Are you preparing for an upcoming trip abroad and finding yourself pondering over the best way to handle your day-to-day expenses? Gone are the days when your only choices were limited to carrying stacks of traveller’s cheques or relying solely on cash.
Thanks to the wonders of technology, international money cards have revolutionised how we pay for expenses while travelling.
However, with the many options available, making an informed decision that aligns with your budget-conscious mindset is essential.
As fellow travellers who understand the value of stretching every dollar, we’ve dedicated ourselves to finding the optimal solution for managing your money abroad without falling victim to unfavourable currency conversions.
Learn why we chose a Wise Travel Card
That’s why we’re thrilled to introduce you to the Wise card – your ultimate companion for seamless and cost-effective international transactions.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the world of international money cards, exploring their advantages and drawbacks.
Our goal is to equip you with the knowledge and tips necessary to make a well-informed decision, ensuring that your money works in your favour throughout your travels. At the heart of our mission lies the belief that travel should be accessible to all, and that includes making sure your hard-earned money goes the extra mile.
With the Wise card, you’ll experience a level of convenience and savings like never before, enabling you to enjoy your journey without compromise.
So, let’s embark on this exploration together as we navigate the realm of international money cards and help you discover the ideal option for your unique needs.
How will you pay for your overseas expenses?
When it comes to handling our daily expenses, there’s no denying that contactless payments have taken the lead as the most popular method.
Whether we’re strolling through the charming local markets of France or Italy or simply grabbing groceries from the supermarket, mobile EFTPOS has swiftly become the norm. In fact, even public transport has embraced the convenience of tap-and-go facilities.
Gone are the days of frantically searching for an ATM, for a remarkable shift has occurred.
Businesses across the globe now readily accept card payments, making finding cash less of a necessity. This transformation is why a multi-currency travel card stands out as your ultimate solution for managing daily expenses during your travels.
As avid travellers who embarked on our slow travel lifestyle in 2016, we initially relied on a third-party travel money card to handle our financial needs.
However, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, contactless payments have soared in popularity, emerging as the go-to method for paying our daily travel expenses. From bustling supermarkets to vibrant local markets, and even when hopping on public transportation, mobile EFTPOS technology has become the new standard.
Why bother hunting down an ATM when you can effortlessly use your card almost anywhere?
The convenience and efficiency of a multi-currency travel card have surpassed our expectations, providing unparalleled control and flexibility while managing expenses overseas.
Drawing from our own firsthand experience, we’re here to provide a review of the various international money cards.
What is a Multi-Currency Travel Card?
A multi-currency travel card is issued by a third party, for example, Mastercard.
When opting for a multi-currency travel card issued by a third-party provider like Mastercard, you can access a convenient card payment method loaded with a chip that allows you to preload funds onto the card.
While this service may come with a fee, it’s worth noting that the exchange rate for transferring your home currency is often lower than the daily rates found on Google.
The other notable drawback we encountered when using the card was trying to use it for online purchases while in Europe.
Due to the card being labelled as a “Prepaid Currency Card,” some online stores were reluctant to accept it, leading to potential limitations when shopping online during our travels.
We also found that overseas ATM withdrawals incur a fee in the foreign country and by the issuer.
In summary, a multi-currency travel card offers the convenience of preloading funds but often with unfavourable exchange rates. It provides a secure and widely accepted payment method for in-person transactions.
However, it’s important to consider potential fees for foreign transactions. And be aware of any restrictions when using the card for online purchases.
What to Consider for a Multi-Currency Travel Card
When it comes to selecting a multi-currency travel card, there are three crucial factors to keep in mind:
- The rate of exchange
- The cost of transfers
- The transaction charges
While the exchange rate is beyond our control, understanding its fluctuations and planning accordingly can help you make the most of your funds.
To navigate the exchange rate, we recommend conducting a weekly review over a three-month period. This allows you to identify favourable rates and decide when to load additional funds in your home currency.
However, it’s important to acknowledge that there will be times when you misjudge the market, leading to frustration. So annoying!
But other times, such as when the Brexit vote, can present exceptional opportunities in certain instances. We capitalised on this by loading a substantial amount of Euros at an excellent exchange rate.
These occasional wins highlight the potential benefits of closely monitoring exchange rates and seizing favourable opportunities.
However, when it comes to the cost of currency transfers, please understand the fees associated with the travel card.
