Preparing for an overseas holiday usually involves a trip to the money changer at Mustafa or Change Alley in hopes of getting the best exchange rates, and then fearfully rushing home before someone robs you of those big wads of cash.
Now, thanks to multi-currency accounts, travel wallets and bank accounts, that could be a thing of the past.
Are these services too good to be true? Should you use them? And before you do, what do you need to know?
Top multi-currency travel wallets & bank debit cards in Singapore
|Card/wallet||Interest rates, if any||Currencies|
|DBS MCA||0.05% on SGD, 0.03% on USD, 0.05% on first 10,000 Renminbi, 0.250% on next 90,000 Renminbi||SGD, AUD, CAD, Renminbi, EUR, HKD, JPY, NZD, Norwegian Kroner, GBP, Swedish Kroner, Thai Baht, USD|
|UOB MightyFX||0.05% for most currencies; 0.2% on Renminbi||AUD, CAD, Swiss Franc, Renminbi, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, USD|
|Citibank Debit Mastercard||–||Swiss Franc, AUD, CAD, EUR, HKD, JPY, NZD, GBP, USD|
|RHB TravelFX||–||SGD, USD, GBP, AUD, NZD, CAD, HKD, Swiss Franc, JPY, EUR, Thai Baht|
|YouTrip by EZ-Link||–||More than 150 currencies; for in-app exchange, SGD, USD, EUR, GBP, JPY, HKD, AUD, NZD, Swiss Franc, Swedish Krona|
The DBS Multi-Currency Account lets you stash cash in up to 12 foreign currencies as well as the Singapore dollar.
Basically, you transfer money in SGD to the account, exchange currencies and then leave the money in the account for future use.
They don’t charge forex conversion fees, which means their exchange rates are quite competitive compared to what money changers can offer. That being said, the best money changers such as Mustafa are usually able to offer slightly better rates.
You can link the account directly to a DBS debit card, which means that when you’re overseas you can use the card to pay rather than having to withdraw cash at an ATM machine.
The basic account is free and there is no initial deposit, however fall below fees ($7.50 a month, waived till you’re 29 years old) apply if your balance dips under 3,000 SGD.
UOB MightyFX is a multi-currency account that can be linked to one of the following UOB accounts – One Account, iAccount, Wealth Premium Account, Privilege Account or KrisFlyer UOB Account.
You can transfer money from one of the above accounts to MightyFX and convert it to the currency of your choice. Their exchange rates are quite competitive compared to the average money changer. When you are overseas, you can then spend using the debit card which will be issued to you, thereby avoiding ATM fees.
There are no required minimum deposit or fall below fees for MightyFX (although the SGD account linked to MightyFX might charge its own fees). There is, however, an annual fee of $18 which is waived for the first three years, and subsequently if you make at least 12 Mastercard transactions per year.
Citibank Debit Mastercard
Rather than a bank account, the Citibank Debit Mastercard is a debit card which lets you withdraw cash at any Citibank ATM overseas without having to pay ATM fees or additional conversion fees. You’ll also enjoy better exchange rates than if you were to use a regular ATM card.
In order to use the card, you will have to have a local and foreign currency account with Citibank. First you transfer money from your SGD account to the foreign currency one (eg. their Global Foreign Currency Account), converting the currency in the process. You then link the currency of your choice to your Citibank Debit Mastercard.
The main benefit of this card compared with most of the multi-currency accounts on this list is that you can withdraw cash for free if you do not want to or are unable to pay by card, provided you can find a Citibank ATM.
RHB TravelFX gives you the best of both worlds—the ability to exchange SGD for foreign currencies, AND a card which lets you withdraw cash for free overseas. You enjoy up to 20 free withdrawals at VISA PLUS ATMs per year.
Simply transfer SGD from any bank account (doesn’t have to be an RHB one) into your Card Wallet, and then select the currency to convert it to. You can do so using their mobile app for even more convenience.
There are no annual fees, currency conversion fees or fall below fees.
You also get free travel accident insurance when you purchase your return trip tickets with the card. This is no substitute for a proper travel insurance policy, but it is a little perk.
The main weak point of the RHB TravelFX is that since it’s a card rather than an account, you won’t earn interest on the cash you store in it. But given the fact that the interest being paid out by multi-currency accounts usually isn’t great to begin with, that’s no big loss.
YouTrip by EZ-Link
No, you’re not dreaming. EZ-Link, the card you use to pay for the privilege of using the MRT, now has a multi-currency mobile wallet that lets you make payments overseas.
How YouTrip works is simple: you top it up with money, exchange currencies in the process, and then spend using the card when you’re overseas.
View this post on Instagram
The card lets you convert and make payments without transaction fees in over 150 currencies. The exchange rates offered are Mastercard wholesale rates. This means: probably worse than Mustafa or Change Alley, but better than most banks’ over-the-counter exchange rate.
Using their mobile app, you can also check rates and exchange 10 foreign currencies on the go, which is convenient if you’re hoping to catch the best rates.
This is a good card to use if you’re visiting a country whose currency is not accepted by any of the other accounts and cards, such as Vietnamese Dong or Icelandic króna. Be aware, however, you will be charged a $5 fee plus any foreign bank fees for using it to withdraw cash at an ATM.
One last thing you must know is that you need to pay $5 a month if you do not use your card for 12 months in a row. That being said, making an online purchase counts as a transaction, so this isn’t an onerous requirement if you plan to continue using the card long-term. Do note, however, that there is no information on how to get a refund if you terminate the card, so don’t go transferring millions just yet.
Revolut (not launched yet)
Revolut is a mobile wallet slated for release in Singapore in early 2019. The main features are an e-wallet that runs on your smartphone and a card, both of which you can use to make payments overseas.
Basically, how it works is you upload money which is then converted automatically to foreign currency when you try to make a payment abroad.
It is still unknown exactly which features will be released in Singapore.
The main thing that stands out is that Revolut is a sort of online banking service provider. It has been granted a remittance licence by MAS, but as far as customers are concerned, it exists only online and on your mobile phone.
They are also one of the first banking apps of this kind to offer cryptocurrencies, but it remains to be seen if this option will be available in Singapore.
Note: Paying by card is not always an option in certain countries
While many of the countries that Singaporeans are fond of visiting are advanced in cashless payments, there are some countries that rely heavily on cash, such as Laos and Myanmar. Even developed countries like Japan can have a preference for cash. In addition, some countries such as Indonesia also have issues with credit card fraud, so you might want to think twice about using your credit card for everything.
You’re also more often than not expected to pay in cash at certain types of businesses, such as market and street food stalls.
So always do research on how acceptable payment by card is at your destination, and plan to bring along an appropriate amount of cash.
Have you ever used a multi-currency account, card or wallet? Share your reviews in the comments!
Personal finance tips delivered to your inbox!
Receive news, subscriber-exclusive promotions and guides on how to become smarter with money.
We promise never to spam you!