How I Save Money Overseas While Still Using a Debit Card

There's only one card I trust at home and aboard, that's my Westpac Debit Mastercard

Later this week I’m going to talk about how to access your money overseas but there’s also great debate over if you should use a credit card or debit card when travelling. I’m team debit card; and here’s why.

I’ve been with Westpac since I was four years old when my parents cunningly convinced me that depositing my pocket money, or rather the money I found in the couch, would be better kept in my own account. In my years, I’ve had accounts with other banks, but at the end of the day I shut those accounts down and come back to my tried and tested favourite.

I’ve had a Westpac Choice account for at least the last 8-years and have used it both in Australia and overseas. That’s since before Bitten by the Travel Bug was even born!

westpac debit mastercard at CIMB bank

So why did I choose to get a Westpac Choice account? Aside from the convenience of thousands of ATM’s across Australia, there’s another important feature that’s perfect for travellers – The Global ATM Alliance.

Westpac is part of a global alliance of banks, which means their customers have no ATM withdrawal fees at more than 50,000 ATMs in 60 countries.

I’ve travelled to the USA and used a Westpac Debit MasterCard with Bank of America ATMs, visited London and used Barclay Bank’s and am using CIMB ATMs on my current trip to Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as my FIfth Third checking account; all with no withdrawal fees. Great, right?!
The banks they’ve partnered with are some of the biggest in their respective countries so you’ll never be far from an ATM that accepts your Westpac Debit MasterCard.

If you do choose to use your Westpac Debit MasterCard, there is a 3% conversion fee on all withdrawals but if you play your card right (see what I did there 😉 ) you can still save a considerable amount which means more money for adventures like, flying in a helicopter around New York City, or enjoying a wine tasting at a local winery.

I know what a difference the Global ATM Alliance makes. Sure, I’ve been silly and pulled out money at non-partner banks only to realise that I was being charged whopping fees. The largest being around AU$12 – ouch! That’s enough for a banquet feast in some parts of Asia or, if you use non-partner banks three times, it’s the cost of a ticket to Alcatraz. What would you rather – bank fees or more money for you to use and explore?

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I’ve partnered with Westpac and Nuffnang to bring you this post,
however, Westpac is a brand I’ve used and trusted for years.

All thoughts, opinions and money saved is, as always, my own.

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  • Reply
    Clay Tarryn
    September 22, 2016 at 3:03 am

    I think you need to do the math on 3% vs a local ATM fee.

    • Reply
      September 22, 2016 at 3:52 am

      Hi Clay, thanks for taking the time to comment.

      I have done the maths many times! In Jakarta, I was forced to use a Maybank ATM due to time constraints to get to a CIMB bank. I pulled out $100 cash and was then charged a $5 fee for using the local ATM. Uhrm, no thank you! Worst of all, that’s a ‘low fee’ in my eyes. I’ve paid up to $12 in ATM fees and I know that some people would consider that low…

      Sure, it may be worth paying the local ATM fee in some instances but, in my experience, most people don’t pull out that quantity of money (I’m talking AU$500+) for security reasons. You simply don’t need that much for day-to-day purchases in most countries, especially when many places where you’ll be spending large sums of money will most likely have facilities to accept MasterCard. As such, having no ATM fee and a 3% conversion rate will work out quite nicely for most people, myself included.

      I’ve been using this card for over 6-years and have used it on every one of my international trips. I’ve never had a complaint about the rate, Global Alliance they’re part of and usability internationally. 🙂

  • Reply
    Protecting Your Money at Home and Abroad - Bitten by the Travel Bug
    September 22, 2016 at 4:34 am

    […] Some banks form alliances with international banks to deliver discounted or no fees to their customers when using partner ATMs abroad. Click here to read more about Westpac’s Global Alliance. […]

  • Reply
    Miko santos
    October 29, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    Informative idea, but why not use a travel money card instead a preload foreign currency you want

    • Reply
      October 30, 2016 at 9:46 pm

      Hi Miko,
      Thanks for the question. Honestly, why would I want to carry around ‘another’ card when I could simply using my everyday Debit card that I also use at home in Australia?
      It just means more time buying, setting up, transferring, and budgeting exact sums of money I’ll be spending in each country (and who keeps to budgets?!) And if I don’t spend all my money then I’m stuck with a card with $10 in a bunch of currencies left on it, a card closing fee, and any number of other ‘hidden’ transactions.

      Over the six years of full-time travelling I’ve travelled with my Westpac Debit Mastercard, it’s the one card I’ve relied on for each and every trip and it’s yet to let me down!

      I’ve written about my experience using the Australia Post Multi-Currency Cash Passport (the only pre-paid card I’ve actually liked, thus far) in another post if you want to check it out. 🙂 –> http://bittenbythetravelbug.com/how-to-access-money-overseas/

  • Reply
    Seana Smith
    November 5, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    Hi Nicole, I’ve also used all sorts of cards and methods over the years, and yes, can even remember using ye olde travellers’ cheques.

    These days if I’m on a shorter trip – week to 10 days, I just use cash… could go horribly wrong but hasn’t yet. I like using my debit card too but sadly not with Westpac. Have also used a Visa a lot… and regretted it.

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