Westpac Travel Card: Foreign Currency Rates & Fees explained

TransferWise
11.04.19
13 minute read

Getting a travel money card is a smart option for many people planning a trip overseas. You’ll be able to pre-pay onto the card, locking in the exchange rate, and then use it to make ATM withdrawals or pay for things in the local currency when you’re away. Travel cards are a relatively safe and convenient option, which is growing in popularity. Here we’ll cover the features, benefits, and fees you need to know about, to decide if the Westpac travel card is right for you.

Read on to learn more about:

  • The features of the Westpac travel card - known as the Global Currency Card
  • Fees you need to know about
  • The pros and cons of this card - and an alternative for comparison, the borderless travel money card from TransferWise
  • How to get your Westpac Travel card, and some troubleshooting tips to resolve common problems

Exchange rates

One important consideration when you’re planning your travel money, is the exchange rate that’ll be used to convert your dollars into the currency you need for your trip. A great exchange rate can mean you have more in your pocket for your holiday. A poor exchange rate, and you might have to skip a few treats while you travel.

Exchange rates move up and down all the time. Market changes, the political climate in a particular country, and how the global economy is doing can all impact the rate you’ll get for your currency conversion. Westpac make it clear in the terms and conditions of the Global Currency Card, that the exchange rate used when you top up your card may not be the same as the one used when you withdraw the funds to an AUD account or switch currencies². The rate used may be better or worse than the one which was applied when you loaded the card in the first place.

The best way to check the real rate for your currency pairing is by using an online currency converter or a simple google search. This will show you the mid-market rate for your currency, which is the one banks use to trade on the global currency markets.

Checking the rate is easy - making sure you get the best rate available might take a little more effort. Keeping an eye on the exchange rate before you go away is a good plan, as it allows you to see how the rate is trending, so you can choose a good time to buy your foreign currency. You can even sign up for an online currency tracker, which will tell you when the currency you need reaches the rate you’re looking for.

You’ll also want to shop around a little for the best exchange rate available. That’s important because although banks typically use the mid-market exchange rate when trading large volumes of currency, they don’t always pass this on to customers converting a smaller amount. Instead you could find that the bank or foreign exchange service you’re using has added a markup to the mid-market rate, which they can then keep for themselves.

One provider which uses the mid-market exchange rate for all currency conversion is TransferWise. You can send money anywhere in the world, using the actual exchange rate, and with just a small upfront fee to pay for the service. Or even better, you could grab yourself a borderless account from TransferWise, to access a range of great features including a linked debit card for overseas spending. There’s no fee to spend currencies you hold, and you can use over 40 different currencies with a single card. If you want to switch between currencies within your account, you’ll get the mid-market exchange rate and pay just a low, transparent fee - no surprises. More on that later.

Fees & charges

Here are some of the most common fees and charges you need to know about if you’re considering getting a Global Currency Card from Westpac².

ServiceFee
Receiving your card, or ordering a replacement cardFree
Adding money to your cardNo fee if you upload using a Westpac account or via a branch. If you want to use an account held at a different institution to top up your card using BPay, there may be a fee applied by your own bank.
Emergency cash optionsIf you need emergency cash following loss of your card, this may be possible, with the following fees: Up to AUD500 emergency cash - AUD15 fee AUD500 to AUD1,000 emergency cash - AUD20 fee AUD1,000 to AUD2,000 emergency cash - AUD25 fee AUD2,000 to AUD3,000 emergency cash - AUD30 fee
ATM withdrawal feesThere is a fee for withdrawals made from ATMs which are not part of the Westpac Group or Global Alliance. Fees are set by currency - a withdrawal in Australia will cost you AUD2, in the UK GBP1.50, and in the US USD2, for example You may also pay additional fees if you choose to pay in your home currency, due to dynamic currency conversion (DCC). We’ll cover that later.
ATM balance enquiry feesYou’ll pay the same for a balance enquiry as you would for a cash withdrawal, if you use an ATM which is not operated by the Westpac Group or Global Alliance.
Foreign exchange feeIf you make a purchase in a currency you don’t hold on your card, you’ll pay an additional 3% fee

One fee we mentioned above is dynamic currency conversion, which is more commonly called DCC. This is a headache for travellers and can mean you end up paying more than you need to when using a credit, debit or prepaid travel card abroad.

DCC is where you’re asked if you’d rather pay for a transaction in your own home currency, instead of the local currency wherever you are travelling. This could be when you’re using an ATM or paying for goods or services on your card. The idea is that it can be simpler to see the costs of your purchases in Australian dollars, so you don’t have to work out the currency exchange yourself. But there’s a catch - it’ll cost you more.

