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Singapore debit cards for overseas travel
The right debit card can save you money on international ATM fees and foreign transaction fees when you travel.
With a handful of Singapore debit cards now waiving overseas ATM withdrawal fees and no foreign currency fees, a debit card is an easy, convenient option to consider for your next overseas trip. Organising foreign cash ahead of your trip can be a hassle, so opting for a standard debit card that you open online for free in a matter of minutes is a stress-free option that will save both time and money.
Compare a range of debit cards you can use overseas
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How does a debit card work for overseas travel?
You can use your standard Singapore debit card overseas just as you would when you’re home in Singapore. You can use the debit card to make purchases in stores or to withdraw cash from overseas ATMs. A debit card comes linked to your transaction or everyday banking account, giving you easy access to your own money while you’re travelling.
Choosing a debit card that charges no overseas ATM fees and no foreign transaction fees is the best way to avoid unnecessary fees while you’re travelling. These debit cards, such as the cards in the table above, can be used anywhere you’re travelling internationally and help you save big on fees.
How to withdraw cash overseas using your ATM cards
Before departing from Singapore, make sure that you’ve activated your card for overseas use. Otherwise, you’ll not be able to withdraw currency from an overseas ATM or even make any transactions on your card.
You may do so through internet/mobile banking or an ATM machine. If you’re unsure of the process, simply contact your bank or head down to a branch with your card.
To check if the ATM supports withdrawals from your card, take a look at the logos indicated on the front and back of the card (e.g. Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus, Plus, Maestro, UnionPay). If at least one of these logos matches those on the ATM machine, you should be able to withdraw cash from the machine.
Overseas ATM Withdrawal charges
Cash withdrawals from local ATMs are typically free in Singapore, but that’s usually not the case when you use the same card overseas unless you own a card or account that waives overseas cash withdrawal fees.
Here are the charges and fees that you may incur when withdrawing cash overseas using cards from the following banks:
*The combined administrative fee and conversion factor is capped at 3.25%
Note: Information provided is accurate at the time of writing (31 August 2020).
Features that make a debit card a good travel money option
The features that come with your debit card will vary from card to card, but here are some of the standards you expect:
Access your own funds when travelling
Using a debit card will allow you to access your own funds while travelling overseas. Unlike a line of credit, spending your own money can help curb your spending and keep your budget in check. Plus, you don’t need to worry about pre-loading your card with different currencies like you do with a foreign currency card.
Visa or Mastercard global acceptance
As long as you have a globally accepted debit card (such as a Visa or Mastercard), you should be able to access your funds easily internationally. You can use such a card at EFTPOS terminals, to withdraw cash from ATMs and to make purchases online.
Easy account management
You can manage your account and keep track of your travel budget using online account management. Most banks offer online banking and mobile phone apps, so you should have no trouble managing your funds on the go.
Easy to apply for online
Getting a debit card is much easier than getting a credit card because you don’t have to meet minimum income requirements. You can apply for a debit card online in a matter of minutes and you’ll receive your card in the mail a few days later.
World-class security and fraud protection
Most modern-day Singapore debit cards make use of microchip technology, which provides increased protection against fraudulent use when compared to cards that rely on magnetic strips. Both, Visa and Mastercard, have online security programs in place to offer extra peace of mind when your card details make it to the online world.
You can take advantage of zero liability
Both Visa and Mastercard have zero liability policies in place, so when you, as a cardholder, exercise due caution in using your card overseas, your card provider does not hold you liable for fraudulent and suspicious transactions made using your card.Back to top
What else should I consider when using a debit card while travelling?
Before you get a debit card, know that not all are the same, even if they come with Visa and Mastercard affiliations. As a result, the following aspects require your consideration as well.
Is there a Global ATM alliance so you can get fee-free withdrawals overseas?
When you use your debit card to withdraw money from ATMs when overseas, you might have to pay ATM fees. The good thing is certain financial institutions in Singapore have ATM alliances with international banks, giving their customers fee-free access to their ATMs.
Does the card charge foreign transaction fees?
A foreign transaction fee is charged when you make a transaction in another currency that’s not SGD. When you’re shopping overseas, these will slowly add up so you may want to get a card that doesn’t charge this fee.
Does the card come with linked travel insurance?
Some debit cards come with complimentary travel insurance. Depending what you’re eligible for, you could find that these come in handy if you lose or misplace your luggage or find yourself confronted by a medical emergency or flight cancellation.
Are there any international Visa and Mastercard benefits?
Visa and Mastercard debit cards give cardholders access to a range of special global offers and promotions.
Make fewer but larger transactions to save on fees
As most overseas ATM fees are charged per transaction, try to make a lump sum withdrawal instead of multiple, smaller withdrawals. The fewer times you use the ATM machine, the less cost you’ll need to pay.
Also, make sure to adjust your daily withdrawal limit in advance so you’ll be able to access the sum you need. Do note that some ATM machines also impose their own withdrawal limits.
What are the pros and cons of using a debit card for overseas travel?
- You can access your funds anytime, anywhere. A Visa or Mastercard debit card gives you instant access to money in your bank account, no matter where in the world you are; all you have to do is look for the Visa or Mastercard logo.
- You can avoid overseas ATM fees. If you use a partner ATM, you don’t have to pay any additional ATM fees.
- You can avoid foreign currency fees. Opt for a debit card that has the option of waiving foreign currency fees, so you don’t have to worry about paying foreign currency fees with each purchase.
- It’s a safe way to spend your money with fraud protection. Debit cards give you a safe and secure way to access money when travelling overseas, given that multiple security layers work in keeping your information secure.
- Use it at home or overseas. There’s no need to switch between different banking products when you travel and when you’re home in Singapore. If you choose the right debit card, you can use the one account for all your day-to-day banking at home and take it overseas too.
- Getting your card replaced overseas is difficult. Replacing a lost or stolen debit card when you’re travelling overseas might not happen in a hurry and you might have to pay a fee for the same.
What’s the best* debit card to use overseas?
This depends on what features are important to you and how you like to access your money when travelling. However, selecting a debit card with the following features is a great way to save money when you’re overseas.
- No overseas ATM fees (or access to an ATM network that charges no fees)
- No foreign currency fees (or the option to have these waived when the account conditions are met)
- A good mobile banking app to keep track of your money when you’re on the go exploring a new country
- 24/7 customer service: it’s nice to know there will be someone available to help you if something happens to your card late at night or early in the morning.
*Definition: Best debit card for overseas travel
It’s important to note that there is no one ‘best’ debit card for overseas travel, and what is best for you may not be best for someone else. Consider what features you need in a debit card including the fees, interest rates, ATM network, mobile app etc. before deciding what is right for you.
Use a globally accepted debit card to gain access to your own funds without the temptation of overspending. The fees and rates that come with using your card will vary from card to card though, so make sure to compare your options to ensure the cost doesn’t outweigh the benefits.
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