So I was at Standard Bank, ABSA and FNB yesterday trying to sort out my forex and questions about sending money home. This turned out to be a very tiring experience. Most of the time the staff at these banks had no idea what I was talking about, especially when I asked if they could supply me with Korean Won. Hahahaha. At any rate, a couple of them tried to sell me a “travel wallet” or “travel card”, telling me that it would be cheaper than using a credit card.
So I thought I’d look at this. In theory it seems like a good idea. Load a card with your forex, and use it like a debit and ATM card at your destination, at the fixed exchange rate that you bought the forex at. Sounds like a good idea… except when you start looking at the costs. Just for an idea, you first need to purchase the card (between R50 and R100), then you need to pay to get it loaded, and then you pay each time you withdraw cash from a foreign ATM (at least R14). And to top it all off, since you can’t get one of these in Korean Won (only in US$, Euro, Pounds and AUS$), you pay an exchange fee to put the money on your card AND an exchange fee every time you use it in Korea. So I probably won’t be using this.
I’ll probably lump for some traveller’s cheques. I also looked into using a South African credit card in Korea. I heard it is tricky to get a Korean credit card, so I thought I’d take a a South African card along. I did some research last night into the costs involved, and was pleasantly surprised to find that VirginMoney seems to come out tops. Not only do they not charge an annual card fee, they have the cheapest ATM withdrawal fees. This is R8.75 at ANY ATM WORLDWIDE. Of course there will be some exchange fees involved and possible charges at the foreign ATM, but this is MUCH cheaper than what the other credit cards charge. Anything from R20 to R35 I think, for the same thing. And of course POS purchases don’t cost anything, except for the exchange rate fees.
I’m still looking to see if this is the best deal. In the meantime at least I know I can rely on my VirginMoney card if I’m in dire straits in Korea. Yay!