Top travel credit cards in Australia
What’s good? By any standard, the Bankwest Breeze Zero Platinum Mastercard is a low-cost credit card that will save travellers money, with a 0% foreign transaction fee, a relatively low ongoing interest rate on purchases and no annual credit card fee. Yet it still comes with complimentary credit card travel insurance, a travel perk rarely found on low-cost cards.
What’s not so good? Despite being positioned as a ‘Platinum’ card, aside from the complimentary travel insurance, the card offers little in the way of perks and rewards.
What’s good? Another low cost card (assuming you repay the card balance in full each statement period) with no foreign transaction fees. There are no hoops to jump through to avoid the annual fee, which is rare for a card offering complimentary travel insurance.
What’s not so good? There’s not much to dislike here if you want a low-fee card. That said, the interest rate is on the high side. For travellers covering the cost of a holiday across multiple statement periods, this could be an issue.
What’s good? Offers the same travel-friendly advantages as Bankwest’s Breeze Zero Platinum Mastercard but with a slightly lower ongoing interest rate that’s waived for the first 15 months. This could be an option for new cardholders looking to pay off an expensive trip over time with what is effectively an interest-free credit card.
What’s not so good? There’s an annual fee after the first year and also relatively few card perks (not surprising given the annual fee is fairly modest).
What’s good? No international transaction fees and no annual fee, plus a couple of other eye-catching travel perks: Access to global roaming data from eligible telco networks in 150 countries; and a flight delay pass which offers access to airport lounges if your flight is delayed.
What’s not so good? Even by credit card standards, Latitude’s 28° Global Platinum Mastercard has a very high interest rate, meaning carrying a balance could be extremely expensive.
What’s good? This is one of the 0% international purchase fee credit cards that also offers rewards points (Flybuys), with a sign-up bonus of 70,000 points if you apply by 31 January 2024 and spend $3,000 on eligible purchases within 90 days of approval.
What’s not so good? There’s an annual fee – it’s not massive for a rewards credit card but there are other cards out there arguably offering more travel perks (e.g complimentary travel insurance) with no annual fee.
What’s good? The 0% fee on international transactions is the standout feature, along with the low interest rate on purchases (one of the lowest available of any card with no foreign transaction fees).
What’s not so good? For a card with a ‘Lite’ offering, the annual fee (charged monthly) is not particularly ‘Lite’. There’s also no cash advance option. Although expensive, a cash advance facility can be handy when travelling if you need cash from an ATM in an emergency.
What’s good? The HSBC Low Rate Credit Card comes with no international transaction fees and a low interest rate on purchases of 12.99% p.a. It also comes with domestic travel insurance, and an offer of 0% on balance transfers for 20 months.
What’s not so good? The annual fee certainly takes some of the gloss off what is otherwise a low-cost, low-frills card.
What’s good? ING’s Orange One Rewards Platinum ticks two major boxes for travellers: No foreign transaction fees (although there’s a big asterisk on this) and complimentary travel insurance is included. There’s also a credit card cashback offer with the potential to earn cardholders up to $360 per year, comfortably enough to offset the card’s annual fee.
What’s not so good? The main caveat with this card is that the 0% international transaction fee is conditional on the cardholder also having one of ING’s Orange Everyday accounts, depositing at least $1,000 into it each month and making at least five card purchases each month. It’s not an insurmountable hurdle but it’s not ideal unless you already have ING as your main bank.
What’s good? The American Express Platinum card is certainly not a cheap option, but it arguably offers more frequent flyer travel perks than any other card in Australia: complimentary travel insurance, an annual $450 travel credit, a $400 dining credit, lounge access, 2.25 rewards point per $1 spent on eligible purchases, plus a lot more. It’s also a charge card, so it’s different to how a credit card works – there are no interest costs but the balance must be cleared in full each month.
What’s not so good? The $1,450 annual fee is a lot, so you really need to be taking advantage of the rewards to offset that cost. The 3% currency conversion fee on American Express credit cards is also high, meaning it’s perhaps a card best used for booking travel, and left in your wallet while spending overseas.
