While travelling abroad it’s always a good idea to make sure you’re getting the best value for money when your AUD is converted to local currency. Depending...
Australia Post offer travel money services, including foreign exchange services and a travel money card. You can get foreign currency by ordering it online or in branch, and collecting it later - the service is operated by Travelex on behalf of Aus Post.
Travel money cards, known as a Cash Passport, are available, too, and allow you to load money in a number of global and regional currencies, and spend it wherever you see the Mastercard logo. You can also make ATM withdrawals, although there are fees for this service you’ll want to understand.
If you’re travelling soon and need some cash for the trip, you’ll need to do a bit of research to decide if getting your foreign currency from a local Post Office is right for you. Here’s all you need to know about travel money from Australia Post.
Australia Post offers 2 travel money services - foreign currency for collection at an Aus Post branch, and travel money cards, known as a Cash Passport.
If you would like to exchange your dollars for foreign currency before leaving for your holiday, you can do so at the Post Office. The foreign exchange service provided is operated by Travelex, so if you’re buying online, you’ll be transferred to the Travelex website to place your order.
You can either order online or instore at participating branches, for collection in 1 - 3 business days. It’s worth noting that it can take up to 5 business days if you’re paying with BPAY, and the cut-off time for orders is 14:30 Sydney time. Orders placed after this won’t be processed until the next day, so you’ll need to leave extra time.
You can order the currency equivalent of between $200 - $5,000 in store, or $500 - $5,000 online.
An alternative to cash, is to get a travel money card such as the Post Office Cash Passport. This is a prepaid, reloadable card, which can be used to pay for goods and services in stores, or the withdraw local cash from ATMs around the world.
You’ll need to load money onto your card online or in a Post Office, and can then spend this as you travel, anywhere you see the Mastercard logo.
There are some important fees you need to understand to help you assess whether the Post Office foreign exchange service, or the Cash Passport, is right for you. Here’s an outline of what you can expect.
|Travel money service
|Australia Post fee
|Purchasing foreign currency online
|When buying foreign currency online, you’re transferred from the Aus Post website to the Travelex site. The Travelex Terms and Conditions explain: “If you use the Service via this Website to purchase Online Foreign Currency, you will be charged a commission of $4 per transaction.”
|Exchange rate markup
|The Aus Post website states there is a $0 commission, but confirms in the smallprint: “Exchange rates may include a service charge.”
|Paying for foreign currency by credit or debit card
|If you’re using a card to fund your foreign currency exchange, you’ll pay a card surcharge of a fixed percentage of the total order value: Debit MasterCard - 0.77% Credit MasterCard - 0.94% Visa Debit - 0.72% Visa Credit - 1%
|Buy back costs
|If you don’t spend all of the money you exchange, and want to sell it back to the Post Office after your holiday, a different exchange rate may be applied. This could mean you get back less than you spent.
Travel money card - Cash Passport
|Travel money service
|Australia Post fee
|Administrative fee to load or reload card in store
|1.1% of total load amount
|Fee for card loading funded with a debit card online/via app
|$5 per load + any other applicable Post Office fees + possible charges by your card issuer
|BPAY reload - without booking rate via website or app
|1% of reload amount
|Cash out fee
|Domestic ATM fee
|2.95% of the withdrawal value
|International ATM withdrawal fee
|Fee depends on the currency being withdrawn: USD 2.50, EUR 2.50, GBP 2.00, NZD 3.50, THB 80.0, CAD 3.50, HKD 18.00, JPY 260.00, SGD 3.50, AED 10.00, AUD 3.50 (AUD fee applies for currencies not mentioned above, or if there are insufficient funds in the relevant currency on the card to complete the withdrawal)
|International card to card transfers (moving money from your Cash Passport to someone else’s)
|Fee depends on the currency being transferred: AUD 5.00, USD 4.00, EUR 3.50, GBP 3.00, NZD 5.00, THB 115, CAD 5.00, HKD 30.00, JPY 375, SGD 5.00, AED 15.00
Wherever you choose to buy your travel money, the exchange rate used is important. Getting ripped off with a bad exchange rate will mean you have far less to spend while you’re away.
