Best Cards for Travelling

Last Updated: 19 May 2020

Update Notes

  • 19 May 2020
    • DiviPay no longer caters to your average consumer as they are now focused on providing corporate cards
    • Virgin Australia’s voluntary administration means some uncertainty for the free domestic flight on your ANZ Travel Adventures Card, but there is nothing concrete to update here because their future is still unclear
    • Removed a reference to “Account Cover Plus” being an advantage of having the Coles Mastercards, because the insurance is no longer available to new customers (but is still available for existing customers)
    • As I no longer live in Australia and I’m a little out of touch, here is an alternative which is hopefully more up to date than the content I have below. In this update, I updated all the details of the cards I had mentioned, but I have not included any new cards that also offer such features. However, to be clear, there are now a huge variety of alternatives to the 28 Degrees.
  • 19 Nov 2018
    • Macquarie no longer charges a $5 withdrawal fee for overseas ATM withdrawals, and in fact, I’ve found to offer the best rate out of Macquarie, ING and Citibank.
  • 25 Oct 2017
    • Grammar/choice of words
    • Mentioned DiviPay at the bottom of TLDR
    • Updated Coles Rewards Mastercard Annual fee to $99

Best Cards for Travelling

Summary/TL;DR

For travelling, it is ideal to have a card that waives international transaction fees. Although you might think…

>
I have a card that gives me extra points for overseas transactions anyway

It’s only ~3% of the transaction cost!

— You

For context, just consider that the majority of the time when you earn points, you are earning (generally) somewhere between 0.4-2% return. This means most of the time it is not worth “paying” the surcharge for the additional points.

This post intends to be a comprehensive breakdown of alternative options to the popular 28 Degrees Credit Card.

There are several other cards in the market that I believe are superior to the 28 Degrees, each for their own reason. Which card is best for you is dependent on your own personal circumstances. The common theme amongst all the cards discussed below are that they waive international transaction fees.

If you think you will fly domestically at least once a year and be able to plan your travels 60 days in advance, the ANZ Travel Adventures Platinum Card ($225 annual fee) offers amazing value, in addition to Travel Insurances, Rental Excess Cover, and lounge access.

If you simply want the better version of the 28 Degrees, the Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard with no annual fee is basically the 28 Degrees but better in all respects. There is no annual fee, it is with a bank with physical branches and you will have a more refined online banking experience. Most notably, the inclusion of Travel Insurance is a particular standout which the 28 Degrees does not offer.

If you want the highest points earn rate overall, the Coles Rewards Mastercard ($99 annual fee) provides this at the equivalent of 0.87 Velocity points/$ spent.

Amongst the two non-Credit Card options, the Citibank Plus is the better option as it provides you with fee-free ATM withdrawals overseas, unlike the Macquarie Transaction Account. The Macquarie Transaction Account seems to have the best exchange rate, but I cannot quite explain why, when technically both the Citibank and Macquarie rely on the Mastercard exchange rate.

On the other hand, the ING Orange Everyday offers a unique feature of not only not charging its own overseas ATM withdrawal, but also covering any fee charged by the ATM itself. This is particularly useful in countries where the ATMs themselves charge fees. Countries where ATMs themselves charge fees include Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Japan. The most important aspect of the ING benefit you need to consider is that it requires you to meet qualifying criteria in the month prior.

As the issuers of all cards do not slap on an additional percentage “international transaction fee” surcharge, it can be assumed that all the cards listed above assume the exchange rate of their interchange: Visa/Mastercard.

From my own personal experience, the exchange rates are often comparable to what you’d expect to find at a good money changer in the country/city you are in, and not far off the mid-market rate posted on xe.com.

Best Cards for Travelling

Most people know the 28 Degrees Credit Card. In fact, I would say their market penetration is quite impressive when you consider their limited marketing/advertising.

However, I have five other cards in mind which I believe are superior to the 28 Degrees – each for their own reason and with their own unique value proposition.

