Everyone wants the best deals when they are travelling overseas, from airline tickets to accommodation — nobody wants to lose out on any opportunities to save money.

But one trick that travellers have yet to master is working out the best way to exchange foreign currency. It may seem like a small part of your travel plans, but you’ll be surprised at how you can make incremental savings with the right currency exchange method for your trip.

This is where DBS’ travel products – the DBS Visa Debit Card, DBS My Account, and the DBS Travel Mode – come in handy. With many useful features available at your fingertips, alleviate your worries of pesky processing fees, and unfavourable foreign exchange rates.  

Here’s what you need to know about the four main ways to obtain foreign currency and how the DBS trio can join you on your travel adventures.

1. Money Changers

Do we still need cash in this digital age? Experienced travellers will know the importance of having cash in hand for visas-on-arrival, additional airport taxes, or when you’re shopping at a street market. Authorised money changers are your best bet as they often offer the most attractive exchange rates.

A group gathers around a currency exchange counter at the Airport A group gathers around a currency exchange counter at the Airport

In a rush and need additional foreign currency? Travellers can rely on Changi Airport’s conveniently located money changers.

The Pros: This is the most straightforward option. There are just two main terms to note: “Sell rate”, when changing Singapore dollars (SGD) to foreign currencies or the selling price of the foreign currency; and “buy rate”, when changing foreign currency back to SGD, or the price if a money changer is to buy the currency from you.

Money changers generally offer the best exchange rates and you don’t have to worry about any service fees. There are a few “hotspots” well-known for their good rates, like The Arcade at Raffles Place, People’s Park Complex, and Mustafa Centre.

The Cons: As some money changers offer better rates than others, finding the best rate can be a time- and energy-consuming process. There is also the security issue of carrying around large amounts of cash.

Rates generally differ marginally. Unless you’re changing thousands of dollars, your savings could be the same price as the cab ride you took to get that good rate.

Money changers in the public and transit areas of Changi’s terminals are a convenient way to exchange for foreign currency before departing Singapore.


  • Monitor average currency exchange rates with mobile applications or websites like CashChanger, Get4x or XE.com. Do take note that money changers will not necessarily carry these exact rates, but some are open to bargaining.
  • Always count your cash and confirm the correct currency before leaving the money changer. This will help avoid any misunderstanding that may spoil your travelling mood!
  • To prevent yourself from carrying too much cash, do your research to find out which debit or credit cards give you the most bang for your buck overseas. This is not only to enjoy lower processing fees, but also whether you can withdraw money overseas with low, or even no withdrawal fees!

2. Overseas ATMs

Withdrawing foreign currency through ATMs is a relatively fuss-free method, as long as your debit/credit card is linked to one of the three major networks: PLUS (Visa), Cirrus or Maestro network (Mastercard).

ATMs marked with either Visa or Mastercard logos usually allow cash withdrawals. Always check with your bank on your card’s terms and conditions of overseas use before skipping town.

Woman using an ATM Woman using an ATM

By using ATMs, you don’t have to worry about running out of cash.

The Pros: Some banks offer “free transaction” debit cards, or don’t charge customers transaction fees if specific ATMs are used. ATMs are usually placed in high foot-traffic areas and tourist spots, and therefore easily accessible. Where possible, avoid using ATMs in remote areas where personal safety could be an issue.

For instance, you can use the DBS Visa Debit Card (Plus/ Cirrus Card) linked to your DBS My Account at any Westpac Group ATM (Westpac, St. George Bank, Bank of Melbourne and BankSA) in Australia and DBS Hong Kong ATMs and have your withdrawal fees waived! If you are travelling to India or Indonesia, use the DBS Visa Debit Card (Plus Card) at DBS India and DBS Indonesia ATMs to enjoy waiver of withdrawal fees too. Do note that the overseas cash withdrawals will be directly deducted from the respective foreign currency wallet within your DBS My Account that you have linked to your DBS Visa Debit Card. So, make sure you have sufficient funds of that currency in your wallet!

The Cons: It is common for users to pay a flat fee, between S$1 andS$6 for each transaction, or a set percentage, from one to three per cent, of your withdrawal amount. Before leaving for your trip, always find out the exact details from your bank, or you may incur some surprise fees along the way.

As an extra precaution, before leaving for your holiday, call your bank to set a withdrawal limit in case your card is stolen or misplaced.