However, it’s not always easy to know whether the exchange rate offered by a bank or exchange service is fair. Exchange rates go up and down all the time, so it’s important to know the real exchange rate for your currency pairing, at the time you’re buying your travel money.
You can find the real exchange rate - which is also often called the mid-market exchange rate - by simply googling the currency you want to buy, or using an online currency converter. Compare this to the rate you’re offered and see if you’re getting a good deal.
It’s important to do this because many banks and exchange services add a markup - which can be called a spread or service charge - to the real exchange rate, and keep the difference as their profit. That’s especially common where services claim to offer commission free currency exchange - after all, they have to make money somewhere along the line.
In this case, the Australia Post website states there is a $0 commission, but confirms in the smallprint:
“Exchange rates may include a service charge.”
Compare the exchange rate the Post Office will apply for your transaction to the real mid-market rate, to check if you think the service charge is fair.
If it isn’t, then it’s time to find an alternative. Wise always use the real exchange rate for international transfers, with just a low fee. If you’re meeting friends or family who have a local bank account wherever you’re headed, Wise could save you precious dollars on your travel money. But more on that in a moment.
You can order your foreign currency online, for in store collection, or you can order in person, in selected branches. In either case, you’ll have to order and then visit the branch again to collect your currency once it is available, in 1 - 5 business days.
The foreign currency exchange service offered by the Post Office is operated by Travelex. If you have too much foreign currency, and wish to sell all or some of it, to get dollars in exchange, you’ll need to visit a Travelex branch. This applies if you wish to cancel your order after is has been confirmed, or if you simply changed more than you need.
Because of fees, and the fluctuation in exchange rates, you might get back less than you expect to. Here’s what the Travelex terms and conditions say:
“If you wish to reverse your transaction, you will need to attend a Travelex store to sell your Online Foreign Currency to Travelex at Travelex’s buy rate of the day which may be more or less favourable than the rate at which you originally purchased the Online Foreign Currency. Any commission, fees or GST that you paid on your original Online Foreign Currency order will not be refunded.”
Before you decide which travel money service to use, you’ll want to do some research. There are many different services out there, offering currency exchange, travel money cards, travellers cheques and international payments - and finding the right one for you will mean you have more to spend during your break.
Some travellers choose to withdraw local cash from ATMs as they travel, instead of exchanging money in advance. As long as you avoid dynamic currency conversion (DCC), the exchange rates and fees applied for international ATM withdrawals are usually relatively low. DCC is when you’re asked if you would like to pay for an ATM withdrawal or card payment in your home currency or the local currency. You’ll always get the fairest exchange rate, and the best deal, if you choose to pay in the local currency wherever you are.
One great alternative, if you need money while visiting a friend or family member who lives abroad, is to make a transfer to their local bank account with Wise, and then withdraw the cash from fee free ATMs once you arrive. Transfers are carried out using the real exchange rate, and with just a small fee, so there are no sneaky hidden charges to worry about.
If you need to make international payments, to cover the cost of your trip, for example, you might be even better off with a multi-currency borderless account from Transferwise. This new type of account lets you hold money in any of dozens of currencies, and switch between them when you need to, using the real exchange rate and for just a small fee. You can get a Wise debit card, too, to allow you to withdraw cash from your borderless account at ATMs around the world, and pay for goods and services directly wherever Mastercard is accepted.
When it comes to travel money, finding an exchange service is easy - but finding the right one for you can sometimes be a little more tricky. You’ll need to do some research to understand the different products on offer - including those from mainstream outlets like the Aus Post, and alternative specialist providers such as Wise. Be sure to look at both the fees that are advertised, and those which might have been hidden - such as a service charge or markup added to the exchange rate, to help decide which product and provider will work best for you.
All sources are correct as of 24 October 2018
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This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.
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