5 Things to Watch Out For Before You Splurge Online in Foreign Currencies

online shopping

Shopping online has made it so easy to spend your hard earned money. Because you don’t actually see any cash changing hands, or see what effect the weight of your shopping bags has on your boyfriend’s biceps, you often end up spending more than you already expect. But while we can’t control your need to shop, what we can do is make sure you avoid any inconvenience by telling you what to watch out for. So before you get ready to splurge on the next Amazon or Zalora sale, do keep in mind these 5 points.


1. Incurring extra transaction fees

We’ve mentioned before about credit card fees you don’t know about. Top of that list was foreign transaction fees. We go into a lot of detail in that other article, but basically here is a quick summary.

If you make any transaction overseas, whether in person or online, there are additional fees that are charged on top of your purchase price. These fees are usually a small percentage of between 2% to 4%, depending on which credit card you use and what currency you transact in.

Different credit card companies charge different rates for overseas transactions. However, when it comes to currency conversion, a foreign currency will always be converted to US dollars first, and then to Singapore dollars. This is true for all banks and credit card companies. So if you’re given the option of paying in US dollars, it might be a good idea to take it.


2. Getting a refund, and realising it’s not the same amount

If, for whatever reason, you need to get a refund for your online purchase, you might notice that it may not be the exact amount that you paid for it. This might be strange to you because the overseas merchant refunded the same amount in foreign currency.

However, since the date of the refund is different from the date of the transaction, you’ll definitely notice the difference in foreign exchange rates. If you get back more than you spent, then congratulations. Go buy yourself a 4D ticket with the money and hope your luck continues.

However, most of the time, you’ll probably get back less than what you paid. The good news is, most banks do allow you to call in and request for the difference to be given to you. Usually, this difference is no more than $5, so the bank has no problems absorbing the cost and you should be able to settle in a single call. If the customer service officer does have a problem, don’t be afraid to escalate the issue to a manager.


3. Setting Transaction Alerts

Did you know that your bank will notify you automatically via SMS if your credit card has been used for the first time? These notifications can be customised on many levels. For example, you can request for the bank to notify you every time your credit card is used in Singapore for transactions above a certain amount. You can also request for a similar notification should your credit card be charged in an overseas currency.

The purpose of this is for security, of course, and to make sure you’re notified if there are any transactions that are more than what you would normally spend on your card.

However, there’s a fine line between being secure and being paranoid. Just like you wouldn’t wear adult diapers unless you have a really serious problem with your bladder, neither should you be worried about every transaction that you do online. So please don’t call the bank and request to be notified for every transaction on your card above $1.


4. One Time Passwords

It was quite a big deal when 2-Factor Authentication was first introduced back in 2010 for online credit card transactions. This means that, after you submit your credit card details, you’ll be brought to another screen where you have to key in a password that is SMSed to you.

In those early years of implementation, most credit card holders had not updated their contact numbers with the bank. To make a long story short, their online transaction could not go through as a result, which meant a lot of them lost the chance to book their cinema seats. You can just imagine how “popular” credit card customer service officers suddenly became.

These days, however, 2-Factor Authentication should not be a big deal. However, whenever you get a new mobile number, don’t forget to update your bank as soon as possible to avoid any inconvenience later on.


5. Avoiding Credit Card Fraud

Ultimately, the main thing you should be concerned about when going online to transact with your credit card is the possibility of credit card fraud. There’s no point getting the best credit card for online shopping, if someone else is going to steal your information and go on a shopping spree. Because your physical card and signature are no longer needed for a transaction to go through, always be careful when revealing your credit card information online.

Firstly, make sure that the website requesting your credit card details is legitimate. Know the difference between “Amazon” and “4maz0n”, or “eBay” and “3bay”. Scam websites are all over the Internet preying on people who don’t check before keying in their information.

Secondly, watch out for websites that claim you won’t be charged even if you key in your credit card details. For example, if a certain page claims to need your credit card details to confirm “that you’re an adult”, then chances are it’s a scam website and you should feel ashamed for even thinking of visiting such websites.

Thirdly, make sure that the website you’re transacting on is secure. You can usually check this by making sure the website address begins with “https” (the ‘s’ stands for secure).


Know any other things online shoppers should watch out for? Share them with us.