I Got Around Sydney Without Paying A Single Cent in Cash…And Maximised My Savings

I Got Around Sydney Without Paying A Single Cent in Cash…And Maximised My Savings

Travelling is always exciting: the joy of exploring new places and sights, experiencing new activities, trying new food and just enjoying yourself.

But we hardly talk about the admin stuff and planning that goes behind each trip; and for the worrywarts amongst us, doing our sums over and over again to ensure that we have changed enough cash, and feeling uncertain whether we’ll understand the various foreign systems such as transport, tipping and even payment methods.

One thing that made my recent trip to Sydney (my first proper overseas holiday since the pandemic) that much more stress-free was the fact that everything was so convenient — especially payments. In fact, all the cash I changed went untouched…that really blew my mind.

From restaurants to bars, stalls at farmers’ markets to ferry rides, everything was easy-peasy cashless. Pre-departure, it was also easy to book tickets online, pay in advance for all-in tours, apply for my Australia ETA (that’s their visa) and more.

With this powerful cashless payments infrastructure in place, I was free to roam the Harbour City with nothing but my DBS Visa Debit Card and mobile phone. No fumbling for cash, less worry about Covid-19 germs with contactless payment, the joy of not seeing conversion fees on my card’s bill AND I still got savings as a perk of this cashless adventure.

Here’s what I did in Sydney and how going cashless with the DBS Visa Debit Card maximised both my time and savings.

DBS Visa MCA - travel hassle-free



Already earning cashback pre-trip

Travelling before and after Covid-19 was same-same but different at the same time. In general processes are similar (like booking stuff online), with some changes (there’s now an Australian ETA app), but there are some pitfalls too…sky-high airfares cos everyone’s revenge-travelling, yo!

I booked myself onto Qantas but decided to pay in Australian Dollar. This is great if the exchange rate is in your favour. For me, I just exchanged my Singaporean dollars for Australian dollars in DBS My Account before spending it with my DBS Visa Debit Card (whereby My Account is the primary linked account). There are no foreign exchange fees, and you can even earn 2% cashback on your FX spend*.

May the rates be ever in your favour

You can lock down favourable exchange rates even before embarking on your adventure with My Account. Set up FX alerts to keep an eye on exchange rates and receive instant alerts once the rates are in your favour, so you can get the best of your foreign currency exchange.


For my tour, fellow foodies might be interested: I booked a chef-led tour to Hunter Valley, where I had a unique wine and food pairing in one of the gorgeous vineyards, discovered unique Australian flavours (Sydney rock oysters with Semillon, wattleseed panna cotta, and kangaroo meat sliders) and of course, had plenty to drink. Bought lots of Australian wine too, using my card!

*Valid with a minimum of S$500 on Visa and cash withdrawals limit of S$400 and below in the same month.


Transport is a cinch

Call me suaku (uninformed), but in the years that we couldn’t travel due to the coronavirus (or maybe I was just unaware), Australia developed some sort of system that’s kinda like our SimplyGo. This meant that instead of using Opal, their transport card, I could simply tap my DBS Visa Debit Card for all of my commutes.

I happily took the metro, train, tram, bus and even ferry to every destination — without needing to spend time checking my balance, topping up my card…another thing off my mind!

The ferry at Parramatta Wharf.

For those who’ve never been to Sydney before, the ferries are a key part of the city’s transport system. One major hub to get on a ferry is Circular Quay, within the bustling downtown area that’s close to major offices, restaurants and attractions like the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

View of Sydney Harbour Bridge from the ferry.

The busy port will also connect you via ferry to Manly Beach, Taronga Zoo, Cockatoo Island; I opted for a leisurely 1.5hour cruise down the Parramatta River where I could slowly take in the sights while enjoying sitting on the external deck of the vessel.

Anyway, back in Singapore, I had also been using the DBS Visa Debit Card with SimplyGo. There’s also 3% cashback on local transport (ride-hailing, taxis, SimplyGo), valid with a minimum of S$500 on Visa and cash withdrawals limit of S$400 and below in the same month.


Tipples at some of the best bars in the world

One of my personal missions is to savour cocktails from the World’s 100 Best Bars. On that current list (2022), three of them are in Sydney: Maybe Sammy (#29; The Best Bar in Australasia 2022), Cantina OK! (#41), and Re (#87; previously awarded the Ketel One Sustainable Bar Award in 2021).

And yes, I managed to squeeze all of them into my packed itinerary…though trying to down a couple of cocktails in under an hour or quicker before rushing to my next activity isn’t really a good idea.

Three of the mini happy hour cocktails from Maybe Sammy.

For Maybe Sammy, there’s a happy hour promo from Tuesday to Saturday, 4.30pm to 5.30pm where you can get mini happy hour cocktails at A$7 each (1 AUD was about 1.1 SGD when I went). I went on a Saturday, and there was already a loooong line at the door (they only accept walk-ins) at 4.30pm, when the doors had just opened.

