4 Best Ways to Take Travel Money to South Korea in 2023
If you’re a fan of K-Pop and Korean culture, a trip to South Korea can be very rewarding. South Korea is also a popular place to move for work, with an established expat community in many large cities.
If you’re planning on going to South Korea to live and work - or even just for a quick visit - you’ll need ways to pay for things once you’re there. This guide runs through the benefits and drawbacks of 4 possible ways to take money to South Korea so you can find the one that suits your specific needs best.
Best ways to take money to South Korea
In this guide we’ll walk through 4 of the most practical and popular ways to take money to South Korea, including our top picks for providers to look at, pros and cons. Here are the common ways to pay overseas that we’ll investigate:
Prepaid travel cards to use in South Korea
Ideal for: convenient spending and withdrawals in South Korea with low fees and fair exchange rates.
Card payments are super popular in South Korea, so getting a prepaid travel card from a specialist provider can be a convenient way to spend safely while you’re there. Register an account with your preferred provider, and order your card to be delivered to your home. You can then add money to the linked digital multi-currency account in AUD, and either convert right away to KRW, or hold your balance in AUD to convert at the point of payment instead.
Not all cards allow you to convert funds to won in advance - so compare a few, including the Wise card we’ll look at in more detail next. With Wise you can convert to KRW in advance or when you spend - and the card supports 40+ other currencies, too, so you can also hold onto it for your next trip.
Learn more about our picks for the 6 best prepaid cards.
Wise - our pick for prepaid travel card
With this card:
- Hold and exchange 40+ currencies in your linked Wise account
- No annual or monthly fees to pay, and no minimum balance requirement
- Currency exchange uses the mid-market rate with no markup
- Some free ATM withdrawals available every month
- Virtual and physical cards available
|Wise card pros||Wise card cons|
|✅ Currency exchange uses the mid-market rate
✅ No foreign transaction fees apply
✅ Free to hold and spend 40+ currencies
✅ Receive payments to your Wise account in a selection of global currencies
✅ No minimum balance or ongoing fees
|❌ 10 AUD fee to get a card in the first place
❌ Free ATM withdrawals are limits to 2 per month, to the value of 350 AUD. Fees of 2% + 1.5 AUD after that
❌ Express delivery fees if you want to get your card as soon as possible
Pros and cons of taking money to South Korea with a prepaid travel card
- Convenient for spending and withdrawals in KRW and a selection of other currencies
- Pick a card which supports holding in KRW and you can lock in the exchange rate before you travel
- Secure as not linked to your everyday AUD account
- Many cards have no minimum balance amount and no ongoing fees, and offer some fee free ATM withdrawals
- Cards are available which offer currency exchange at the mid-market exchange rate with no markup
- Inactivity fees and exchange rate markups may apply depending on the card you select
- ATM fees apply to some cards, particularly if you make frequent withdrawals and exhaust your fair usage allowances
- Some cards charge a fee if you spend in an unsupported currency, or if you spend a currency you don’t hold in your account already
Travel debit cards to use in the UK
Ideal for: secure KRW spending and travel perks like free global wifi, airport lounge access or insurance
Travel debit cards work just like any other debit card but are designed with travel-focused benefits such as some currency conversion with no fees to pay. Other cards offer extras like free airport lounge access or wifi, although you might have to pay a monthly fee to unlock some perks.
Generally travel debit cards also have a linked multi-currency account which you can use to hold, spend and withdraw in a broad selection of foreign currencies conveniently. Plus, as your card isn’t connected to your everyday AUD account, it’s a secure option. Even if the travel card was stolen, your normal account and card is secure and thieves have no access to your main bank account.
We’ll go into more detail about our top pick for a travel debit card - Revolut - next, and you can also read more about the best travel debit cards in Australia here.
