Australia Post Travel Card: Foreign Currency Rates & Fees explained

TransferWise
11.04.19
10 minute read

Travel money cards are increasingly popular as a convenient and relatively safe way to manage your spending money when you’re overseas.

Australia Post offers a Cash Passport Platinum Mastercard¹ as their solution for customers looking for a travel money card. You could previously get different cards known as a Multi-currency Cash Passport, and a Load&Go card from the Post Office - however these are no longer available for new customers.

This article will focus on the features, benefits and costs of the Cash Passport Platinum Mastercard. We’ll cover:

  • The exchange rates, limits, fees and charges applied when using an Australia Post Cash Passport Platinum Mastercard
  • The currencies you can load and spend
  • How to get yourself a travel money card from Australia Post
  • Troubleshooting for common issues

We’ll also touch upon an alternative option - the borderless travel money card from TransferWise, which you can use as a comparison against the Cash Passport Platinum Mastercard.

Exchange rates

Any currency conversion you do when using the Cash Passport Platinum Mastercard will be carried out using the Mastercard Prepaid Management Services exchange rate¹. This is displayed on the cash passport website for reference. Exchange rates vary all the time, due to changes in global financial markets, so it’s helpful to keep an eye on the trends for your particular currency pair. When you add money to your travel money card, you will lock in the exchange rate being used at that moment - so by watching the rates as they change, you can choose the best time to load your card with your chosen currency³.

When you’re checking the exchange rate being used by your chosen provider, it also makes sense to compare it to the mid-market rate. The mid-market rate is the exchange rate used by banks when they trade currencies on the global markets, and you can find it easily using an online currency converter or a simple google search. However, big banks and currency exchange services typically don’t pass this rate on to customers exchanging smaller amounts of currency. Instead you’ll often find that a markup is added to the rate used, which can mean you’ll pay more than you expect for your overseas purchase.

Of course, not all currency exchange services add a markup to the mid-market exchange rate. TransferWise, for example, always use the mid-market rate for currency conversion, and charge a low upfront fee instead of adding a markup to the rate. That makes it easier to see the true cost of your currency conversion - and can cost less, too.

You can access the real exchange rate with TransferWise when sending money abroad, or by opening a borderless account. The borderless account lets you hold 40+ currencies in one place, check your balance across currencies at a glance using an app, and switch between them when you want to, using the mid-market exchange rate. You can also get a linked debit card, to make day to day spending abroad easier - just top up your account in dollars, switch to the currency of your choice for a low fee using the real exchange rate, and you’re ready to go. There’s no fee for opening the account or getting a card, no minimum balance,or monthly charge, so you’re free to use your account and card however you want to.

Fees & charges

Here are the main fees⁴ and charges you need to know about when comparing the Australia Post travel money card to other options available.

ServiceFee
Card purchaseFree when purchased online There may be a fee to purchase and load in store - this can be 1.1% of the amount loaded, or $15, whichever is greater
Loading feeFree to load online (unless using BPay) or by bank transfer $5 fee to load using a debit card 1% fee to load using BPay when you do not reserve the rate in advance online Fee to load in store - 1.1% of the amount loaded, or $15, whichever is greater
Additional card fee$5
Cash out fee$10
ATM withdrawals in Australia2.95% of total withdrawn
International ATM withdrawalsThe fees vary depending on the currency withdrawn. For example, in the US, a withdrawal will cost USD2.50, in the euro area EUR2.50 and in the UK, GBP2 There may also be an additional charge if you choose to pay in your home currency when using an ATM overseas - more on that below

One charge to look out for - and avoid - when using a card abroad, is dynamic currency conversion (DCC). DCC crops up with using an ATM or paying with a credit, debit or prepaid card - it’s when you’re asked if you’d rather pay in your home currency instead of the local one. ATM operators and merchants sell DCC as a service for their customers, as you can easily see the cost of your transaction in dollars, rather than needing to work out the conversion for yourself. However, this can also cost you more in the end.

