International Debit Cards: What are the Best Options in Singapore? 2023
If you’re planning your next trip overseas - or if you frequently shop online with retailers based abroad - you may be wondering if it’s worth getting an international debit card. International debit cards can provide a way to cut the costs of currency conversion and foreign payments, making it cheaper and more convenient to spend overseas. Team your card with a low cost multi-currency account like the Wise Account, to benefit from easy money management across currencies with no ongoing costs to worry about.
This guide walks through why an international debit card can be a smart option, and some of the best cards available for Singapore citizens and residents. Let’s get started.
International debit cards: the best options in Singapore
Let’s look first at a quick overview of our top picks for international debit cards for customers in Singapore.
|DBS Visa Debit Card|
|HSBC Everyday Global Debit Card|
How do international debit cards work?
International debit cards work much like your regular debit card, but provide features which are particularly useful when spending in foreign currencies. You’ll be able to use your card to make payments in person, often with contactless and mobile payment functions, to pay online and to make ATM withdrawals overseas.
There are several different types of international debit cards available for Singapore customers, which we’ll look at in more detail a little later.
How does the international card work?
As with your regular debit card, withdrawals and payments made with your international debit card will be deducted directly from your account balance. That can make it easier to budget, and ensures you won’t accidentally run into interest or penalty fees as you may with a credit card.
You’ll be able to use your international debit card to make foreign currency purchases, often with better exchange rates and lower fees compared to using a normal card for payments. International cards are usually quite convenient to order and activate - the entire process can often be done online or using an app. It’s worth remembering though that if you get an international debit card from a traditional bank you may need to inform them of your travel plans to ensure your card can be safely used overseas.
How can I use an international debit card abroad?
You’ll be able to use your international debit card for payments and withdrawals anywhere the card’s network is accepted. International cards are commonly offered via the Visa and Mastercard networks, as these offer great global coverage. Simply look out for the card logo when you want to pay.
Different international debit cards have their own terms and conditions, which can include pretty varied fees and charges, too. You’ll need to double check over all the fees applied by the card issuer - your bank or preferred specialist provider. To help, we’ll look at some of the best options out there to kickstart your research in just a moment.
Important fees to look at include any foreign transaction fee or currency conversion cost, and any charge to make ATM withdrawals.
You’ll also need to look out for fees applied by the ATM operator, and make sure to always pay in the local currency wherever you are to avoid the high fees that come with dynamic currency conversion (DCC) transactions. DCC is where you’re asked if you want to pay in Singapore dollars instead of the local currency when you’re abroad - it sounds convenient, but actually DCC can be an expensive option. Using your international debit card to pay in the local currency is almost always the better choice.
How to request an international debit card
If you choose an international debit card from a traditional bank you’ll usually need to open an account online or by visiting a branch. Specialist providers like Wise allow customers to register and order a card quickly via an app or desktop site. To show how it works, here’s a look at how to get a Wise international debit card for instant, low cost spending:
Register for a Wise account online or in the Wise app
Verify your account manually by uploading images of your ID documents, or using SingPass
Order your card online or in the Wise app, by paying a one off charge
You’ll be able to get your card details immediately for online spending, and your physical card will arrive in the post soon after
Best international debit cards: a comparison
Choosing the best international debit card for you will require a bit of research. To help you get started we’ve picked out some of your favourite international debit cards for Singapore residents - here’s what you need to know:
|Provider||Fee to get a card||Annual fee||Foreign transaction fee||Withdrawal fee|
|Wise Card||10 SGD one time fee||No annual fee||No foreign transaction fee|
2 withdrawals per month, to the value of 350 SGD fee free
1.75% + 1.5 SGD after that
|YouTrip (prepaid)||10 SGD delivery fee may apply||No annual fee||No foreign transaction fee||5 SGD per withdrawal|
|DBS Visa Debit Card||No fee|
Card must be linked to a DBS account, which may also have annual or fall below fees
|Up to 3.25%||Up to 7 SGD per withdrawal|
|HSBC Everyday Global Debit Card||No fee|
No annual fee
Fall below fee of 5 SGD/month applies if you do not hold 2,000 SGD in your account
|Foreign currency purchases are converted to SGD using the HSBC exchange rate which may include a markup||Fees apply for out of network use, which vary by location|
Open a free multi-currency Wise Account online or in the Wise app, to hold and exchange 50+ currencies with the mid-market exchange rate. You’ll be able to order your linked international debit card for a low one time fee of 10 SGD, to spend in 170+ countries. Wise accounts also come with local bank details for up to 10 currencies so you can get paid fee free easily.
Pros of the Wise card
No ongoing card or account charges
Hold and exchange 50+ currencies with the mid-market rate
Virtual card details are available instantly once you order your physical card
Cons of the Wise card
10 SGD fee to get your first card
Some transaction fees apply
YouTrip Card (prepaid card)
The YouTrip Card is co-branded with EZ-Link - a familiar brand to Singapore citizens and residents. You’ll be able to top up your card in Singapore dollars, and spend in 150+ currencies, with all currency exchange using the mid-market rate. There’s a one time fee of 10 SGD to get your card, and a maximum account balance of 5,000 SGD.