What’s good? Amex’s Platinum Edge Credit Card also offers plenty of travel perks but with a much lower annual fee than the Platinum Card. Cardholders get complimentary travel insurance, a $200 travel credit (completely offsetting the card’s annual fee), plus 2 rewards points per $1 spent on purchases in a foreign currency (overseas and online).
What’s not so good? The 3% currency conversion fee is high compared to other cards, as is the interest rate on purchases. This is another card that could be expensive if not used strategically.
It will be somewhere between 0% and 3% of the transaction value depending on the card. If you spend a lot overseas, it’s worth minimising this fee as much as possible.
Mastercard and Visa are accepted almost everywhere. Amex is a bit more limited but still widely accepted in the countries Australians travel to in numbers.
Ideally you’ll be clearing the balance of the card within the interest-free period, but if not, a lower interest rate will help you minimise your travel costs.
There are some travel credit cards with no annual fee that offer benefits for travellers, but most do come with a fee. If there is a fee, look carefully at what you’re getting in return.
A credit card that comes with travel insurance included could save you hundreds of dollars if it means you don’t need to purchase a separate travel insurance policy. Pay attention to what is covered by the policy and if it’s suitable for you.
Some travel credit cards offer lounge access (usually a limited number of passes per year), plus travel discounts credits you can put towards flights, accommodation and dining. These can be a nice ‘cherry on top’ if the rest of the card fits the bill.
Insider tips from Money.com.au’s credit cards expert (and frequent flyer), Brad Kelly.
As soon as you leave Australia (or buy from an overseas retailer) you become a much more profitable customer for your bank because of the fees they charge.
Avoid foreign exchange fees by prepaying for as many expenses as you can (e.g. your accommodation) assuming you can do so in AUD.
If you’re going to be spending overseas regularly, it’s worth seriously considering a credit card with 0% foreign transaction fees. This could save you up to 3.65% on every transaction. This fee is often overlooked when people apply for a credit card.
Also be clear on what you’ll be charged for using an ATM. Chances are it will be a lot.
Even if your credit card comes with travel insurance, there’s a good chance it won’t cover your trip automatically. You usually need to trigger the cover, in many cases by booking the travel/accommodation using the card itself. If you pay in full with card points, that mightn’t be enough to trigger the insurance – you usually need to make an actual card purchase.
Using a credit card to withdraw cash at an overseas ATM is going to be very expensive. You’ll be stung with a fee from the local ATM operator (unless it happens to be a Westpac card and the ATM is part of the Global ATM alliance), a foreign transaction fee, plus a cash advance fee. You won’t get any interest-free days, meaning you’ll immediately be paying a high rate of interest on the funds you withdrew. Basically unless it’s an emergency, don’t go near an ATM with your credit card.
Brad Kelly, Money.com.au's credit card expert
A lot of people get caught out by this one. When you’re making a card payment overseas, a lot of the time you’ll get the option to pay in the local currency or have the amount converted to Australian dollars.
Paying the AUD amount shown would seem like the sensible choice here, but trust me, it’s almost always a rip off. That option involves what’s called dynamic currency conversion which means the conversion rate is determined by the merchant and it’s usually a much worse rate than what your credit card provider will give you if you pay in the local currency.
In Australia we’re very used to paying through a phone or watch using the likes of Apple Pay and Google Pay. But that kind of payment is not as widely accepted overseas. You’ll need to use the physical card and, for a dose of nostalgia, you may even need to insert it into a card chip reader and enter a PIN.
You will also likely need to have the physical card if you’re using your card for pre-authorisation when checking into a hotel or renting a car.
When it comes to travel in particular, one card does not fit all. You might like the idea of using a single card for all your spending, but there are situations when a debit card will be better. Having a card from a different financial institution can also be a life-saver if your primary bank has an outage while you’re away.
You've got to be a bit strategic about how you’ll spend money overseas. So plan ahead. The truth is, if you don’t, the potential for getting walloped with fees or being massively inconvenienced is far greater than it is when you’re using your card in Australia.