This is because, if you choose to be charged in dollars for an overseas transaction, the merchant or ATM operator will choose the exchange rate used. Unlike your own bank, they don’t have any real reason to try to keep you happy - and so may choose to add a markup, fees or charges, to the rate they use. This means they make more of a profit, and you spend more than you need to. Always choose to pay in the local currency wherever you are, to get the best deal available.

Currencies available

With the Westpac Global currency Card, you can choose to use up to 4 foreign currencies, plus Australian dollars, at any one time. You’ll open up what are known as ‘wallets’ to keep your foreign currency balance in. If you decide you don’t need a particular currency you can simply close one wallet, and open another, up to a maximum of 4 foreign currencies at once.

The currencies you can choose from include¹:

  • US dollars (USD)
  • Euros (EUR)
  • Great British pounds (GBP)
  • New Zealand dollars (NZD)
  • Canadian dollars (CAD)
  • Japanese yen (JPY)
  • Thai baht (THB)
  • South African rand (ZAR)
  • Singapore dollars (SGD)
  • Hong Kong dollars (HKD)

You must also keep an Australian dollar wallet on your card, which means you can have a total of 5 wallets at a time.

Limits

As with any card, the Global Currency Card comes with some rules and usage limits. You’ll want to check these fit with your needs if you’re considering getting a Westpac travel money card for your next holiday.

The limits you need to know about are as follows²:

Minimum opening creditAUD100 or the currency equivalent
Minimum top-up amountAUD50 or the currency equivalent
Maximum balanceAUD50,000 or the currency equivalent
Annual maximum you can load onto the cardAUD100,000 or the currency equivalent
Maximum amount you can top up at one timeCurrency equivalent of AUD25,000 at a Westpac branch or using a funds transfer Currency equivalent of AUD6,000 using BPay
ATM withdrawal - maximum possible in 24 hoursCurrency equivalent of AUD2,000
Total spending, including ATM withdrawal - maximum possible in 24 hoursCurrency equivalent of AUD10,000

App

You can manage your Global Currency card online using an app if you like. The app is available for both Apple and Android devices, and is free to download. You’ll be able to see your balance on your card, exchange money, and track your transactions as you make them.

It’s worth checking out the user reviews of the app for your operating system. At the time of writing it doesn’t have sufficient reviews on Apple to receive a score⁵, and has been awarded a 2.9/5 on Android⁶. These scores are dynamic and so will change over time, and with new features and upgrades to the app.

So, is it good?

Travel cards are increasing in popularity globally because they’re considered a safe and convenient alternative to using credit or debit cards, carrying too much cash, or using outdated methods like travellers cheques. They are especially favoured by younger users in the 24 - 34 year old bracket, with uptake higher among men than women.

Most travellers choose to use several different ways to pay for things while they are on holiday. That means that if you run into a problem, you’ve always got alternatives. Because travel cards come with a PIN number they are secure, and you also have the peace of mind that even if a thief were to somehow get your card and PIN, there’s no link back to your main bank account.

Of course, there are a few disadvantages to consider. Firstly, there are fees to pay when using your travel card, and you would need to check that the exchange rate applied for currency conversion is competitive. Westpac’s travel money card is available in 11 currencies, but you can only actually hold 4 foreign currencies on the card at a time, which might be an issue if you’re taking a wide ranging trip and will need multiple different currencies as you go. There are also usage limits, which might cause problems if you’re relying on the travel card for most of your spending.

If you want to compare the features of the Westpac Global Currency Card with another modern alternative, you could have a look at the borderless account from Transferwise. You can open a borderless account and hold over 40 different currencies in it, switching between them using the mid-market rate when you need to. There’s just a small fee to pay, and no hidden exchange rate markup to worry about. You’ll also be able to get a linked debit card which you can use anywhere the MasterCard logo is displayed. It’s free to spend in any currency you hold on the account, and you can withdraw up to the equivalent of $250 a month fee free. After that there’s a small fee to pay for every transaction. See if you could save time and money with a TransferWise borderless account and linked debit card.

How to get & use a Westpac travel card

You can get a Westpac Global Currency Card in just a few steps.

Order

To get a Westpac Global Currency Card, you must already be a Westpac customer with online banking access. You can then order your card either via the Westpac website, which has a dedicated area for the card - or by logging into your online banking. Expect it to take 3 to 5 days to receive your card in the post².

Activation

You’ll need to activate your card via the Westpac website, or through the IVR number before you can use it. Cards should also be signed before first use.

You’ll be given 2 cards² when you first start using the Westpac travel card, each has a unique number and must be activated independently. Both of these cards relate to the same balance, so if you lose one card, you can still spend the money you have in your online wallets using the second one.

Using it

You can use the Global Currency Card anywhere you see the Visa symbol. The only restrictions you’re likely to face are in retailers which require some sort of pre-authorisation, or have limited Visa facilities. That means your card might not be accepted on a cruise ship, or if you’re hiring a car for example. Check with the merchant before you purchase.