  • Before you leave for your trip, you might want to take note of the ATMs located around your accommodation.
  • Remember to notify your bank and activate your card for overseas use to prevent the bank from freezing your account by mistake due to foreign withdrawals.
  • For DBS Visa Debit Card users: enable the Travel Mode on the DBS digibank mobile app before your trip, so that you can lock your card instantly via DBS Payment Controls on the digibank app. If you misplace your DBS Visa Debit Card or suspect that it has been stolen. You won’t need to let it ruin the rest of your trip!
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash with you and withdraw only what is needed. This means you may spend more on multiple transaction fees, but safety first – always. If not, you can also consider a multi-currency account! Read on to find out more.

3. Multi-Currency Accounts

According to the World Payment Report, there is a steady upward trend in travelling cashless. It is easier to manage and lowers the possibility of misplacing money. One alternative to using card payments is to use a Multi-Currency Account (MCA), which functions like a portable money changer and all-in-one wallet.

An MCA worth considering is the DBS My Account. Link it to the DBS Visa Debit Card, top up your foreign currency wallet, and you have a secure and hassle-free way to spend your money overseas.

With the DBS My Account, you can enjoy zero foreign exchange (FX) fees and attractive exchange rates on 12 foreign currencies. These are the foreign currencies available on the DBS My Account:

1. Australian Dollar (AUD)

2. Canadian Dollar (CAD)

3. Chinese Renminbi (Offshore) (CNH) – not available on DBS Visa Debit Card spend

4. Euro (EUR)

5. Hong Kong Dollar (HKD)

6. Japanese Yen (JPY)

7. New Zealand Dollar (NZD)

8. Norwegian Kroner (NOK)

9. Sterling Pound (GBP)

10. Swedish Kroner (SEK)

11. Thai Baht (THB)

12. US Dollar (USD)

Not only does it help you save on FX fees, your DBS Visa Debit Card even provides a 2% cashback on foreign currency spending (even for online purchases!). Make every penny that you have worked so hard for, count.

Woman paying using a credit card Woman paying using a credit card

More people are opting for convenient, cashless payment options.

The Pros: MCAs allows you to monitor changing rates and buy currency when the exchange rates are favourable. So, keep a watchful eye on the rates.

Deposits and foreign currency received would be stored in the account directly so you can avoid being stuck with loose change. Moreover, compared to using a credit card, you don’t have to pay extra costs for foreign exchange conversions.

The Cons: For some MCAs, you need to open a separate bank account – which must contain a minimum balance (typically between $1,000 to S$3,000). So, instead of being able to access that money, it sits in the account untouched.

But here's the best part: the DBS My Account is designed to alleviate those very concerns. Opening an account is hassle-free you can simply do so on the digibank app. What’s more, there is no minimum balance, no need for any initial deposits, and no service charge. You won’t need to scrutinise your spending or constantly be worried about racking up unnecessary charges.

For those who do want to keep a close eye on their spending, the DBS Travel Mode comes to your rescue. Activate it, and at a few taps of your finger, you can check your balance, top-up your foreign currency wallet or even buy travel insurance, all at your convenience. Some banks have limited foreign currency options which may not be suitable for your trip. Do check beforehand to make sure all your foreign currency wallets are set up and have sufficient funds.

P.S. With the DBS My Account, you won’t have to worry about leftover foreign currency after your trip. You can just transfer your excess funds back to your main account, or leave it for your next trip. You can even store up to 12 foreign currencies at the same time.

However, using MCAs, like most cashless options, would mean relying on merchants accepting card payments. While this is becoming less of an issue over time, it means you’ll still need to keep some cash on you just in case.

4. Digital Travel Wallets

Travel essentials with a debit/credit card in the middle Travel essentials with a debit/credit card in the middle

With a digital travel ‘wallet’, all it takes is a few seconds to complete a transaction.

We don’t mean actual wallets – digital wallets are another cashless method available to travellers. There are multiple digital wallets that travellers can adopt now.  Singapore’s first multi-currency wallet, YouTrip, is a combined creation of Mastercard, EZ-Link and You Technologies Group. Other digital wallets that are available for travellers include Revolut, Wise and Aspire.

The Pros: Users can make overseas payments in foreign currencies with little/ no overseas transaction fees. There are 24/7 in-app money changers – to lock-down competitive rates before the trip. Like credit cards, there are safety precautions in place, allowing you to deactivate the card immediately when lost or stolen.

The Cons: You can only lock-down limited currencies offered by the individual digital wallets, which can be slightly limiting to a user.

