Travel Money Guide: USA

Planning a trip to the USA? Wondering about the best travel money option? Look no further! In this guide, we will explore various travel money options for the USA, including debit and credit cards, prepaid travel money cards, and good old cash.

Compare Travel Money Options for USA

When it comes to travel money options for the USA, there are a few choices to consider:

  • Travel Debit Cards
  • Prepaid Travel Money Cards
  • Travel Credit Cards

Credit Cards

How Much Money Should I Bring to the U.S.?

Determining how much money to bring to the U.S. depends on your travel plans and budget. The expenses can vary greatly, from $30 to $60 per night for a hostel in New York to $350 per night for a superior suite in a 5-star hotel. It’s best to research the specific costs of accommodation, dining, and activities in the cities you plan to visit.

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New York City

Exchange Rate History

The exchange rate between the Australian Dollar (AUD) and the US Dollar (USD) has fluctuated over the years. It is important to stay informed about the current rates to make the most of your travel money.

Year Average Exchange Rate (AUD to USD)
2012 1.035937
2013 0.967915
2014 0.902813
2015 0.752124
2016 0.743664
2017 0.762571

Exchange Rate

Travel Card, Debit Card, or Credit Card?

In the United States, most merchants accept credit and debit cards for payments. However, there may be situations where cash is required, such as small bars or food trucks. It’s important to have a mix of travel money options to ensure you can easily make payments and avoid unnecessary fees.

Debit Card

Travel Money Options for USA at a Glance

Here’s a summary of the pros and considerations for each travel money option:

  • Debit Cards for Travel:

    • No currency conversion, international ATM, or account keeping fees
    • Free global transfers between Australian and American Citibank accounts
    • Limited availability of travel-friendly debit accounts in the US market
  • Prepaid Travel Money Cards:

    • Locked-in exchange rates
    • No currency conversion fees
    • Consider fees such as local ATM, initial load, reload, and inactivity fees
  • Credit Cards for Travel:

    • Widely accepted
    • Contactless payment terminals are common
    • Be aware of overseas ATM fees and currency conversion fees
  • Traveller’s Cheques:

    • Security, but costly with initial purchase charges
    • Many merchants don’t accept traveller’s cheques
  • Cash:

    • Greater payment flexibility and convenience, but more challenging to manage expenses and higher risk of theft

Remember, the features and benefits may vary between cards, so it’s important to compare the options available to find the best fit for your needs.

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Credit Card

How Travel Money Products Work in the United States

Using Prepaid Travel Cards

Australian travel money cards allow you to load and spend in USD. These cards offer the advantage of locking in exchange rates when converting AUD to USD, avoiding extra currency conversion fees. While most merchants accept Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, some travel cards may not have your name printed on them, which could result in rejections. Compare the fees associated with these cards, including international ATM withdrawal fees, partner alliances in the US, initial load fees, reload fees, and inactivity fees.

Using Debit Cards

Most Mastercard or Visa-branded debit cards can be used in the United States. The Citibank Plus Transaction Account is a travel-friendly option that offers benefits such as no currency conversion fees, international ATM fees, account keeping fees, and free global transfers between Australian and American Citibank accounts. Using Citibank ATMs in the US can help avoid local ATM withdrawal fees. Westpac cardholders can also avoid local ATM operator fees by using their cards at Bank of America ATMs.

Using Credit Cards

Credit cards are widely accepted in America. Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Diners Club cards are commonly used. Look for travel-friendly credit cards that don’t charge high currency conversion fees. Be cautious of international ATM fees and avoid cash advances, as they come with additional charges. Some credit cards, like Bankwest Platinum Cards and the Latitude 28° Global Platinum Mastercard, waive currency conversion fees.

Using Traveller’s Cheques

Traveller’s cheques are no longer the most convenient option due to limited acceptance and associated costs. It’s best to explore other travel money options for easier transactions.

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Paying with Cash in the USA and Tipping Etiquette

While card payments are prevalent in the USA, having cash on hand is still necessary for certain situations, particularly for tipping. Tipping is customary in America, and it’s important to be prepared with cash for tipping at bars, restaurants, clubs, and hotels.


A Guide to Deciphering American Banknotes – The Greenback

Familiarize yourself with American banknotes before your trip to avoid confusion and potential mistakes while using cash.

Buying Currency in Australia

If you prefer to have U.S. dollars before arriving in the country, you have several options for getting your cash changed in Australia. Banks and foreign exchange providers like Travelex or Australia Post offer currency exchange services. Australia Post has convenient locations at major Australian airports, allowing you to order cash online and pick it up before your departure. Remember to check the requirements for declaration if you are carrying more than $10,000 USD or the equivalent in foreign currency.

Why You’ll Need a Combination of Travel Money Options

To have a cost-effective way of making purchases and accessing your money in the USA, it is advisable to use a combination of travel money products that do not charge for currency conversion and have low or no international ATM withdrawal fees. Having multiple options for accessing your money ensures convenience and flexibility during your trip.

Travel Insurance

Get Travel Insurance Quotes for Your Holiday in USA

While the USA is an exciting travel destination, accidents can happen anywhere, and medical care in the US can be expensive. Protect yourself financially by investing in travel insurance. Travel insurance can cover expenses for medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and more.

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  • How do I choose the right travel money option for my trip to the USA?
  • Are there any specific considerations for using travel cards in the USA?
  • How should I handle tipping and cash payments in the USA?


When it comes to travel money options for the USA, it’s essential to plan ahead and choose the right combination of cards and cash to suit your needs. By comparing options, understanding fees, and being prepared with local currency, you can make the most of your trip without unnecessary expenses. Happy travels!


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