Money Saver India
The smartest way to carry forex

The smartest way to carry forex

Foreign exchange cards are more cost-effective than international debit and credit cards and much safer than carrying a wad of cash in your wallet on a foreign visit.

Carrying around foreign currency on a foreign holiday can be worrisome. You don’t trust leaving your money anywhere, so you will carry it around with your at all times. If it’s not cash, you may be dependent on an international debit or credit card. These are, however, expensive, and you’re forced to buy forex at the bank’s rate, which is generally more expensive than that offered by a money-changer. A good solution to both these problems is the forex card. Here’s what they’re all about.

Reasonably priced, safety guaranteed
Forex cards will end up costing you more than carrying cash yourself, but they’re reasonably priced for the peace-of-mind they offer. This card can be purchased on-the-spot at any bank branch. Here are its benefits:

What are the charges? Charges are low with these cards. You’ll pay Rs125 for the Kotak World Travel Card and Rs150 for ICICI’s and Axis’ cards. You can load money onto the card at no extra cost the first time, but each subsequent time you put money on the card, you’re charged a fee. With all three of the above-mentioned cards, no matter the amount you wish to load, you’ll be charged Rs100. The card usually remains valid for two years, so you may even be able to use it on multiple trips.

Buy from a money-changer You may be wondering why you would want to buy forex from a bank when money-changers offer slightly lower charges. Well, many banks even let you buy forex from money-changers with this product. With ICICI Bank, for example, you can buy it from Centrum Direct, which has offices in all major Indian cities, among others, such as Zuari Forex and Green Channel.

Accepted everywhere These are usually Visa cards (although a few MasterCard variants are offered), so you can withdraw money anywhere you please. If you make a purchase using your card, whether online or at a store, there’s no additional charge either. For ATM withdrawals, however, you’ll pay a flat $2 charge with most forex cards. This charge can be higher in certain destinations, though. In Australia, you’ll pay AUD7.25 a transaction as a fee. However, this is paltry as compared to the costs of an international card. If you swiped an Axis Priority Platinum Debit card abroad, for example, you’d be paying 3.5% of the rupee value of your transaction.

If you run out If you end up spending all the money you have on the card, you can reload your card. You won’t be able to do this yourself, however. What you need to do is leave a signed copy of the reload form and authorisation with your family. With this, your family member, friend or whoever you chose to give authorisation to can simply approach the bank branch and reload the card.

In case of loss If the card is lost or stolen, not all is lost. The moment you inform the bank, you’re covered under an insurance policy. With some banks, you may even be covered for transactions before you reported the card lost. With ICICI, for example, the card has a zero liability once reported lost and is covered for Rs50,000 two days prior to it going missing. With Kotak Mahindra, you’re covered even 30 days before you file a report, so long as it was misused, for up to Rs1 lakh.

Getting money back If you come back with money still on the card, you can get it refunded to your account at the prevailing rate. To get this process started, you need to inform the bank and cut the card up into four pieces are return it to them. If you wish to hang on to the card, you’ll have to maintain a small balance. If it’s the $US, you’ll have to keep $20 on the card, if it’s the Euro, you’ll have to keep £10.

Bank ICICI Travel Card Kotak World Travel Card Axis Travel Card
Issuance fee Starts at Rs150 Starts at Rs125 Starts at Rs150
Reload fee Rs100 Rs100 Rs100
Online payment Nil Nil Nil
POS transactions Nil Nil Nil
Withdrawal (in $) $2 $2 $2
Lost card liability Zero liability once reported stolen Up to Rs1 lakh once reported stolen Up to Rs2 lakh once reported stolen
Lost card insurance Rs50,000 two days before loss Rs1 lakh 30 days before loss NA
Lost card fee $20 $20 $3

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