DCC often makes it more expensive to use your card abroad because if you choose to pay in dollars, the exchange rate which is applied is selected by the ATM operator or merchant, rather than your own bank. This rate might include a markup or fees, and this could make your purchase much more expensive. To get the best deal, always choose to pay in the local currency wherever you are in the world.

Currencies available

In addition to Australian dollars, you can use the following currencies¹ with your Cash Passport from Australia Post:

  • US dollars
  • Euros
  • British pounds
  • New Zealand dollars
  • Canadian dollars
  • Thai baht
  • Hong Kong dollars
  • Singapore dollars
  • Japanese yen
  • UAE dirham

Limits

There are a few limits⁴ in place when you’re using your Australia Post travel money card. Here are some you need to know about.

Number of cards you can hold in your nameYou can only hold one card in your name, although you can order additional linked cards if you need to
Minimum load on card$100 or the currency equivalent
Maximum load on card$100,000 or the currency equivalent - with the following additional limits: Using a debit card you can load a maximum of $15,000 in 24 hours, $30,000 in 7 days, or $60,000 in 30 days Using BPay you can load a maximum of $25,000 in 24 hours
Maximum ATM withdrawals in 24 hours$3,000 or the currency equivalent - ATM operators may apply their own, lower limits
Maximum spend in 24 hours$15,000 or the currency equivalent

One other feature of the Cash Passport card is that you can transfer money from card to card, up to the equivalent of $20,000 in 24 hours. There may be a fee for this service.

App

There’s a Cash Passport app for Apple and Android devices, which lets you manage your money on the move. You can track your spending and see the balance on the card across different currencies. You’ll also be able to add money and switch between currencies using your phone.

It’s worth checking the online reviews of the app for your device before you decide to use it. At the time of writing, the Android version of the app has a 2/5 rating, and the Apple version has 1.8/5. These ratings are dynamic so may change over time, and depending on new updates and releases for the app itself.

So, is it good?

Travel money cards are popular with travellers looking for an easy way to carry their funds when abroad. They’re safer than cash, and much more convenient that using travellers cheques which are hard to use, and can come with high fees. A travel money card has some of the same security features as your regular bank card - including a PIN - but there’s no link back to your main account in the event you lost both your card and PIN number.

This balance of security and convenience is one of the reasons that travel money cards are increasingly popular among younger travellers under the age of 35, and particularly among men. The Mastercard Cash Passport³ has further features geared to this age group including free wifi and lounge access if your flight is cancelled. The card is easy to use, but there are some fees to consider when you’re deciding if it’s right for you.

It makes sense to shop around before you choose a travel money card - you could compare the Mastercard Cash Passport with other offerings from the big Australian banks, and also some modern alternatives like the borderless card from TransferWise. TransferWise is a currency specialist, and doesn’t have the overheads of many traditional banks. That means that the same services through TransferWise can often cost less than using a regular bank.

With the borderless account you’ll be able to choose any of over 40 currencies to use, and can top up, manage your money, send and receive payments online. You’ll also be able to get a linked Mastercard to make spending and withdrawing cash simple. Currency conversion with TransferWise always uses the mid-market exchange rate, which is the best available, no matter which currency you want to buy. You’ll just pay a transparent fee to exchange your dollars. The flexibility of the borderless card, and the fact you can use it for such a range of currencies, makes it perfect for people who travel regularly, and expats living and working abroad.

How to get & use an Australia Post travel card

Here’s what you need to do to get your Mastercard Cash Passport from Australia Post.

Order

You can order your card online⁴ via the Australia Post website, or by going into a local Australia Post branch. If you order online you can top up using your card, BPay or a bank transfer, and have the card delivered to your home around 3 days later. There may be a fee to pay for getting your card in a branch, or for loading money, depending on the method you use to add money to the account.

Activation

Once you have your card, you’ll need to activate it on the cash passport website, before you can start to use it.

Using it
Your travel card can now be used online and in stores where you see the Mastercard logo. You can also use it for contactless payments⁵.