Revolut - our pick for travel debit card for South Korea
With this card:
- Hold and exchange 25+ currencies
- Choose the account plan that suits your needs and spending, including some with no monthly fees
- Some no- fee ATM withdrawals and currency exchange with the mid-market rate, based on the account tier you choose
- Extra perks like accounts for under 18s, plus cash back on card spending for top tier account holders
- Travel benefits offered for some account plans
|Revolut card pros||Revolut card cons|
|✅ Hold and exchange 25+ currencies, spend currencies you hold for free
✅ Choose from different account tiers to suit different customer needs
✅ Get some free ATM withdrawals every month, depending on the plan you pick
✅ Get some currency exchange every month which uses the mid-market rate - limits vary by account plan
✅ No card order fee
|❌ Ongoing fees apply for some account tiers
❌ Out of hours fees push up currency exchange costs on the weekend
❌ ATM fees of 2% apply once you exhaust your free withdrawals
Pros and cons of taking money to South Korea with a travel debit card
- Cards are often optimised for travel, with ways to cut the cost of spending overseas
- Different card options available to suit individual customer needs, including some with no ongoing fees to pay
- Make withdrawals from international ATMs to avoid having to carry a lot of cash
- No interest or penalty fees - just top up the amount you want to spend and you’re done
- Not connected to your main AUD account, adding a layer of security when you’re overseas
- Not all cards allow you to hold and exchange KRW
- Unlike with a credit card you’ll need to fund your account upfront
- Some cards have monthly fees to pay to get full feature access
Taking cash in South Korea
Ideal for: small purchases and as a back up plan for when your card can’t be used.
Only about one in every five transactions in South Korea involves cash. Payments with cards are more popular overall - but having some cash is useful as a back up plan when you’re abroad, just in case you run into problems and can’t use your card for some reason.
You can get South Korean won in cash before you leave, through a service like Travelex, carry AUD cash with you and exchange it in South Korea once you arrive, or make a quick ATM withdrawal at the airport when you land.
In fact, using ATMs for your travel cash is a smart balance as you won’t need to carry too much cash all at once, and you can generally find a handy ATM whenever you’re in a town or tourist area.
|Cash pros||Cash cons|
|✅ Great as a back up plan in case your card isn’t available
✅ Convert in advance or take AUD and switch on arrival
✅ Set your budget in advance so you know exactly what you have to spend
|❌ Carrying a lot of cash isn't safe - tourists are often targeted by petty thieves
❌ You’ll have to invest time during your break or in advance, shopping round to get a good deal
❌ Exchange rates vary widely and usually include a markup - an extra fee
Do I need cash in South Korea?
Having some cash in KRW as a back up plan, and for tipping and small purchases is a smart move, and can be reassuring when you’re travelling.
You don’t necessarily need to order your travel money before you leave either - just get your cash from an ATM when you arrive. If you use a prepaid card or travel debit card for ATM withdrawals you’ll also often get a great exchange rate and low fees, too.
How to buy KRW on arrival in South Korea?
In cities and tourist areas you can exchange AUD to KRW pretty easily. However, bear in mind that money changing services in airports and at your hotel are unlikely to offer the very best deal out there. It’s worth heading to a city centre and shopping around based on exchange rates and fees to make the most of your money.
How to buy KRW in Australia?
Another option is to exchange AUD to South Korean won in advance before you leave Australia. Providers like Travelex let you order the KRW cash you need online and either collect in a branch or have it delivered to home. Exchange rates are likely to include a markup.
Best place to get won from
There’s no single best place to get your travel cash - it’ll all depend on where you’re heading and how good a rate you can find either at home or on arrival. Compare a few options and bear in mind that it’s usually worth avoiding currency exchange in the airport or in your hotel.
Travel credit cards to use in South Korea
Ideal for: secure payments with extra travel benefits, and as a form of payment guarantee when checking into a hotel.
Credit cards are the most popular payment method of all in South Korea. If you have time before you travel you might want to consider getting a specific travel credit card which lets you earn rewards and cash back when you spend in foreign currencies. You might also find cards aimed at travellers which have low or no foreign transaction fees, airport lounge access or complimentary insurance.
Remember to weigh up the costs and benefits of using credit cards to pay for travel, as you’ll often have to pay an annual fee, cash advance costs and interest if you don’t clear your bill in full and on time.
Learn about the best travel credit cards in Australia here, and read on for more on our top pick.