Thankfully, I managed to get seated quite quickly. There’s also live music on Thursdays to Saturdays, and also A$2 Sydney Rock oysters (my favourite — I had 12 to myself) to go with my three mini happy hour cocktails, two full-sized cocktails and Mortadella Focaccia sandwich.

Needless to say, my tipsy self definitely appreciated the ease of tapping my card to pay at the bar and of travelling to my next destination on time. I definitely would have dropped some coins if cash had been involved.

Sustainable drinks at Re (left) and my bespoke mezcal-laced potion at Cantina OK! (right).

The other two bars are equally deserving of their accolades, with Re located in a charming locomotive district (the train museum there is worth a visit!) and Cantina OK! having that extra-special personal touch as the speakeasy is in some tiny standing-only garage. Shoutout to Re for having a zero-waste philosophy and Cantina OK! for one of the best margaritas I’d ever tasted.


Truly cashless city

Earrings purchased cashlessly from a vendor at The Rocks Market (left) and a hearty, delicious brekkie I ordered and paid for digitally (right).

Everyone just seems to accept contactless payments in Sydney. I’ve tapped to pay with my DBS Visa Debit Card at every occasion, from independent food and craft vendors (there’s a famous weekend The Rocks Market) to the Cantonese-speaking auntie at a traditional Chinese eatery I dined at in the suburbs.

In some cafes, I can scan a QR code for the menu and place my order, and make payment via the webapp. For those who just want to enjoy their me-time, it’s perfect to limit unnecessary interactions; and for me, who was travelling solo, the perfect solution to not leave my valuables or seat unattended.

Peace of mind with security features

Speaking of security, one fear that’s very real overseas is losing or misplacing important valuables, such as cards, passports and mobile phones. Having your card details stolen and payments made without your knowledge (that’s what anti-RFID wallets are for) is also another concern.

With the DBS Visa Debit Card + My Account combo, you can easily keep track of your spending safely and securely with Travel Mode on digibank. You can also track and check your FX balance with peek balance, de/activate your card for overseas usage, raise your credit limit, disable contactless function, block a card or even lock your card temporarily while searching for your missing card.

Interestingly enough, when I searched Google for “cashless payments Sydney”, a few interesting articles popped up. According to 9News, it’s predicted that by 2025, cash will account for only two per cent of value from all point-of-sale transactions. The Sydney Morning Herald also detailed how the pandemic accelerated the rejection of cash payments by many retailers to avoid the spread of infection.

In fact, Australia is one of the top 10 most cashless societies in the world, with Sweden leading the charge. Both the Australian Dollar (AUD) and the Swedish Kroner (SEK) are two of the 11 foreign currencies available for transacting with the DBS Visa Debit Card.

The list of 11 foreign currencies available are:

  1. Australian Dollar (AUD)
  2. Canadian Dollar (CAD)
  3. Euro (EUR)
  4. Hong Kong Dollar (HKD)
  5. Japanese Yen (JPY)
  6. New Zealand Dollar (NZD)
  7. Norwegian Kroner (NOK)
  8. Sterling Pound (GBP)
  9. Swedish Kroner (SEK)
  10. Thai Baht (THB)
  11. US Dollar (USD)

You can pay for your shopping, dining and leisure with your DBS Visa Debit Card in these 11 foreign currencies and incur no foreign exchange fees when you link your My Account as the primary account to your DBS Visa Debit Card. Your foreign currency transactions will then be debited directly from the respective foreign currency wallet in your My Account.


Signing up for the DBS Visa Debit Card is fuss-free

To apply for a DBS Visa Debit Card, just go to your digibank mobile app: Launch digibank app, login, select More > Apply > Cards. The card has a $0 annual fee.

For best results, and to avoid paying foreign exchange fees, pair it up with the DBS My Account multi-currency account, which you can also apply for instantly on the digibank app: ​​Launch digibank app, login, select More > Apply > Deposit Accounts

Other than for your overseas escapades, you can also benefit when you pay in foreign currency for your online transactions (we always like to offer to “help” our friends and family book their trips…heh heh). For local, everyday spend, the DBS Visa Debit Card nets you up to 4% cashback on online food delivery and local transport.

Get up to 10% cashback on online food delivery and local transport

Apply for a DBS Visa Debit Card online by 30 June 2023 to enjoy this limited time promotion! Spend a minimum of S$500 per calendar month from card approval date and keep your cash withdrawals to S$400 and below in the same month to qualify. Valid for new DBS Visa Debit Cardmembers only, terms & conditions apply.

Remember, you can even earn 2% cashback on your FX spend — valid with a minimum of S$500 on Visa and cash withdrawals limit of S$400 and below in the same month.

Find out more about the DBS Visa Debit Card or apply via digibank to start maximising your overseas spend.

This post was written in collaboration with DBS. While we are financially compensated by them, we nonetheless strive to maintain our editorial integrity and review products with the same objective lens. We are committed to providing the best information in order for you to make personal financial decisions with confidence. You can view our Editorial Guidelines here.