Also, some digital travel wallets requires you to change your money into specific currencies. However, they do not let you transfer those leftover foreign currency back into your main bank account unless you close the account, leaving you with unused and untouchable money in your account.


  • Before determining whether to go cashless while abroad, always research a country’s spending behaviour. 
  • Countries like Japan, Argentina, and Mexico typically favour cash-only transactions, while destinations like Sweden, Australia, and the UK are more likely to accept cashless payment options.


We rated each of the four currency exchange options based on convenience, savings, and security and added a quick summary of the pros and cons to help you make the best choice:

Table of Comparison


Money Changers

ATM Withdrawals

Multi-Currency Accounts (MCAs)

Travel Wallets






There are many money changers located in Singapore

The process of exchanging currency is simple

Most cards are compatible with international ATMs

ATMs are in high foot-traffic areas and tourist locations

It is no longer necessary to open a separate bank account or contain a minimum account balance

Limited foreign currency options

You are able to exchange currency on the go, available at any time and anywhere

The process of signing up for a digital wallet and card is simple

Some merchants will not accept cashless payment






Offer competitive rates compared to banks

Vary slightly from one another

Transaction fee of S$1-S$6 per transaction, or one to three per cent, of the withdrawal amount

Easier to keep an eye on the exchange rate fluctuations – and buy it at a favourable rate

Don’t have to pay for foreign exchange conversions and/or transaction fees for some MCAs

Some MCAs reward you with cashback or miles when linked to a debit or credit card. For example, the DBS Visa Debit Card has a 2% cashback when used, even for online purchases!

Able to lock-down favourable exchange rates

No transaction fees







Carrying large amount of money to and from money changers may be risky

Many ATMs located in public areas with high volume of people or inside banks

Ability to set withdrawal limit for safety

Ensures you avoid carrying bulky cash when you travel

If your MCA is linked to a card, you’ll be able to block it instantly through the online banking app. For DBS Debit card users, you can temporarily lock it through the DBS digibank app

You can temporarily lock your card through the mobile application instead of calling the helpdesk

Mobile application allows you to monitor card transactions

Do you know how your credit card works overseas?

When using credit cards overseas, you may have noticed that merchants give you the choice of paying in your “home” currency or the “local” one. If you’re using a Singapore credit card, the “home” currency for you would be SGD. The “local” currency would be the currency used in the country you’re visiting. This is known as Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC).

Pro-tip: If you are using a card linked to an MCA, you should opt for local currency, to avoid additional costs.

Close-up of credit cards Close-up of credit cards

Even experienced travellers can’t grasp the concept of DCC and its ‘benefits’.

What will using DCC cost you?

At first glance, it looks like you’re locking in a specific exchange rate, and so there are no surprises when you receive your credit card statement.

However, it’s pertinent to note that the exchange rate at the time is determined by a DCC service provider – not the bank. There isn’t an exact mark-up of the exchange rate, but generally it sits at three per cent. On top of that, your card-issuing bank may also charge a fee for overseas transactions (some banks do offer waivers though).


All things considered, each of the methods — Money changers, ATM withdrawals, MCAs or travel wallets — come with their own pros and cons. But with the help of the DBS Visa Debit card, DBS My Account, and the DBS Travel Mode, managing your finances while on holiday is actually effortless and easy.

Using the DBS Visa Debit card and DBS My Account, you won’t have to worry about any hidden or pesky transaction fees. Coupled with the DBS Travel Mode, you can keep close track of your spending, or easily lock your card if things go south, all using the Digibank app. I mean, when you’re exploring the mesmerising streets of a foreign city, the last thing you want is to be weighed down by financial concerns or hassles. So, besides considering the option that’ll give you unbeatable savings, choose a fuss-free option that will help you relax and enjoy your well-deserved holiday, too!


This story is written in partnership with DBS Bank.


Deposit Insurance Scheme
Singapore dollar deposits of non-bank depositors and monies and deposits denominated in Singapore dollars under the Supplementary Retirement Scheme are insured by the Singapore Deposit Insurance Corporation, for up to S$75,000 in aggregate per depositor per Scheme member by law. Monies and deposits denominated in Singapore dollars under the CPF Investment Scheme and CPF Retirement Sum Scheme are aggregated and separately insured up to S$75,000 for each depositor per Scheme member. Foreign currency deposits, dual currency investments, structured deposits and other investment products are not insured.

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