of $US. From what we have read, there seems to be wide aggrement that we should have $US on the Travelex passport card, and not $A.

Can anyone help to ease our uncertainty about carrying $A on the Travelex Passport card instead of $US?
Should we return and have this $A amount converted to $US on our Travelex Passport card?

#12 tunks21 has been a member since 19/4/2009. Posts: 2

Posted by somtam2000 on 20/4/2009 at 08:32 admin

I assume the sales person was suggesting you put Australian dollars on it to save you having to exchange to US (which will cost a bit). Once you're in Asia you'll just be needing to do the one conversion when you use it (for eg A$ to THB or A$ to VND) while if you'd put US$ on it, you'd have paid the fee twice (once for A$ to US$ then again to THB).

I think!

#13 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,065

Posted by brucemoon on 20/4/2009 at 18:02


Where do you live?

I'd love to sell you things, you sound so gullible.

You appear to have lots of money to throw away.

Perhaps you haven't read all of Travelfish on this...



From my post there, you'll see I refer to Choice (the Australian consumer review organisation) who showed that Travelex Passports cost more money to operate than nearly every other option.

I'm currently in Asia. I've pre-loaded a Mastercard (brand recommended by Choice) and Visa credit card for emergencies (Visa charges 2 1/2% transaction fee).

All through Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand & Laos, I've been using the Mastercard at ATM's to withdraw money.

Yesterday in Dien Bien Phu all the ATM's would only take Visa. So, that was an 'emergency' use of the Visa card.

I looked at my Mastercard credit card statement a couple of hours ago. There were no transaction costs 'awarded' from the Australian end. Only ATM fees at the Asian end. When you use your Travelex card, you'll also incur these Asian ATM fees.


#14 brucemoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by harryplodder on 22/4/2009 at 09:26

Travelex are a big rip off.their charges are obscene and their exchange rates apalling. I will drain my card and throw it away. after using it for two trips last year in estern europe/turkey ect and this year S.E.A THEY MUST MAKE BILLIONS out of travellers naive enough to use there service.last year I lost $1500 on exchange rates and charges in 4 months and I was on a frugal budget. this year they pay 21 baht to one australian dollar when the exchange rate is nearly 25 baht. last year my euros were worth even less than turkish lire to this theiving mob.

#15 harryplodder has been a member since 9/4/2009. Posts: 3

Posted by harryplodder on 29/4/2009 at 10:13

I loaded my card with euros and (paid a $30 loading fee)I received 1200 euros for $2000 yet when I checked their buying rate my euro was only worth $1400 when asked why I was being charged so much and getting lousy rates travelex explained that as I was travelling out of the euro zone I would have to pay double conversion rates.from whatever foreighn currency back to australian dollars back to euros.

#16 harryplodder has been a member since 9/4/2009. Posts: 3

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