Travel Finance

Our latest trip has given me the perfect chance to research the most efficient way to pay for your trips overseas. For years, I have extolled the virtues of the 28° MasterCard which is one of the cards I carried on this trip. There is no annual fee, small fees on transactions, and a good conversion rate. However, I also carry my ING debit card, which is a Visa card. After testing identical transactions I found both cards offered the same competitive exchange rate, but the ING card has extra features. It can be used at any ATM around the world with any fees refunded, and does not charge a fee if you deposit money into the card when you are travelling. 28 Degrees charge $0.95 for every deposit.

Bear in mind that the MasterCard is a credit card, and the ING card is a debit card. They both have brilliant apps that work on your phone virtually in real-time, enabling you to keep track of all your spending in detail. And of course, the special benefit of the debit card is that you cannot overspend, because all you are doing is spending money in the account linked to it.

Another feature of the ING card, which I have just discovered, is the refund of a myriad fees that are invisible when you are doing transactions. These rebates have totalled $49 since we left home!

Don’t forget to have a backup card. When we checked out of our hotel in London I was attempting to prepay the booking we have made at the same hotel for a return visit in September when I will be making a speech at Australia House. The hotel tried to process the payment, but 28° MasterCard declined it. We then tried to repeat the transaction with half the cost of the original – that was approved. Next day when I looked at the app, I noticed that the declined transaction had appeared as an approved transaction, and as a result there were no funds left on that credit card.

I was then stuck between a rock and a hard place. The hotel claimed the money had not been paid to them, and after a long phone call to Australia the MasterCard people said it was held “pending” until the hotel “released it”. At date of writing I am still trying to resolve it. But imagine the situation for anyone that happened to not have a backup card. They would be stranded overseas with no money!