With travel opening up again (despite the fear mongering behind the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron), Singaporeans are looking for ways to save a wee bit of cash. This is where the digital multi-currency accounts come in.
Instarem’s amazing new Amaze card has launched this year, with a lucrative 1% cashback on top of your linked credit card. How does it compare to the rest of the offerings from BigPay, Revolut, Wise (formerly TransferWise), and the beleaguered YouTrip?
Let’s review and compare.
BigPay vs Instarem Amaze vs Revolut vs Wise (Formerly TransferWise) vs YouTrip: Which is the best multi-currency account?
|BigPay||Instarem Amaze||Revolut||Wise (Formerly TransferWise)||YouTrip|
|Mechanics||E-wallet top up
Accrue AirAsia BIG points with AirAsia account linkage + overseas spend on BigPay card
|Linked with existing credit/debit card
1% cashback + credit/debit card rewards
|E-wallet top up
Sign up with different tiers of plans to get cashback
|E-wallet top up||E-wallet top up|
|Able to remit money||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Currency exchange rates||Visa wholesale exchange rate||Reuters’ exchange rate||Real-time exchange rates||Mid-market rate||Mastercard wholesale exchange rate|
|Number of supported currencies to store||N.A.||N.A.||28||54||10|
|Card available for payment||Yes, Visa||Yes, Mastercard||Yes, Visa||Yes, Mastercard||Yes, Mastercard|
|Overseas withdrawal||Free for first withdrawal, 2% thereafter||N.A.||Free up to S$350, 2% afterwards||Free up to S$350, S$1.50 per withdrawal afterwards||$5 per withdrawal|
|Minimum top-up||S$1||N.A.||S$20||No minimum top-up||No minimum top-up (PayNow)|
|Electronic payments||N.A.||Google Pay||Apple Pay, Google Pay||Apple Pay, Google Pay||N.A.|
Swipe left to see the full table.
It’s been three years since YouTrip first launched in Singapore; at the time, having 0% fees was revolutionary, but now, it’s merely a requirement.
The competition from BigPay, Instarem’s Amaze, Revolut, and Wise (formerly TransferWise) have each come up with an inbuilt, easy-to-use cashback or rewards programs, whilst YouTrip follows a much more troublesome promo code redemption program, not unlike Shopback. More on this later.
Best all-round digital multi-currency card: Instarem Amaze Card
It does what it says on the tin — you link up to 5 of your current Mastercard credit or debit cards, and you reap the Amaze 1% cashback on top of your credit or debit card cashback or rewards. That alone, introduces very low barriers for people to use and incentivises spending on their existing cards.
However, the linking service is a bit wonky. Users have reported random declines or duplicate charges, including myself. To elaborate, I made a skincare haul on Guardian Singapore, had my S$238 charge reversed, and then recharged again. There is also no integration with Apple Pay, which is a shame.
Runner-up for the best digital multi-currency card: Revolut
Much like Instarem’s Amaze, you also get 1% cashback, but at a price — for S$19.99 a month. That gets you the 1% cashback, increased threshold for free overseas withdrawal from S$350 to S$1,050, and a host of travel-related insurance that includes medical, dental and baggage delay.
It also has the slickest UI and best integration with current phone payment methods, most notably Apple Pay and Google Pay.
That being said, you need to juice up your Revolut account with S$20 to activate your account, and their travel-related insurance coverage does not include COVID-19 yet. For that, you’ll want to check out our list of best travel insurance that includes COVID-19 cover.
Think about it this way — it’s like paying for a credit card annual fee, and you get a discount if you pay upfront. It’s S$199 if you pay upfront, as opposed to S$239.98 if you were to pay monthly. In addition, your funds and transactions can be accessed more reliably because your money is stored in a wallet, as opposed to Instarem’s sometimes-temperamental linking service.
Best free digital multi-currency card with rewards for those who don’t want sign up for more credit cards: BigPay
BigPay takes the cake here by being completely free to sign up and to take advantage of its BIG Points reward system. Sound familiar? It’s the subsidiary of low-cost Malaysian carrier, AirAsia, and that means you can use it to redeem discounted flights, meals from AirAsia food, travel insurance and even investments.
It’s quite useful too if you already have an AirAsia account — simply link them up to reap your current BIG points balance and earn more with your BigPay card.
The kicker is that you will need to spend at least S$5 on any transaction to earn 1 BIG point, and there’s a limit of S$300 daily on Visa PayWave payments. Do note that chip + pin transactions are subject to the MAS yearly limit of S$30,000.
What about Wise (formerly TransferWise)?
Wise (formerly TransferWise)’s strength lies more in its ability to remit and hold multiple types of currencies as opposed to spending money through its e-wallet. This is shown by the fact that, out of all the digital multi currency account providers, it supports the most number of currencies to store and send, at 54. The next highest, is nearly half that, at 28, from Revolut.
