How to buy foreign currency with a credit card

By   |   Verified by Andrew Boyd   |   Updated 28th March 2022

Are you heading overseas on a trip? Need some foreign currency in case you can’t use your card?

You can use a credit card to buy foreign currency in Australia. You can also buy foreign currency with your card when travelling overseas. But there are considerations since it can get surprisingly expensive.

Keep scrolling down to learn more about how it works and what to beware of.

Before travelling

Buying foreign currency with a credit card in Australia

There are a number of ways to use your credit card to buy foreign currency.

What cards you can use

  • American Express, Mastercard, and Visa. Any Australian credit card can be used to buy foreign currency. There are, however, fees and interest to be aware of. Since purchases of foreign currency are classified as a cash equivalent, they incur interest at the rate for cash advances plus the one-off cash advance fee. It’s worth mentioning that the cash advance rate begins to accrue from the date of the transaction with no interest-free days.

Where you can buy foreign currency with a credit card

  • Your bank's local branch. For many people, their local bank branch is the first port of call to get foreign currency. While convenient, banks do not tend to offer competitive exchange rates as compared with other options.
  • Currency exchangers. Exchangers are widely available, accept credit card payments, and offer a large choice of currencies with exchange rates that are more favourable than those at a bank.
  • Money transfer services. If you need to pay an individual or recipient overseas, international money transfer services offer very competitive exchange rates, low fees, and speed.

While overseas

Buying foreign currency with a credit card while overseas

If you're already overseas, here’s how to use your credit card to buy foreign currency.

  • At a bureau de change. It’s possible to find an exchange in most large towns and cities worldwide. However, keep in mind that transactions made at a bureau de change will be treated as a cash equivalent. That means interest will begin to accrue immediately at the cash advance rate. There will also be a one-off cash advance fee, plus an additional foreign currency fee depending on what card you use.
  • Withdrawing from an ATM. This gets expensive very quickly. Although it may be the most convenient option, withdrawing local currency from an ATM incurs fees and interest. The transaction will be treated as an overseas cash advance. Interest will begin to accrue from the date of the transaction at the rate for cash advances with no interest-free days. A one-off cash advance fee will be charged. And since the ATM was not located in Australia, it’s very likely that there will be an overseas ATM withdrawal fee. In addition, there's also the possibility of there being a foreign currency transaction fee (most cards charge one).

What it might cost

Fees

Type of feeIncurred in Australia?Incurred overseas?Cost
Cash advance interestYesYesAround 20% (daily, no interest-free period)
Cash advance feeYesYes2 - 3% (one-off)
Foreign currency feeYesYes2 - 3% (one-off)
Overseas ATM withdrawal feeNoYes2 - 3% (one-off)

Find a new credit card to take with you on your travels. Get airport lounge access, reward points, and other travel perks.

Want more help?

FAQs

Can you earn credit card points when buying foreign currency?

No. Banks classify the purchase of foreign currency as being a cash equivalent that is not eligible to earn points.

Can you get cashback when buying foreign currency?

No. Since banks regard buying foreign currency as a cash equivalent transaction, it is not eligible for cashback.