The cards are:

The Citibank Plus Transaction Account and Macquarie Transaction accounts are the non-Credit Card options from the ones listed above.

I will discuss each one below with advantages, disadvantages and general comments relative to the 28 Degrees which will highlight why I believe the 28 Degrees is inferior.

The common theme amongst all these cards is that they do not charge any foreign transaction fee on transaction.

Citibank Plus Transaction Account

Official Page

Advantages:

  • Not a Credit Card, i.e. no credit check required and does not occupy a portion of your Credit Limit
  • No ATM withdrawal fee overseas
    • To me, this is a realistic alternative to having to take Australian dollars overseas to convert to the local currency
    • You may be charged an ATM fee by the ATM itself, which will be displayed at the time you withdraw. My experience is most ATMs do not charge, but give you a generic warning saying “your bank may charge you”.. but guess what? Citibank don’t!
  • No monthly/annual fees
  • Qualifies for “free wine” promotions at certain restaurants in Australia
  • Priority access to exclusive areas at certain events, such as the Sydney Night Noodle Market (2016 edition) – you get an exclusive seating area with an exclusive bar!
  • Fee free International Money Transfers
    • Keep in mind – this does not speak to the “quality” of the rate, which is arguably a more important factor in your overseas money transfer
  • Instant International Money Transfers to Citibank accounts in certain countries
  • Qualifies for Citibank restaurant promotions overseas (I’ve mostly seen these in South East Asian Countries – Malaysia, Singapore) where you get a discount off your restaurant bill of a certain percentage. Example
  • Compatible with CitiPay (like Android Pay) and Samsung Pay

Disadvantages:

  • Not a Credit Card, i.e. you have to put your own money in first
  • Citibank Internet Banking and app are not the most user friendly
    • As at 19 May 2020, this is still a disadvatange
  • May become inactive if you leave the balance at $0 for over 6 months
    • Leave a $1 balance if you do not wish for this to happen!

General Comments:

I see the Citibank Plus Transaction Account and the associated debit card as being an esssential part of my travel card portfolio. If I’m going overseas, I must have it with me. It’s also just good to have anyway, because it is not a Credit Card and has no ongoing fees, so is worth having regardless.

Whilst I am in Australia, I rarely ever use it. But that doesn’t matter. It’s free to hold onto!

Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard

Official Page

Advantages:

  • Free Travel Insurance upon meeting the spending criteria of $500+ of travel expenses being paid for on the card
  • No Annual Fee, just like 28 Degrees
  • Being with a big bank with physical branches means you can go into a branch for assistance, if necessary
  • Compatible with Android Pay and Apple Pay (thanks Caign for the call out in the comments on Apple Pay!
  • Superior Online Banking experience to that of 28 Degrees
  • No $0.95 fee for paying by Bpay (which 28 Degrees charge)

Disadvantages:

  • No access to “Price Protection” Insurance, which allows you to claim the price difference between the price you paid and a future sale price if you provide proof. See Coles Rewards Mastercard section to find out more.
    • However, this is no longer available to new Coles Mastercard holders

General Comments:

The Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard is a beefed up version of the 28 Degrees. The key difference being that it includes free Travel Insurance and it’s issued by a bank with physical branches.

There are also four variants of this card:

  1. Bankwest More Platinum Mastercard – $170
  2. Bankwest More World Mastercard (My review) – $270
  3. Bankwest Qantas Platinum Mastercard – $160
  4. Bankwest Qantas World Mastercard) – $270

All offer slightly differing features which offer rewards points, but relative to the other available options, I do not believe they are worth the annual fee (listed after the card)

Coles Rewards Mastercard

Official Page

Advantages:

  • Cheapest card that allows you to earn Rewards points ($89 annual fee)
  • Earn the equivalent of 0.87 Velocity Points on expenditure on the card
  • Free delivery for Coles online orders of $100+ when paying with this card
  • A long interest-free period of up to 62 days (most other cards give up to 55 days)

Disadvantages:

  • $99 Annual fee – but may be worth it if you have enough annual overseas expenditure on your Credit Card

General Comments:

The Coles Rewards Mastercard is a decent all rounder Credit Card. It has a decent points earn rate on all expenditure whilst still offering you a waiver on international transaction fees. It’s a bit surprising you do not get any bonus points on expenditure at Coles, but it’s no big deal, and I’d argue it’s their loss – because there are better alternatives!