Its card provides no special benefit to everyday consumers other than the ability to spend from the wallet. You’re better off using Wise to send money to your loved ones overseas, but it depends on the region that you’re sending to as well. Find out what I mean in this article about the best remittance services.
Anything good about YouTrip?
Yes, and no. You can only store up to 10 currencies in its e-wallet, you’re charged S$5 per withdrawal and its rewards system is a bit troublesome — requiring you to dig out your YouTrip card for its Y-number when you want to redeem something from its YouTrip Perks page.
Granted, the mobile app does it for you, but shopping on your desktop is a more comfortable experience because you can multitask, and compare prices between two tabs.
Better deals can also be had within the app, but it’s on a limited-time basis and not built into the functionality of the card unlike the above mentioned providers. Also, some users have reported that some of the promotions don’t work, like how this anonymous user has sent us a screen recording of a Shopee cashback deal leading to an error page, saying that the “Budget has been exhausted”.
However, if you already have a YouTrip card sitting in your wallet, make use of the 0% foreign transaction fee to buy stuff online in other currencies or link it to foreign mobile apps such as WeChat or Taobao. Otherwise, get a free month-long BlueSG membership if you drive and want to bypass the festive Grab/ Gojek surge pricing this December.
Between mid-market rates, wholesale rates, and real-time exchange rates: what’s the difference?
As a consumer, this is not something that you should base your decision on. Essentially what those above mentioned terms are talking about is the constantly changing rates of foreign currencies, and you can check it through the tools provided by Visa, Mastercard and Reuters. The difference will mostly boil down to the nearest cent, as illustrated in the Instarem Amaze card review.
Does that mean I don’t have to exchange foreign currencies ever again?
For short trips and urban cities, you may be able to get away with not having the local currency in cash, and just rely on debit. In most cases though, I reckon you’d still want to make a trip to Change Alley or Mustafa Centre to prepare some cash on hand.
This is because many countries are still very dependent on cash and the limit of S$350 for Wise (formerly TransferWise) and S$1,050 for Revolut (with Metal Plan, S$350 otherwise) without fees may not be sufficient for long trips.
Don’t forget that you’d have to hunt down the right ATM terminal overseas to get fee-free withdrawals. Otherwise, admin/processing fees may apply.
Is using a digital multi currency account better than a bank’s?
|Electronic multi-currency account
(e.g. BigPay, Instarem, Revolut, Wise, YouTrip)
|Banks’ multi-currency savings accounts
(e.g. DBS Multiplier, HSBC Everyday Global)
|Better conversion rates, transparent fees||Worse conversion rate with some markup, opaque fees|
|Able to withdraw overseas (up to $350). Not able to withdraw SGD in Singapore.||Able to withdraw in Singapore and overseas (sometimes with no fee).|
|No need to maintain a minimum balance||Usually has a minimum balance requirement|
|Loose cents can be spent overseas or converted||May end up with loose cents that can’t be converted in various balances|
Banks rely on legacy structures that are still in place, which can mean unfavourable exchange rates and high fees.
However, borderless multi-currency accounts like Instarem, Revolut and Wise (formerly TransferWise) are not tied to legacy structures like the SWIFT network and multiple bank partnerships. Therefore, they can provide much lower fees, up to 6 times cheaper for currency conversion and remittance.
Example: SGD to THB on 29 November 2021
|DBS Multiplier account||THB 24.30||THB 24,304|
|Airport money changer||THB 24.17||THB 24,170|
|Wise||THB 24.67||THB 24,675|
|XE live rate||THB 24.67||THB 24,675|
*Before fees are applied.
As you can see, Wise’s rate was equivalent to XE’s live rate. Factoring in Wise’s transfer fees of approximately 0.74%, converting S$1,000 costs $7.39, yielding a net of THB 24,484.21. Overall, that still yielded more than the DBS multiplier.
A digital multi-currency account may be more convenient to apply for as well. Opening a bank account comes with requirements, one of which is to maintain a minimum balance. You don’t have to do that for electronic multi-currency accounts.
An irritating thing about using a multi-currency savings account is that you’d retain cents in various currencies that can’t be converted back after your travels.
With a digital multi-currency account like Wise, you can spend with your borderless Mastercard or Visa card and have the system choose the best existing currency to convert from. This gives you a chance to spend loose cents that you can’t convert back to Singapore Dollars.
That said, using a local multiplier savings account is convenient as you can use it to pay and withdraw money in Singapore seamlessly. You can also earn interest rates on certain foreign currencies.
In contrast, you can only withdraw up to $350 per month with no card fees overseas. This is with an electronic multi-currency account, and you can’t withdraw local currency in Singapore when the Payment Services Act was enforced in 2019.
That being said, the world is a lot different from what it used to be 3 years ago. Digital multi currency card accounts have caught up to the level of banks in terms of rewards and cashback promotions, whilst being on the bleeding edge of financial technology. Don’t miss out!
Know anyone who’s making travel plans while prices are low from the COVID-19 Omicron variant? Share this article with them!