Some providers may charge fees for loading your home currency onto the card and for converting to different currencies. Evaluating these fees and determining which currencies you will use most is crucial to minimise costs.
Another factor to evaluate is transaction charges for purchases and ATM withdrawals.
While multi-currency travel cards often impose ATM fees, it’s important to note that ATMs may also charge fees. Our own experience in Turkey revealed the fortunate discovery of an ATM with no withdrawal fee, creating a perfect scenario.
Nevertheless, despite the benefits, we eventually decided to part ways with our travel money card. The frustration of being subjected to double fees for ATM withdrawals, coupled with a lower daily exchange rate and the absence of a personal name on the card, led us to explore alternatives.
So, you may be wondering, why not simply use your bank debit card?
What is a Bank Debit Card
A bank debit card linked to your everyday bank account with a positive cash balance offers a convenient and familiar travel payment option. Equipped with a microchip, this card can be used at ATMs, for in-store purchases, and even for online transactions.
One of the advantages of a debit card is the ability to preload it with funds to meet your spending needs.
This feature helps us stick to our monthly budget and acts as a preventive measure. By loading a reasonable amount onto the card, we ensure that the potential loss is limited even if someone gains unauthorized access to our debit card.
Maintaining a relationship with your bank is another significant benefit of using a debit card.
Before travelling, we make a point to inform our bank about the countries we plan to visit and the duration of our stay. This proactive step serves as a security measure. If any transactions occur outside of the specified countries, our bank is immediately alerted, providing an additional layer of protection against fraudulent activity.
We learned this lesson early on in our travels while housesitting in France.
When a seemingly innocent transaction of Euro25 was rejected by our bank, we realized it was due to our failure to inform them of our travel plans. While it was frustrating at the time (we needed our French perfume from Grasse), we recognised that it was our responsibility to communicate and ensure smooth transactions abroad.
However, it’s important to acknowledge the disadvantage of using a bank debit card—the fluctuating exchange rate.
Every purchase we made, even if they were mere minutes apart, incurred different exchange rates charged by our bank. While some variances were minimal, others had a noticeable impact on our expenses.
This prompted us to seek out an alternative solution for managing our finances while travelling.
Enter Wise, a new multi-currency travel card that addressed our concerns.
In the next section, we will delve into the advantages offered by Wise and explain why it became our preferred choice for our slow travel lifestyle.
Who is behind Wise?
We knew we were onto a good thing when we came across the Wise debit card.
So, who are Wise?
The founders of Wise, Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärman of Estonia, are the brilliant minds behind Wise. Both from Estonia faced a common challenge—finding a way to reduce the exorbitant bank fees incurred when transferring funds between the UK and Estonia.
Drawing on their unique backgrounds, Taavet Hinrikus, a founding member of the iconic Skype, possessed the technical expertise required for this endeavour. While Kristo Käärman, a financial services consultant at Deloitte in London, had extensive knowledge of the industry.
Together, they formed the perfect combination to tackle their problem head-on.
In 2011, Wise was launched in London, revolutionising how people manage their finances across borders.
This innovative platform has become a global leader in international money transfers and multi-currency solutions. Because Wise does not have the hefty fees associated with traditional banking methods. Wise offers a transparent and cost-effective solution for managing your funds while travelling.
What is Wise?
Wise, formerly known as TransferWise, is a leading online money transfer service that has transformed how travellers can send and receive funds internationally.
One of the best features of Wise is its extensive currency coverage. You can hold up to 50 different currencies, which can be utilised in 175 countries worldwide using its low conversion fees and competitive exchange rates.
But what sets Wise apart is its innovative payment technology.
Unlike traditional banks that rely on the SWIFT network for transfers, Wise utilises its own transfer system. This enables faster and more efficient money transfers, eliminating the need for intermediaries and reducing costs.
How does Wise work?
Getting started is simple.
You create a Wise account and link it to your personal bank account. To ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, you will need to complete the Wise AML (Anti Money Laundering) document. Once your AML is approved, your Wise account is opened, and you can transfer your funds to it.
Transferring your home currency to your Wise account is done via a local Wise bank account in your country, ensuring that no fees are incurred for this step.
The money will typically appear in your Wise account within 24 hours, if not sooner. You can conveniently convert your funds into other currencies as needed.
We regularly visit the Wise website or use the user-friendly Wise app to stay informed about the latest exchange rates and charges. The Wise website even provides a handy comparison of exchange rates, allowing you to see the potential savings when opting for a Wise transfer.
