Travel Cards: What are the best options in Singapore? 2023
Whenever you’re planning to spend internationally - in person or online - you’ll want to avoid excessive bank fees, and get the very best available exchange rate. If you’ve heard of international debit cards - also known as travel debit cards - you might be wondering if it’s worth getting one to use instead of your normal card when you travel.
International debit cards can offer some great benefits to anyone living an international lifestyle, allowing you to cut the overall costs of spending in a foreign currency, and access a better exchange rate. This guide walks through the key advantages of international debit cards, how they work, and which cards are the best on offer for customers in Singapore.
Our Top 4 Travel Debit Cards in SG:
Travel cards: the best options in Singapore
|Wise debit card|
HSBC Everyday Global Travel Card
|YouTrip travel card|
How do travel cards work?
Travel cards work much like your normal bank debit card, but with a focus on overseas transactions. You can use your card to spend while you travel, when you shop online with international retailers, and to make overseas ATM withdrawals. Depending on how you want to use your card, you may also find that a travel debit card lets you cut the costs of international transactions and manage your money across currencies more conveniently.
Types of travel card
Travel cards break down into 3 key categories:
Prepaid travel cards
Travel debit cards
Travel focused credit cards
Each option has its own advantages, but depending on how you want to use it, you’ll probably find that one suits you better than the others. Here are some pointers to consider:
Prepaid travel card
A prepaid travel card - also called a travel money card - may be issued by a bank or a specialist provider. It’s not linked to your normal bank account which makes it pretty secure, but can also make it inconvenient to add money. Prepaid cards may have a broad range of fees, and terms and conditions can vary a lot between providers. Not all merchants and websites accept prepaid cards, so you’d need to have a secondary source of funds when you travel, just in case.
International card with traditional banks
Singaporeans love to travel - and of course Singapore is a popular expat destination too. So it’s no surprise that many banks here offer their own international cards which are linked to accounts with multi-currency capability. We’ll look at one of them - the HSBC Everyday Global account and card in more detail later. DBS also offers the popular My Account which has foreign currency options and a linked card.
Using your own bank’s card when you travel can be convenient - but banks may not offer the best fees and exchange rates. There’s also an inherent risk of using your regular bank card when you’re abroad or spending with an international retailer online - if it’s stolen or cloned your full balance could be at risk.
Travel card with neobanks
Online specialist providers and neobanks also offer a strong range of travel cards which can provide a good balance of cost, security and convenience. They can often be the cheapest option out there, with easy to use online and in-app services, industry level security, and some of the lowest fees available.
Cards are easy to order, with a fully online application and verification process in many cases.
Best travel debit cards: a comparison
There are a few money transfer providers which offer cheaper and more flexible alternatives to the international debit cards commonly issued by traditional banks, like the Wise account and card, which is available for Singapore customers.
We’ll dive into a few strong contenders in a moment - first let’s take a look at some highlights from our 4 top Singapore travel debit cards:
|Provider/card name||Annual fee||Exchange rate||Withdrawal fee|
|Wise card||No annual fee||Real mid-market exchange rate with no markup|
2 withdrawals per month, to the value of 350 SGD fee free
1.5 SGD + 1.75% after that
|HSBC travel card||No annual fee - but a minimum balance of at least 2,000 SGD applies to avoid a fall below charge|
Exchange rates may include a markup
Foreign transaction fees may apply if you spend currencies you don’t hold within your account
HSBC doesn’t charge for withdrawals at its own ATMs
8 SGD international fee for out of network withdrawals
|Revolut card||Plans range from the free standard plan, to the 19.99 SGD/month Metal plan|
All accounts offer free currency exchange to a set limit
Some out of hours and exotic currency exchange fees apply
Free withdrawals to your account limit (350 SGD/month for standard plans)
2% fee after that
|YouTrip travel money card||No charge||Exchange rates may include a markup||5 SGD fee|
Open a free Wise personal multi-currency account and order the Wise card for a one time fee. You’ll get your card details instantly, and your physical card will be with you in around 3 days. You can hold, convert, send and spend in 50+ currencies from your Wise account - and make payments in 200+ countries and in 150+ currencies with your card.
Pros of the Wise card
Personal accounts are free to open with no monthly fees
Hold and exchange 50+ currencies in your Wise account
Auto convert feature so you always get the cheapest available currency conversion
Freeze and unfreeze your card in the Wise app and get instant transaction notifications
Cons of the Wise card
10 SGD fee for your first card
ATM fees apply if you make more than 2 withdrawals a month
Spending limits apply
No option to top up account in cash or with a cheque
HSBC travel card
HSBC offers its Everyday Global Account which allows customers to hold and manage 11 currencies in their account, and spend on a linked debit card. HSBC doesn’t charge a fee when you spend or withdraw currencies you hold from an in-network ATM - but there may be an exchange fee applied when you switch from one currency to another. These fees can be tricky to spot, as they may be wrapped up in the exchange rates used.
Pros of the HSBC travel card
Hold and manage 11 currencies in your account
Earn cashback on spending and interest on your SGD balance
No HSBC fee for withdrawing currencies you own at an HSBC ATM
Access Global Transfers when you want to send funds overseas
Cons of the HSBC travel card
Minimum balance requirements apply - 2,000 SGD for a standard account
In branch international payments cost 55 SGD
Receiving an inward payments cost 10 SGD
Early close fees apply
Revolut Money Travel Card
Revolut offers several different account plans which can be opened and operated online or in the Revolut app. Get a free standard account, or upgrade to a paid plan to unlock more benefits. All accounts come with a linked debit card, and can hold and handle 28 currencies. You’ll also be able to make withdrawals at ATMs internationally, fee free to 350 SGD for the standard plan, or more for fee paid plans.
