I use Bankdirect a wholly owned subsidiary of ASB
What I like about Bankdirect :
- reasonable banking fees – and if you don’t use it you don’t pay an account keeping
- quick loading site which works on slow connections world-wide
- for $1/month you can have a a token for additional security – a small device which provides a random number which you have to enter when you transfer money away from the account. Someone can have your password and login ID but without the token they can’t steal from your account.
- Bankdirect is totally setup to do everything on-line without needing, for example, to phone to set-up bill payees. They actually respond rapidly by email if you ask them too – handy when you are out of the country.
ATM Withdrawal Fee
Many banks will charge you up to $7.50 per an overseas ATM transaction – this can very quickly add up! Bankdirect charge $5.00 which is an improvement. It does however get better. If you have a Bankdirect credit card ($7.50/ 6 months, $2.50/6 months for an associate card) and you have put a credit balance on it i.e. you are using your own money you pay nothing to withdraw from any ATM worldwide. Nothing, Nada, Zero – its a pretty good deal! On top of that you also get credit interest on your credit balance.
Currency Conversion Charges
A currency conversion charge is the % the credit card companies and banks charge onto of the conversion rate. These can typically 2.5% or 3.0%. However again the Bankdirect Credit Cards (or debit cards for that matter), undercut the competition by charging a conversion charge of 1.85%. However, if you are travelling to Australia using Commonwealth Bank ATMs (which are probably the most widespread in Australia) the margine reduces to a 0.7% conversion charge. That’s a lot cheaper than taking cash and paying to have that converted to Australian dollars!
We use a second bank’s credit card to actually make credit card purchases – it simplifies the keeping track of amount of credit we have on the Bankdirect card. It doesn’t matter really which one you use, either be the cheapest card you can find or one that provides useful frequent flyer points. Even if I don’t intend to use a credit card overseas its handy to use to guarantee hotel rooms and rental cars, or to purchase cheap air tickets online. It also means if something goes seriously worng with the Bankdirect account because of some electronic gremlin we still have access to funds.
Best Currency to Carry
Well NZ $ of course! Well only if you are heading to the Cook Islands, where they use NZ$ as their currency. Every time you convert from one currency to another you loose on the exchange. Unfortunately outside of Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Singapore and maybe Bangkok getting a decent exchange rate, or any exchange rate for the Kiwi $ will be pretty difficult. Therefore if travelling to Europe I will carry a few 100 Euro cash and anywhere else in the world a few 100 US$.