With its numerous benefits, Wise has become our go-to solution for everyday transactions and managing our finances while travelling.
That’s why we would recommend Wise, an exceptional choice for anyone seeking a reliable and cost-effective multi-currency travel card.
8 Reasons Why We Chose Wise
- Personalised Debit Card – this was a big plus for us. One of the standout features of Wise is the ability to have a personalized debit card. With our names and signatures on the back, it serves as a payment method and identification. The bright green colour may be a bit unconventional, but it’s easy to spot in our wallets. (Note: there is an initial debit card fee.)
2. Multi-Currency accounts – Wise allows us to open multiple currency accounts. Whether we’re primarily using Euros for our European travels or need to transfer our funds to a less common currency like Moroccan Dirham (MAD), Wise supports over 50 currencies. This versatility has made the card increasingly popular among travellers. When our trip is over, we can easily transfer any unused currency back to our preferred account for a small fee.
3. Low Currency Accounts – Gone are the days of feeling embarrassed when paying for goods and realising there are not enough funds in the local currency account. With Wise, the card intelligently uses another available currency to cover the shortfall, eliminating any awkward situations.
4. Convenient Money Transfers – We love using Wise money transfers to pay friends and family. It’s a breeze, and the upfront fee and locked-in currency rate make the process transparent. We avoid high bank fees and unfavourable exchange rates by opting for Wise. Best of all, the recipient doesn’t need a Wise account.
Instead, we forward our Wise Euro currency account details to the payee. By clicking into our Euro currency account, we can copy and email the bank details required for the payment.
So easy. It is no hassle to find your bank’s Swift Code or BIC code.
Whether it’s covering the cost of car tyre replacements or settling a road toll bill in Australia, Wise has us covered.
5. Affordable Fees – Wise doesn’t charge an annual fee; it even offers two free monthly withdrawals under $350. While fees may vary depending on the currency transfer, Wise charges reasonable fees when converting our local currency to another currency using their mid-market rate.
6. Compatibility with Google Pay and Apple Pay – Wise can be loaded onto Google Pay or Apple Pay for those who prefer not to carry physical cards. However, please note that obtaining your card details will require the initial payment for the Wise debit card.
7. User-Friendly Wise App – Wise’s dedicated app makes tracking our funds and managing our spending a breeze. From organising transfers between currency accounts to setting up new currency accounts and initiating transfers from our bank accounts, the app offers convenience and control at our fingertips.
8. Business Account Integration– Wise also offers a valuable feature for business users. Their business accounts seamlessly integrate with popular accounting platforms like Xero and QuickBooks, providing a cost-effective alternative to bank transaction fees.
Wise has proven to be a game-changer for us with these eight features. It’s no wonder that Wise has become our go-to solution for managing our finances while travelling.
How we use the Wise App
Is Wise Multi-Currency Safe?
Yes. But it is worth reading this article from Wise to understand the financial regulations they adhere to in their operating countries.
Wise takes the safety and security of customer funds seriously. They adhere to strict financial regulations in the countries they operate in, including the USA, Europe, and the UK. To understand their regulatory compliance and the measures in place, it’s recommended to refer to the article provided by Wise.
Since the funds we hold with Wise are primarily for daily living expenses, our balance is not typically high. Therefore, we actively monitor currency rates for the countries we visit to ensure transfers are beneficial to us.
In our experience, Wise has provided us with greater flexibility and convenience as our foreign money bank. We feel confident using their services and find it a safe option for managing our finances while travelling.
The Best Solution is Wise
Wise is the best choice when it comes to choosing a travel money card.
One of the key advantages is the high level of security and protection for your funds. Wise operates under strict financial regulations, ensuring the safety of your money.
When it comes to currency conversion, Wise offers a mid-market rate that is often better than what traditional banks offer. This means you get more value for your money when converting currencies.
The fees associated with Wise are low and transparent. You can easily see and understand the charges involved, making it easier to manage your expenses.
It’s important to note that Wise is not a credit card.
This means you need to pre-load your currency accounts before spending. Using the Wise app is a quick and efficient process.
While some initial documentation and checks are required to set up your Wise account, once approved, the user-friendly Wise App makes managing your finances a breeze.
With a wide selection of 50 currencies available, Wise offers travellers the flexibility they need for their spending needs. Whether you’re exploring different countries or making online purchases, Wise provides a convenient and versatile solution.