If you’re in New Zealand, you know we don’t get a lot of choice when it comes to credit cards. Even the special travel cards that you can buy and load up with money come with a whole host of fees. Figuring out how we would handle money overseas took up a LOT of my time before we left. After reviewing our options, I was pretty thoroughly depressed. I looked into individual credit cards at many banks as well as several travel cards that you can load and reload, like the Travelex Cash Passport. They all charged astronomical fees, and often there’d be an outrageous charge simply to obtain and activate in the first place. And then I came across the Air NZ Onesmart debit card.
Another Kiwi blogger has covered the ins and outs of the Air NZ Onesmart card for travel pretty comprehensively. I’ll let her extensive overview speak for itself, but in a nutshell:
- $2 fee to load funds.
- It’s easy to avoid the monthly fee as long as you’re regularly using the card.
- No fees for electronic transactions; first three cash withdrawals a month are free.
- You can store money in different virtual currency wallets on the card, move it around, and lock in exchange rates that way. (That means no crappy currency conversion rates or extra fees at the point of withdrawal from an ATM, unless you are in a country with an unsupported currency.) Or you can leave it to chance and take whatever the exchange rate is on the day that you make a purchase/withdrawal.
I’m convinced the Air NZ Onesmart card is the best option currently out there for Kiwis travelling overseas for a long period of time, and it’s definitely a much better one than my normal credit card, which charges $8 per withdrawal plus conversion fees. Plus Air NZ often has promotions where you can join the Airpoints scheme (and get a Onecard) for free, which I took advantage of.
How do I manage our finances while travelling? Well, my money system on the road looks something like:
- Transfer funds from my bank account to my Onesmart card
- Move cash around to the relevant currency ‘wallet’, ideally when the exchange rate is high (a few cents probably doesn’t make all that much difference, but it makes me feel competent , okay? My new thrill is opening up my daily email update from xe.com. Seriously)
- Withdraw cash as needed every few days
As for tracking our spending, I swear by the Trail Wallet app. It costs a couple of dollars and is worth every cent. Trail Wallet keeps a running daily and monthly total, tells you how you’re faring budget-wise, and generates colourful monthly graphs breaking down your spending by category. The Trail Wallet app can handle multiple currencies – I enter expenses in the local currency and it converts them to the NZ equivalent. You need to be online if you want to change your currency, i.e if you’re moving between countries and need to switch from, say, pounds to euros – but otherwise you can input transactions at any time. You probably carry your phone everywhere anyway, so whipping it out to record purchases isn’t a big stretch.