Pros of the YouTrip Card
Spend in 150+ currencies with the mid-market rate
Manage your card from the YouTrip app for convenience
Co-branded with EZ-Link
Cons of YouTrip Card
10 SGD fee to get a card and 5 SGD ATM fee
Relatively low account balance limits of 5,000 SGD at a time, or 30,000 SGD annually
DBS Visa Debit Card
DBS has an international debit card you can link to a multi-currency account like the My Account, to hold and exchange 11 currencies easily. You can also spend in currencies unsupported by your account, although a foreign transaction fee of up to 3.25% will apply in this case. Depending on the specific card and linked account you pick you may also benefit from other features like cash back on spending.
Pros of the DBS Visa Debit Card
Link to a multi- currency account to spend in up to 11 currencies without foreign transaction fees
Choose an account and card combination that offers extra perks like cash back
Face to face service available in a branch
Cons of the DBS Visa Debit Card
Relatively high fees including foreign transaction fees of up to 3.25%
Up to 7 SGD for international ATM withdrawals
HSBC Everyday Global Debit Card
HSBC is a global bank well known for offering solutions to help customers manage their money across borders. One popular account option is the HSBC Everyday Global account and card, which lets you hold and exchange several currencies and spend around the world. This account is intended for people who want to maintain a pretty high balance, with a fall below fee charged if you have less than 2,000 SGD stashed away at any one time.
Pros of the HSBC Everyday Global Debit Card
Global banking brand with a large branch and ATM network
Hold and exchange multiple currencies
No annual card fee
Cons of the HSBC Everyday Global Debit Card
Fall below fees apply if your account balance is under 2,000 SGD
Foreign transaction fees may apply depending on the currency you’re spending in
What are the transaction fees applied to an international debit card?
Using an international debit card can make it cheaper to spend in foreign currencies. However there are still likely to be some costs to pay which can vary by provider. Here are the most important ones to watch out for.
Foreign transaction fee
International debit cards may charge a foreign transaction fee or apply a fee for currency conversion. This is usually calculated as a percentage of the cost of the transaction. With standard bank debit cards, the foreign transaction fee you pay can often be around 3% of the total cost. International cards can be cheaper - with Wise for example, currency conversion fees start at around 0.41%.
Most international debit cards will have an ATM withdrawal fee, although this may be waived if you use specific ATMs. You may also find your card allows you to make withdrawals to a fixed limit for free, before applying a charge per transaction.
The operator of the ATM may also charge a fee, especially if you’re using a standalone ATM in a store, bar or shopping centre.
Types of international bank card
International cards can usually be broken into 3 categories: prepaid cards, debit cards from traditional banks and cards issued by specialist providers. Each card type has its own benefits and drawbacks - here’s a quick run through of what you need to know when you choose the right one for you.
Prepaid international debit card
Prepaid international debit cards, which are also called travel money cards, are usually issued by specialist providers. You’ll be able to order a card online or in some cases pick one up in a store, before topping up with Singapore dollars which can be converted for international spending. Prepaid cards have a range of fees which can include costs for topping up your account and converting to foreign currencies.
International card with traditional banks
All of Singapore’s big banks offer accounts which come with linked debit cards you can use overseas. You may need to specifically ask for your card to be activated for international spending, and a foreign transaction fee is likely to apply. However if you have an account with a traditional bank which offers multi-currency options, you may be able to link a payment card as a convenient way to transact in the currencies you hold in your account.
International card with neobanks and fintech providers
Getting a specific account and card designed for international travel can often be the cheapest and most convenient option available. You’ll be able to open and manage your account online or in an app, and depending on the account you select you may benefit from low transaction costs and currency conversion which uses the mid-market exchange rate.
Advantages of the international debit card
Still unsure if an international debit card is right for you? Here are a few advantages to consider:
Depending on the account you choose you may benefit from no foreign transaction fee and mid-market rate currency conversion
Accounts are usually easy to set up, and can often be managed via an app for convenience and security
Make local cash withdrawals wherever you are in the world, to avoid high fees to get your travel spending money
Easy to budget and manage your international spending with no interest fees to pay
Are there any limitations on international debit cards?
International debit cards aren’t always the best option. Before you decide to get a new card, consider these drawbacks:
You may not be able to use your debit card to hire a car, or pay at the pump when buying fuel
Debit cards may not be accepted for security deposits
Accounts may have holding limits which mean you can’t use them for high value spending
Chargebacks and refunds may take longer to get back to you
Conclusion: is an international debit card worth it?
Having an international debit card for your foreign currency spending can be cheap and convenient. It’s also far more secure than relying on carrying cash when you travel. There’s a really good range of international debit cards available for Singapore based customers, including cards from our large local banks, from global banking brands, and specialist providers. Use this guide to compare a few options and decide which might suit you best.
An international debit card is designed for foreign currency spending, online and in person when you travel. You can also use your international debit card for ATM withdrawals overseas.
Get an international debit card from your regular bank - or for an alternative that may be cheaper and more convenient, register with an online specialist provider and get an account and card without needing to leave home.
Use your international debit card overseas just like you use your local debit card here in Singapore. Spend and make withdrawals, usually with lower fees and a better exchange rate compared to your normal card.
International debit card fees do vary between providers and can include currency conversion or foreign transaction fees, and charges to make ATM withdrawals. You’ll often find costs are lower when you pick a specialist provider rather than a traditional bank.