There are a few limitations to where your card will be accepted. Services which require pre authorisation, such as hotels, cruise ships and car rental services may not accept your prepaid card, and if they do you may find that some of your card funds are blocked until released by the merchant. This may be a deposit against your hotel bill, or in case of damage to a rental car for example. In these cases, you’ll usually be better off using a debit or credit card to pay.

Top-up

You can top up your card in an Australia Post branch, or online via the app or Cash Passport website. Check out the fees for the different methods, which are listed out above and in the card terms and conditions.

Buy back

If you have foreign currency left on your card after a trip, you can convert it back to dollars at the prevailing exchange rate. That may not be the same as the rate that was used when you converted the money in the first place - so you may get more or less than you originally paid. You’ll be able to spend the money in Australia, or cash out the card - but you may pay a fee for either of these options.

Contact information

If you need to get in touch with the team behind the Cash Passport, you have a few different contact routes⁶:

  • Call within Australia on 1800 098 231
  • For international calls there are different numbers depending on your location - check the Contact Us page on the Cash Passport website for details
  • Email using the online form available on the Cash Passport website

Troubleshooting

Here are a few common issues - and how to overcome them.

Lost or damaged cards

You’ll need to contact Mastercard card services using the contact numbers above³. Stolen cards are cancelled immediately to prevent fraud - although you might also be able to access some emergency cash depending on the circumstances and the amount of money you hold on the card in question.

Card declined

There are a few reasons your card might be declined³. If you don’t have the funds needed for the withdrawal or purchase available on your card, you’ll find the transaction is cancelled by the merchant. In this case you’ll have to pay using a different method.

If you’re sure you have the funds available and are still struggling, it may be because the service needs to put a hold on your funds before the payment will be accepted. For example if you’re paying at the pump for fuel, it’s common for the merchant to hold up to $80 before your card will be accepted. If you don’t spend that much, the extra is immediately returned - but that still means your card might be declined if the balance is under $80 to begin with.

Forgotten PIN or blocked card

If you enter an incorrect PIN into an ATM you may find your card is blocked. You’ll need to call card services to have the situation resolved.

Expired card

The expiry date will be printed on the front of the card³. After this date you won’t be able to use the card to top up or spend in any currency. Call card services before the expiry date to get a new card, and make sure you can continue using your account without interruption. You can expect it to take up to 15 days to get your new card, so leave plenty of time.

Tips

Here are a few final tricks for getting the most from your travel money card:

  • Avoid DCC at all costs - always choose to pay in the local currency to get the best available deal
  • Keep an eye on the exchange rates, or set an alert to check the prices of a currency you want to buy. You’ll then be able to top up your card when the rates look at their best
  • If you’re using an ATM abroad, watch the screen for warnings of additional fees - these are common in places with a captive audience like a bar or club
  • Always have a couple of different ways to pay in case of problems - use your travel card alongside cash and a debit card for example
  • You can find a Mastercard ATM using the Mastercard Nearby app, or website

Using a travel card when you’re abroad can be a great option for people looking for a simple way to withdraw cash from ATMs and make direct payments. Before you choose which product is right for you, it’s worth checking out the features and fees of a few options, including some modern alternatives like the borderless card. Then you can be sure you’ve got the best balance of costs, convenience and extra perks, for your needs.

1. https://auspost.com.au/money-insurance/organise-travel-money/travel-cards
2. https://auspost.com.au/content/dam/auspost_corp/media/documents/cash-passport-supplementary-product-disclosure-statement.pdf
3. https://www.cashpassport.com.au/help/#cardtocard
4. https://www.cashpassport.com.au/fees-and-limits/
5.https://www.cashpassport.com.au/media/227554/mc382039653_cash_passport_platinum_pds_100_x_210mm_169392_no_cropmark_hr_1499153619.pdf
6. https://www.cashpassport.com.au/contact-us

All sources accurate as of 31 January 2019


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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