ANZ Travel Adventures Platinum Credit Card

Official Page

Advantages:

  • Provides you with a free domestic flight on Virgin Australia (inc. 23kg luggage and food) including East Coast to West Coast (PER to BNE/MEL/SYD) and vice versa per card year
    • Although this sounds like quite a good perk, there are several restrictions around this which you should be aware of. Most notably, the flight must be booked 60 days in advance and must be booked in the name of the Primary Cardholder.
  • Earn 1.5 ANZ Rewards Points/$ (equivalent to 0.75 Velocity Points, 0.5 Asia Miles, 0.5 KrisFlyer) for the first $2000 per statement period
    • Earn 0.5 ANZ Rewards Points/$ above $2000 expenditure
  • Two complimentary Virgin Australia lounge passes per year
  • Free Travel Insurance upon meeting the spending criteria of $250+ of travel expenses being paid for on the card, including Interstate Travel Insurance cover for travel within Australia of up to 14 days
  • Free Rental Excess Cover (Car Hire/Rental cover for the expensive excess)
  • Compatible with Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, Android Pay

Disadvantages:

  • $225 Annual Fee, of which the value is very dependent on being able to realistically and reasonably use the free flight within the somewhat strict rules

General Comments:

Provided you can use the free flight on this card, then you’ve got a card that gives you amazing value. The 2 Virgin Australia lounge passes are a nice icing on the cake which you can use with your free flight. Free Travel Insurance (including Domestic Travel Insurance) + Rental Car Hire insurance are also particularly good bonuses that are not common on many cards.

Macquarie Classic/Platinum Transaction Account

Official Page

Advantages:

  • Not a Credit Card, i.e. no credit check required and does not occupy a portion of your Credit Limit
  • No monthly/annual fees
  • No ATM withdrawal fees at all ATMs in Australia worldwide (with no qualifying criteria)
    • The two other banks that currently offer this in Australia are MEBank and ING Direct. However, ING Direct has a qualifying criteria which requires you to have a $1000+ cumulative credit into your account in the preceding calendar month to have this perk activated in the following calendar month.
  • 50c reward for cash outs of $100+ per year
  • A great, intuitive banking app (have personally used the Android version)
  • Compatible with Apply Pay
  • [Platinum only] $500 to cover your losses if your wallet gets stolen
  • [Platinum only] Emergency travel assistance in case you get sick/injured whilst on holiday

Disadvantages:

  • Not a Credit Card, i.e. you have to put your own money in first

General Comments:

I would highly recommend this card because it s a realistic replacement for both your everyday Australian debit card with its nationwide ATM waiver and the Citibank Plus. I have also found it to have the best exchange rate, compared to Citibank Plus and ING Direct.

Note that there are two versions of this account: Classic and Platinum. The Classic does not have any minimum deposit requirements, whilst the Platinum requires a $4000 deposit monthly. I am not sure what would happen if you were to open a Platinum and not meet the minimum deposit. I would assume your account “status” in the subsequent calendar month would be determined by whether you had a $4000 cumulative deposit in the preceding calendar month. If how the other banks operate is anything to go by, you can simply transfer $4000 from another account and transfer it back out immediately.


I apologise for the length of this post. I went on a lot longer than I had expected to, but as you can see there was a lot of detail to cover and I don’t even felt like I covered the cards above extensively enough!

As usual, feel free to leave comments with your own experiences or with any questions you may have!

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One thought on “Best Cards for Travelling

  1. Thanks for the article – an excellent comparison with attention to detail. Note that Bankwest introduced Apple Pay on its Zero Platinum Mastercard early this year.

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