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Using a travel money card when travelling to Thailand

Thailand has long been a popular Asian holiday spot for Australians. In fact, over 572,000 of us travelled to Thailand in 2018 alone, making it our 6th most popular overseas destination1. It’s not surprising why Aussies flock there – it’s relatively close and offers everything from chilled out secluded beaches to Bangkok’s vibrant markets and nightlife, not to mention the tantalising food. It also caters for all budgets, with everything from luxury hotels and resorts (with price tags to match) through to simple beachside huts (where your travelling dollar is likely to stretch much further).

 

But whether you’re planning on going poolside or cityside, it’s important to think about how you’ll be accessing your money while you’re there. One safe, secure and convenient way is with a travel money card. Here’s the lowdown on using a travel money card in Thailand, plus some other money options to consider as well.

How do travel money cards work?

Travel money cards are a safe and secure way to take foreign currency with you overseas.  Like a debit card, you load your own money onto your card but have the facility to convert it into the foreign currency of your choice. You can generally load multiple currencies onto the one card  - Westpac’s travel money card, for example, lets you load up to 5 currencies from a choice of 11, including Thai Baht.

One advantage of using a travel money card for an overseas trip is the ability to lock in your exchange rate in advance if the Aussie dollar is strong against the currency you need, even if you won’t be travelling for a while. You can also skip paying the foreign conversion fee when accessing the local currency loaded onto your card while you’re away – that’s an easy saving of 3% on all your transactions,  just by using a travel money card.2

How does this work in Thailand?

Let’s say you’ve booked two weeks in Thailand – perhaps a few days in Bangkok before heading for some rest and relaxation on the island of Koh Samui. Before your flight leaves for Suvarnabhumi Airport, you load Aussie dollars onto your travel money card and convert them into Thai baht. Many travel money cards (including Westpac) make it easy to switch between currencies  by using an app you can download onto your smartphone.

Once you reach the bright lights of Bangkok, you can use your travel money card in the same way you’d use a credit card or debit card to spend, whether that’s for accommodation, for meals, or for shopping in stores. You can also use your card for withdrawing money in local Thai Baht at Global Alliance ATMs.3

If the money on your card runs short while you’re away, you can simply reload it just like you did at home. It’s important though to select a card that lets you reload your card instantly and that won’t charge a fee. 

The benefits of using a travel money card for your Thailand trip

  • You can lock in your exchange rate in advance – handy if the  Aussie dollar is particularly strong against the Thai baht and the currency conversion is in your favour
  • It’s easy to use – just like a debit card or credit card
  • Your money is protected by Chip and PIN card security, and includes the protection of Visa Zero Liability Policy, protecting you from fraudulent charges or unauthorised purchases.4
  • You can load multiple currencies onto the one card – ideal if you’re visiting other countries part from just Thailand
  • You can use it for ATM withdrawals, just like with a debit card
  • Some travel money cards (such as Westpac’s) give you two cards linked to the one account, so you can keep on accessing your money even if one is lost or stolen. With a credit card, on the other hand, you would need to cancel your card and arrange a replacement.

Other travel money options

Using a travel money card won’t be suitable for every situation (some places and services are likely to be cash only, such as at local markets), so it’s worthwhile having a few different travel options up your sleeve:

  • Credit cards – it could be handy having access to a credit limit while you’re away, just in case your budget goes over or you want to have a splurge. Keep in mind though you could pay 3% foreign conversion fee -  not to mention a credit card bill when you get home.
  • Debit cards – like a travel money card, a debit card has the advantage of accessing your own money  from a linked bank account while you’re away. Unfortunately, it’s also like a credit card, so you’ll likely have to pay a 3% foreign conversion fee.
  • Cash – not everywhere will let you pay with a card in Thailand, so it’s good to have some cash with you as well. Make sure you treat Thai money with respect though as it features images of the royal family – you could get into serious trouble for showing any disrespect. Using cash also leaves you more vulnerable to theft.

Before heading to Thailand make sure you check Smart Traveller

Smart Traveller is a must-visit online destination for all Aussie travellers before they head away. As the official travel website of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, it has up-to-date information of any travel warnings or added security concerns (such as the southern border between Thailand and Malaysia). You can also register your travel plans – that way if there is an emergency it will be easier for Australian consular officials to locate you and offer assistance.

Find out about Smart Traveller Thailand travel advice

Things you should know

Any recommendation made in this communication is general in nature and does not take your objectives, financial situation or needs into account. Read the terms and conditions, including the Online Banking Terms and Conditions before making a decision and consider whether the product is right for you.

1. https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/products/961B6B53B87C130ACA2574030010BD05

2. A 3% Foreign Exchange Fee applies to overseas transactions in a currency other than a Supported Currency.

3. No ATM withdrawal fee at over 3,000 Westpac Group ATMs in Australia and over 50,000 ATMs globally via Global ATM Alliance partners. Other fees and charges may be payable.

4. Visa Zero Liability Policy covers Australian and New Zealand issued cards and does not apply to ATM transactions, transactions not processed by Visa or certain commercial card transactions. Cardholders should notify their issuer promptly of any unauthorised Visa use. Please consult the card issuer for additional details.