I was supposed to do this post before I left for Europe, but the timing hardly matters. Forex is an extremely important part of your travel and there’s no way around the planning involved. So, how do you go about it?
- Traveler’s cheques
- Forex cards
Now, I don’t know about you, but I would never be okay with carrying around a wad of cash on me at all times. Security isn’t always high in hostels and hotels. Therefore, cash is not my recommendation. I have never used traveler’s cheques and I believe it’s a dying method. This now brings us to – Forex Cards!
To start with, what is a forex card and how does it work? It is exactly like your bank account debit card. It can be a single / multi-currency card and works at all ATMs outside India. The drawback to this is that you are charged a withdrawal fee for every use. This is usually 1.5 USD or Euro. These cards also work for online transactions such as purchases and travel booking. I have created a FAQ list below which I hope is helpful. Feel free to post your questions, if any, in the comments.
- How do I get a Forex card?
As per FEMA guidelines, only one Forex card can be issued to an Individual by a particular bank. This card is also linked to your passport. Therefore, if you hold a corporate Forex card (maybe your company issued you one for business travel), you cannot get a personal Forex card from the same bank. In this case, you must first cancel the Corporate card (your company will have to authorize it or do it themselves).
To get a new Forex card, you have to submit your passport copy, travel tickets, and visa copy (for travel in the next 90 days) along with a cheque for the amount of currency to be loaded. Most banks will require you to be an existing bank account holder with them. If not, they will ask you to first open a bank account. You will be issued a card immediately and it will be loaded in about 2 working days.
- Single / Multicurrency?
I have held a Single Currency card with AXIS and a Multi-currency card with HDFC. Since my AXIS card was a corporate issue, I had to move to HDFC for a personal one. I recommend a Multi-currency card if you plan to travel frequently to different locations. What it essentially does is that it has different currency buckets. When you load the card, you have to specify which currency to load. The mode of usage remains the same. If you are transacting in USA and you fall short of currency, fear not because the Forex card will automatically use another currency bucket (for the remaining amount) to complete the transaction.
- How do you reload the card?
HDFC card reload can be be initiated by submitting a form at the bank or by generating an online request from the NetBanking page. If you wish to use NetBanking, you will first have to register your account for Fund Transfer. You can also authorize someone (by written permission) to reload the card on your behalf. The authorized person can then visit the bank and initiate the reload for you.
- What happens if you lose the card?
You can intimate the bank to cancel / freeze your card and have a new one issued. In case of HDFC, you are issued two cards at the very beginning. Both cards and the PIN numbers are included in your packet. When you intimate the bank in the event of loss of card, the secondary card is activated and you can use it for further transactions.
- Is there PIN validation at PoS?
This is not a chip and pin card. Only ATM transactions require PIN. There is no PIN validation at PoS. Any person can use the card to shop without a PIN. Therefore, it is paramount that you not lose your card. In case of loss of card, it is equally important to report it immediately.
I strongly recommend the HDFC Multi-currency card for various reasons. There is a nominal initial charge for issue of card. The service is impeccable. There are no annual charges for non-usage (AXIS charges 5 USD or Euro per annum for this!). The card is valid for 5 years. In case your currency in one bucket falls short for a transaction, another currency bucket is automatically used to complete the deal. However, currency conversion rates are applicable in such cases.