Don't Pay Unnecessary Bank Fees when Booking Flights

By Emma Merkas on 30/Jul/2013
The world is so much smaller these days, isn’t it? With the click of a button you can purchase an airfare to anywhere in the world… from any number of domestic and overseas online agents and carriers.

Some of the cheaper tickets can be found on overseas websites like Cheapoair & Vayama, but when you’re paying in US dollars your bank then likes to hit you with a 3% fee for the foreign currency transaction… on long haul flights, that can end up costing you a fair bit!

However, there are a few credit cards that don’t charge the 3% currency conversion fee. You can use these cards to pay for flights or any international purchase from within Australia, as well as use them in person when you travel.

Note: automatically allows for a 3% bank charge when displaying prices from sites like CheapOAir and Vayama. Eg, if they charge $90 USD and that converts to $100 AUD, then we will show you the price of $103 AUD, so you can accurately compare them against Australian companies. If you use one of the cards listed here, then you will not be charged the $3 by your bank. As always, does not add any charges.

Remember also that if there are alternatives to paying with a credit card, such as POLi, they can often be even cheaper.

28 Degrees MasterCard

The 28 Degrees Card, brought to us by GE Money is so far the most well known example of this new credit card breed.

Its selling points are simple: no annual fee, no cash withdrawal fee and no fees for cash advances. If you’re shopping online, there are also no currency conversion fees, nor international transaction fees.

You can access up to 55 days interest free on your purchases and the 28 Degrees card offers a 4.99% p.a. interest rate for the first six months on any balances you transfer to them from your other cards.

The annual percentage rate for this one, however, is on the high side - sitting at 20.99%.

Watch out for: The cash withdrawals from ATMs – while the bank won’t charge you for domestic withdrawals at Westpac banks, the overseas withdrawals may attract fees from the actual machine.

You’re always notified at the time of what the fee will be before completing your transaction. Other than that, the bank does not charge a back end fee.

Aussie Platinum Low Rate MasterCard

Launched in November 2012, the Aussie Platinum Low Rate Card is another solid option to use in your overseas and online shopping pursuits.

It has a lower 13.29% p.a. on everyday transactions and the same 20.99% as the 28 Degrees does on cash advance. Being a platinum card, the minimum limit you can apply for on the Aussie Platinum Low Rate is $6,000.

This Aussie card does dangle a pretty sizable carrot on balances transferred, though: 9 months at 0% interest for balances over $500, which then reverts to 20.99% (the cash advance rate) after the 9 months is up.

It also includes complimentary overseas Travel Insurance, Interstate Flight Inconvenience insurance and a range of other cover-yourself (and your family) insurances when you purchase your flights and prepaid travel costs of $1,000 or more with this card. Ostensibly, they don’t mind where you buy your tickets from, so long as they’re charged to the card. Hello, cheap international airfare websites.

Read the PDS carefully before making a decision based on this feature - it doesn’t cover you for adventure sports or motorcycles, along with a bunch of other conditions.

Watch out for: The $99 annual fee for a start. Also watch for the additional cash advance fees of the greater of $4.00 or 2% (to a maximum of $150) on international cash advances. Domestic cash advances from Australian ATMs attract a 2% fee up to $150 as well.

The interest free period isn’t mentioned in the benefits. Upon reading right into the PDS, you will find that you may have an interest free period of up to 55 days, but I would be fastidious about double checking this before going ahead with this card.

Bankwest Zero Platinum MasterCard

Bankwest had a shake up of their credit cards last year that resulted in the Bankwest Zero Platinum Card. Even as we wrote this piece, they adjusted their offer on this card again and the marketing points are pretty compelling.

The Zero features no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees and 55 days interest free. Purchases carry an extremely low 1.99% p.a. for the first 9 months.

Balances transferred will be charged at 2.99% p.a. for the first 9 months.

After the initial introductory 9 months, the card reverts to a 17.99% p.a. for both purchases and balance transfers.

There is, again, a minimum limit of $6,000 on this card, being that it’s a Platinum product.

Like Aussie, the Bankwest Zero Platinum offers complimentary travel insurance with up to $25,000 in cover. This means you can book your tickets, foreign-fee-free from any website in the world with your Zero card and they will throw in the travel insurance for you. There are some conditions about minimum spend and so on, so do read the PDS - as always.

One standout feature of the Zero is that they offer a 24/7 Concierge service that you can access both from home and abroad. These handy chaps will take care of everything from booking your flights and hotels to locating lost luggage when you’re in transit (touch wood), to directing you to embassies and hospitals in your country of travel and making restaurant recommendations and table reservations. Sweet!

It seems the concierge service is acting as your PA where you need them. Presumably, you can tell them which websites you’d like them to look at and what prices you have in mind. The only caveat is that they won’t partake in anything illegal. Fair enough. They will also utilise their own resources to find you better prices where they can.

The cash advance rate is 21.99% on the Zero, a little higher than the others.

Also noteworthy is the fact that Bankwest took out the gold in the Money Magazine ‘Credit Card Issuer of the Year’ Award for 2013 and 2012.

Watch out for: Also a cash advance fee here of 2% or $4.00, whichever is greater. No cap mentioned, unlike the $150 cap on the Aussie card.
By Emma Merkas on 30/Jul/2013

Tagged as: currency conversion fee, fees, bank fees, save money, credit card fees