Eli Orzessek finds the answers to your travel questions

We will be travelling to Mexico later in the year. We will be there about two weeks and in the US for about four days on the way back. I have never travelled to these locations before and was wondering the best way to take money and roughly how much I should allow per day. My husband and I have a Visa card so I was wondering if there is much difference between these and the cash passport that the ASB offers and the Loaded debit card from Kiwibank. Can I use these in an ATM or is my normal ATM card likely to work just as well? Is it better to get these exchanged for cash at the airport as we fly in or wait until we can get to a Forex or bank away from the airport?
- Joanna


writer Grant Bradley recently went to Mexico and says US dollars can be used in touristy areas like Cancun and credit cards are widely used. The cash machines charged about $11 for each transaction and as far as he knows, his details weren't skimmed.


Your Visa card will be slightly different from the offerings you mentioned from Kiwibank and ASB. These travel cards are quite useful overseas, as you can load them with money in multiple currencies — which means you won't be charged exchange fees. You can use them in an ATM, which you wouldn't want to do with your Visa card as you're generally charged daily interest for a cash advance. I had similar travel cards provided to me with both my Air New Zealand Airpoints and Qantas Frequent Flier memberships.

Your normal ATM card is likely to work on the cash machines over there too, but you'll be charged a withdrawal fee. If it's a Visa/Mastercard debit card, you shouldn't have any problems. I have a normal eftpos card that's on the Cirrus system, so I just look for that logo on the machine.

I find having a combination of different ways to pay is the best way to go — so pick up some pesos and US dollars at the airport (I've read that the exchange rate is better there in Mexico), as well as wielding your credit card and travel card. It's also good to have your normal ATM card as backup. Aside from touristy areas, few businesses accept US dollars, so pesos are more important.

As far as a daily allowance, Lonely Planet recommends up to M$700 ($54.50) if you're on a budget, up to $M2000 ($155) for the mid-range traveller and M$2000+ if you're going top end.

Note: In last week's column I wrote that foreign credit cards are not accepted on the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) website. It turns out this rule has changed and foreign cards are now accepted.

Email your questions to askaway@nzherald.co.nz
Eli cannot answer all questions and can't correspond with readers.