28 Degrees - our pick for travel credit card
With this card:
- Order online and start spending with your virtual card instantly if approved
- No annual or monthly fees
- No foreign transaction or currency conversion fees
- Make ATM withdrawals overseas - fees apply for this service
- Unlock perks like discounts on travel bookings and internet roaming packages
|28 Degrees pros||28 Degrees cons|
|✅ No annual or monthly fees
✅ No foreign transaction fees - your payment is converted to AUD using the Mastercard exchange rate
✅ Repay your bill in full monthly to avoid interest or penalty fees
✅ Travel perks and partner discounts available
|❌ Cash advance fee of 3% or 4 AUD (whichever is greater), plus interest, when making an ATM withdrawal
❌ Interest charges apply if you don’t repay your bill in full monthly
❌ Subject to eligibility and credit checks
Pros and cons of travel credit cards to the UK
- Earn rewards and discounts, or get travel perks - depending on the card you pick
- Spread your costs out over a few months
- Some cards have low or no foreign transaction fees
- Credit cards are useful as a payment guarantee in some situations
- Interest and fees usually apply if you don’t pay back your bill immediately
- Cash advance and interest costs apply when using an ATM
- Eligibility rules and credit checks apply
Travel requirements from Australia to South Korea
If you have an Australian passport you can enter South Korea as a tourist for a stay of up to 90 days without needing a visa or visa waiver.
Check the government’s Smart Traveller website to learn more.
Does South Korea accept Australian dollars?
No. You won’t be able to spend AUD anywhere in South Korea. If you’re carrying Australian dollars with you you'll need to exchange them for KRW in order to spend them.
Best currency to take to South Korea
As you might expect, you can only spend South Korean won in South Korea. You can exchange your AUD for South Korean won before you travel, make an ATM withdrawal on arrival, or exchange cash in South Korea. If you plan to exchange on arrival you’ll be fine to carry AUD.
How much money do I need per day in South Korea?
South Korea is not known as a budget destination, but you can find accommodation at a good range of price points. As hotels are usually one of the highest costs involved in planning a break, this can make it easier to manage your budget. Once you’re in South Korea you’ll find a cheap meal for one will be about 10 dollars on average, while a 3 course lunch for 2 will set you back in the region of 60 AUD, and a single bus ride could be just 1.5 AUD.
Do some detailed research to see how much things are likely to cost wherever you’re headed, so you can plan your budget. Get more detailed cost information by country and city, from Numbeo.com.
How much does it cost to fly from Australia to the UK?
Flight costs vary widely depending on where in Australia you’ll leave from and where exactly you need to be in South Korea . At the time of writing (September 2023), you can find direct flights with Jetstar from around 500 AUD, travelling from Brisbane.
There’s no single best way to take money to South Korea. Generally, carrying one or more cards, including a travel prepaid or debit card, as well as some cash is a good idea for most people. That means you won’t be caught out if one payment method is refused or can’t be used for some reason.
Check out specialist travel cards - such as a prepaid travel card from Wise or a travel debit card from Revolut - to use for spending and withdrawals, and to carry alongside your regular debit or credit card, and a little cash. Using a specialist travel card can mean you access lower overall costs when spending overseas compared to using a standard card with a foreign transaction fee - so you can do more on your trip.
Use this guide to decide which option to take money to South Korea will work best for you, based on your own preferences and needs.
FAQ - Best ways to take money to the UK
Should I exchange money before I travel to South Korea?
You won’t necessarily need to exchange money before you travel. Making an ATM withdrawal on arrival in South Korea can work well if you don’t have time to get KRW sorted out in advance. It may also be better value overall if you have a travel card from a provider like Wise or Revolut.
Can I withdraw South Korea from a local ATM?
You can’t withdraw South Korean won at a normal ATM in Australia, but you’ll be able to get KRW from an ATM on arrival easily. Use a travel card and your withdrawal may even be free.
Are prepaid travel cards a good way to take money to South Korea?
Travel prepaid cards from services like Wise have some great features like multi-currency balances and low or no ATM fees. They can also be a safe way to spend when abroad - consider getting a travel prepaid card to use alongside your other preferred payment methods, to bring down the costs of your trip.
Can I use cash in South Korea?
Yes. Sometimes cash is the easiest way to pay for small purchases and tipping. However, card payments are by far the most popular option in South Korea, so it’s worth also having a travel card, to make sure you’ll be able to pay no matter what happens.