Pros of the Revolut travel card
Pick the plan that suits your needs
Covers 28 currencies and lets you spend in 150 currencies with your card
Even free standard accounts come with some impressive perks
Some free currency exchange is offered, depending on your account plan
Cons of the Revolut travel card
Fee paid plans cost up to 19.99 SGD/month
Once you’ve hit your ATM withdrawal limits you pay 2% fees for each withdrawal
Out of hours and exotic currency exchange fees apply
YouTrip travel money card
YouTrip cards can be used to hold 10 currencies, spend and make cash withdrawals. There’s no fee to exchange currencies within the account, but there may be a charge rolled up into the exchange rate applied so it’s worth comparing the rates offered against the Google rate so you know exactly what you’re paying.
Pros of the YouTrip travel money card
Popular and recognized local brand
10 supported currencies
Co-branded with EZLink
Manage your account and card from the YouTrip app
Cons of the YouTrip travel money card
5 SGD cash withdrawal fee
Exchange rate markups may apply when you convert from one currency to another
Fees apply when you top up with a credit card
10 SGD fee for replacement cards
How does the travel card work?
Whenever you spend or make a cash withdrawal with your travel card, the money will be deducted from your account balance, which means there’s no interest cost to worry about, and no chance you can accidentally blow your travel budget. However, by choosing a travel card instead of a normal bank card, you’ll often be able to hold your account balance in different currencies, like US dollars or British pounds.
Top up your account in Singapore dollars and switch to the currency you need when you need it - or look out for a great rate and convert in advance so you’re making the most of your money. Holding foreign currency on your travel card makes it convenient to spend internationally, and means you’ll know in advance exactly how much foreign currency you have to enjoy when you travel.
It’s normally easy to get a travel card through an app, website or by calling a provider. Travel cards are also secure as they’re not usually linked to your primary bank account, and mean there’s no need to tell your normal bank you’re heading off overseas.
How can I use a travel debit card abroad?
Use your travel debit card internationally just as you would use your normal card here in Singapore. Travel cards often come with handy contactless and mobile functionality to tap and pay wherever you are.
You’ll need to make sure your card’s network is accepted by the merchant or ATM - look out for the network symbol, like Visa or Mastercard, which will be displayed. You’ll also want to double check all costs of using your card in advance, as these can vary somewhat by provider. And finally, remember to pay in the local currency when you’re abroad. That’s important to avoid dynamic currency conversion (DCC) which is where you’re charged overseas in Singapore dollars, which sounds convenient, but actually means extra fees and a bad exchange rate.
How to request a travel debit card
You may choose to get a specialist international debit card from your normal bank, or through an online and digital provider like Wise or Revolut. Providers like these allow you to open an account easily with a 100% online onboarding process.
To give an example, here’s how to get a Wise card in a few simple steps:
Download the Wise app or head to the Wise desktop site
Sign up for a Wise account with just an email address, Google, Facebook or Apple ID
Get verified using your Singpass and Myinfo - or by manually uploading a photo of your ID documents
Order your card online or in the Wise app for a one off 10 SGD fee
Your physical card will arrive within a few days - or you can access your card details in the Wise app right away for mobile payments
What are the transaction fees applied to a travel card?
There are a few different common types of travel card - which we’ll run through in just a moment. Each has its own fees, but there are a couple of common charges it’s worth looking out for, no matter which card you choose:
An exchange fee - which can be called a currency conversion charge, a margin or a spread, among other things - covers the costs of exchanging currency for international spending. In some cases this fee is split out so you can clearly see it - but often it’s a cost added into the exchange rate, which is less transparent and means you’ll have to double check the rates applied against the Google rate to see how much it’s costing you.
Even if you hold the currency you need in your account, you might still need to pay a withdrawal fee when you get cash from an ATM. Your bank might add a charge for this service, and there may also be an extra cost added by the ATM operator itself. Keep an eye on the ATM to see any extra charges, as these are usually disclosed during the transaction, or in a notice displayed on the ATM terminal.
Advantages of the travel debit cards
An international debit card can be a good alternative to traditional bank cards to spend money abroad. Here are some of the benefits you can expect:
Depending on the card you pick you may get lower fees and a better exchange rate
It’s easier to set and plan your budget ahead of time by converting currency in advance
Travel cards aren’t usually linked to your normal bank, making them relatively secure
Manage your money on the go through handy mobile apps
Are there any limitations on the travel debit card?
Of course, travel debit cards also have some drawbacks, which may not make them the best choice for everyone. Here are a few things to consider:
You often can’t use a debit card to pay a security deposit or hire a car
Travel cards do come with their own fees - you’ll need to review these before selecting one
Deposits to your account may not apply instantly
Many travel cards don’t offer cash back or interest on funds held
Conclusion: is the travel debit card worth it?
Travel debit cards are a useful tool for many people who travel or spend internationally. They can offer a more flexible and convenient way to manage money across several different foreign currencies, compared to using a normal bank account. Different travel debit cards are available for different customer preferences - use this guide to kickstart your research to find the perfect travel card for your needs.
An international debit card lets you spend and make cash withdrawals in a range of foreign currencies - often with lower fees than using your normal bank card.
Many online and specialist providers allow you to apply for a card easily through a desktop site, app or call centre.
Use your travel debit card just like you would your regular card, to spend and make cash withdrawals around the world.
Travel debit card fees do vary based on the provider, and can include ATM charges, early closure fees and exchange rate markups. Compare a few providers to get the best available deal for your needs.