Top-up

You can load - and reload - your card in a few different ways. You’ll be able to put currency on your card by visiting a Westpac branch, or through online banking if you want to move money from your regular Westpac account onto the card. If you want to fund your currency card from an account held in a different bank, you can use BPay or an electronic funds transfer².

If you pay money into your card balance from a Westpac account it should be available for use almost immediately - from other banks you can expect a delay of a day or so.

Buy back

If you use your travel card for a specific trip, and have money left on it afterwards, you can convert it back to dollars and spend it in Australia, or withdraw it to your bank account if you like. However, the exchange rate applied to convert back to dollars might not be the same as the one which was originally used - this can mean you get back less than you spent³.

Of course, you can also leave the balance on the card to use it the next time you travel, instead.

Contact information

For any emergency, such as a lost or stolen card, you can contact the customer service team on the following numbers:

  • Calling from Australia: 1300 797 470 (local call cost)
  • Calls from outside Australia: +61 2 9374 7102 (standard call charges apply)

There is also a great FAQ section on the Westpac website, which may answer your general questions.

Troubleshooting

Here’s what to do in case you run into some common problems with your card.

Lost or damaged cards

When you order your Westpac Global Currency Card, you’ll be issued with 2 unique cards, which both relate to your online account. In the even that one is lost or stolen, you should use the second one as a replacement, to access the online wallets that you have set up.

You can also call customer service to get a new card issued - it should take 3 to 5 working days to arrive to Australian addresses, but could take longer for overseas shipping. Talk to a team member on 1300 797 470 for help².

In the meantime, you can request an emergency funds transfer, which could mean you are able to get up to AUD3,000 of your balance via a local agent wherever you are. There are fees to pay. Call customer service to find out more.

Card declined

Your card may be declined if the merchant or ATM does not accept Visa, or if they only have a limited Visa service. In this case you’ll have to choose an alternative payment method.

It may also be declined if the card has been blocked or you use an incorrect PIN. You can call customer service to resolve this issue, 24/7.

One other common reason the card would be declined is if you have insufficient balance. It’s worth knowing that your balance must also cover any fees which are being applied by Westpac or the merchant/ATM provider. So if you are charged a fee for using an ATM which is not in the Westpac network or Global Alliance, and this takes you over the funds you hold on the card, the transaction may be declined.

Forgotten PIN

If you forget your PIN, you’ll have to call customer service for help. Entering an incorrect PIN into a merchant payment terminal or ATM 3 times will result in your car being blocked or retained. If it is blocked you can call customer service to have the issue rectified².

If your card is retained by an ATM due to the incorrect PIN being entered, it is deemed lost/stolen, and you’ll need to either use the additional card you received when you applied for the Global Currency Card, or call customer service for a replacement.

Blocked cards

If your card is blocked due to using an incorrect PIN, you’ll need to call customer services to have the issue resolved. The number you need is 1300 797 470.

Expired cards

Cards are issued with a 2 year validity limit, which is printed on the front of the card for reference. A month or so before your card expires you’ll receive a notification email advising you to order 2 new cards, for free. This will allow you to continue using all of your account’s features without being interrupted. You will also be able to order a new card via customer service if you discover your existing card has expired.

If you don’t want to get a new card, and have remaining balance on the card, you can withdraw the funds to your AUD account, and have it repaid within 15 days of closing your account².

Tips

Here are a few final tips to make sure you can get the best from your Westpac travel card.

  • Check if an additional fee is added by an ATM provider - this is especially common with ATMs in pubs and nightclubs. You can avoid this cost by using an ATM in the Global Alliance while you travel.
  • Watch out for DCC - always pay in the local currency where you are, to get the best deal available
  • It’s not possible to stop a payment made on a travel card, so do be careful to check all the details before you go ahead, especially with online purchases
  • Read all the small print before you choose a travel card - the terms and conditions for the Westpac Global Currency Card are available online.

A prepaid currency card is a great option for many travellers, and offers a safe and simple way to access cash and make payments when you travel. There are many different products out there, so it is a good idea to check the options available before you decide which will suit your needs. Fees, features and limits vary between providers, but you’ll be able to find the right card for you with a little research.

1. https://www.westpac.com.au/international-travel/travel-money-card/how-it-works/
2.https://www.westpac.com.au/content/dam/public/wbc/documents/pdf/pb/Global_Currency_Card_PDS.pdf
3. https://www.westpac.com.au/international-travel/travel-money-card/travel-card-faqs/
4. https://www.westpac.com.au/content/dam/public/wbc/documents/pdf/pb/GCC_brochure.pdf
5. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/westpac-global-currency-card/id763020884?ls=1&mt=8
6. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.rev.mobilebanking.westpac

All sources accurate as of 30 January 2019

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