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We all have that one friend who whizzes off to Bangkok for shopping almost every long weekend, or another who makes an annual pilgrimage to Tokyo for snacks and the sakura. No matter the scenario, travelling to another country means going through the hassle of changing currency, not to mention the loss we make each time on the exchange rate.
However, there’s a better way to manage this situation – you can always open a multi-currency account (MCA). As its name suggests, an MCA can hold several currencies in addition to your main one (SGD if you are based in Singapore) in a single account. Many banks offer this as an option, and can usually cover between 9-12 types of foreign currencies.
If you travel often for business or pleasure and have a constant need to exchange foreign currency, the MCA will be extremely useful. In this case, you would treat it like a spending account and have ready amounts in the currencies you use most frequently.
For example, if you know that you’ll be visiting Japan in September, it would be prudent to start putting money into the Japanese yen wallet of your MCA a few months in advance so you can avoid running the risk of getting a bad rate. These days, most MCAs allow you to make immediate transfers online, and you’ll be able to get the rate you want without having to physically visit a money changer. You can lock in a favourable rate anytime and at your convenience.
An MCA can also be beneficial if your only travel plan involves taking a “dream trip” overseas several years down the road. It’s never too early to gradually start placing some money into the relevant foreign currency wallet. This way, you can benefit from the best average rate over the years while using the account to save for your vacation.
An MCA is also helpful when you’re already travelling, so if you didn’t manage to plan in advance, you can still use your MCA for these benefits. The account allows for greater convenience because you can make overseas transactions directly from your MCA account without incurring the bank’s conversion or admin fees.
If you need to make a large purchase, you can use your debit card to do so and the relevant currency’s wallet will automatically be used to finance it. By doing this, you don’t have to carry large amounts of cash with you, thereby also protecting you from situations such as pickpocketing.
Furthermore, most banks also allow overseas cash withdrawals at their own or partner ATMs for free or for a small fee. Some transactions still operate on a cash basis (eg. street food), and with this benefit you won’t need to worry about running out of cash.
Lastly, an MCA also saves you a lot of trouble post-travel. Using only physical currency can result in a lot of leftover cash, and you may not want to go back to the money changer to sell it at a loss, so you end up with it just sitting around. If you keep most of your foreign funds in your online wallet instead of taking out a lot of cash, you’ll be able to use your MCA to change them back to your main currency when the rates are in your favour.
If you’re an avid traveller hoping to save some money, or simply want to find out more about MCAs, your bank should be able to help you as most of them in Singapore offer it as part of their banking products. Out of the many MCAs in Singapore, here are two that we think are worth considering, which are DBS’ eMulti-Currency Autosave Account, and Citibank’s Global Foreign Currency Account.
Here’s a quick comparison table of these two options.
For more information on these and other MCAs, do contact the relevant financial institutions directly. MCAs can be a valuable tool for most travellers, so do consider getting one if you think it would work for you.