Tips to manage your travel money

TRAVEL SMART: It pays to research your money options before you set out for a holiday.
TRAVEL SMART: It pays to research your money options before you set out for a holiday.

After spinning the globe and deciding where to go, travellers need to decide how they will pay when they get there.

Of the five main options, traveller's cheques, foreign cash, credit card, New Zealand dollars and cash passport, the cash passport came up trumps, Managing Director of Flight Centre Mike Friend said.

"There are traveller's cheques, but very few people do that any more," he said.

"You can just take an ATM card and withdraw cash out when you get there, but it can be expensive."

There were varying bank charges that applied when you withdrew cash from your personal account from an international ATM, and they added up, Flight Centre said.

Cash passports were the recommended payment form, and had become the "modern day traveller's cheque".

One of the main benefits was the ability to lock in the exchange rate of the currency you needed, he said.

"We have a lot of clients who have them that have been loading them up with US dollars three-to-four months ago when the dollar was strong," he said.

"So even though they weren't travelling for five-to-six months, they've been loading their cash passports up and locking in the exchange rate."

There were a number of currencies available on the cash passport card including Australian, Canadian, Euro, Singapore, Hong Kong, US and New Zealand dollars, British Pounds, Japanese Yen.

"You can use it basically like a credit card, and it is accepted at over 30 million locations, wherever MasterCard is accepted," Friend said.

When it came to carrying New Zealand dollars in cash, there was some risk, because the exchange rate could not be locked in, and you would have to find places to exchange it.

While that would be an easy task in Europe or the US, finding a currency exchange booth in Fiji could be more of a hassle.

On a credit card, there would be all the withdrawal fees, he said.


Travellers could head to travel agents and some banks to get cash passport cards, such as ASB and BNZ which both offer the MasterCard Cash Passport.

There is a 1 per cent load or reload fee on the MasterCard cash passport, said House of Travel's David Beattie.

"For example a client wants to load NZ$3,000 over a range of currencies NZ$30 is charged," Beattie said.

"The client pays House of Travel NZ$3030.00."

It could be loaded while travelling, or by an authorised family member from home.

A currency conversion fee also applied, and the MasterCard rate was 5.95%. (Here is a list of bank rates for buying foreign currency and one for selling foreign currency.)

"This provides a transaction margin for the card company, not dissimilar to credit card companies and banks who charge conversion fees for converting the local purchase currency to New Zealand dollars," Beattie said.

No bank account was needed to set it up, and the customer would need to be over 18-years-old.

It would be supported by MasterCard with 24/7 assistance anywhere in the world, and a second card would issued as a backup if the card was lost.

House of Travel said currency fluctuations could be avoided by loading all nine currencies before leaving New Zealand. Information on the cash passport from House of Travel can be found here.


Kiwibank has a Loaded for Travel card, which would hold up to 12 currencies on one prepaid Visa card.

Air New Zealand has its own version of the MasterCard multi-currency passport linked with their airpoints.