Fintech

Exchange Money Before A Holiday? Please. I Took The Money Changer With Me.

  • Merchantrade Money is an e-wallet that has several uses, including foreign currency exchange.
  • We reviewed it after using it overseas for a few days.

A week ago, my colleagues and I went over to Bali for a couple of days for our annual company retreat. As usual, the last few days prior to leaving were spent frantically running last-minute errands and preparing for our trip.

Having worked with Merchantrade Asia on one of our articles previously, I decided to bring along my Merchantrade Money card and see how it held up in a real-world travel setting.

Did it live up to the promise it held in actual use? Here is a quick review of how things went.

Starting Out

With Merchantrade Money being a multi-currency wallet, an easy way to describe the e-wallet is having a mobile money changer sitting in your pocket. Once I transferred in an adequate amount of MYR into the app, I checked into the app each day to keep an eye on the currency exchange rates.

Pro Tip: Make sure you stay updated on the currency exchange rates before you travel, and wait for the best possible rate before you buy foreign currency.

I finally bought my Indonesian Rupiah a day before the flight, and proceeded to head to Indonesia with less cash than usual. In the spirit of going (almost) cashless, I only brought whatever Rupiah I had lying around the house from previous trips.

As with most millennials, the first thing we did upon touching down was to buy individual sim cards for internet access.

Merchantrade Money works in a slightly different way than normal e-wallets, with a Visa card as the primary mode of payment.

Using the Merchantrade Money Visa card to top up my Indonesian sim card proved to be a smooth experience—no different than using a regular credit or debit card.

Waving Away My Money

While not all vendors in our area were equipped with credit card terminals, I did enjoy the fact that my Merchantrade Money card did come with VISA PayWave. Instead of having to hastily cover my hand over the terminal every time I entered my pin, I simply waved the card to pay for my transactions.

As mentioned by a Merchantrade representative, no transaction fees are charged while using the Visa card overseas (when you purchase currencies via the app)—something that often stops me from using credit cards overseas.

Instead, I usually resort to walking around with a large amount of cash in my pocket, constantly looking over my shoulder and patting my pocket regularly.

Once my card balance ran out, I topped up my card using the Merchantrade Money app via FPX, before proceeding to buy more Indonesian Rupiah. Most Malaysian banks are listed as options to top up, but there is a notable absence of other payment options such as credit cards or even PayPal.

FYI: FPX, short for Financial Process Exchange, is a payment gateway for real-time online payments made from current/savings accounts.

If you’re in a situation where you can’t buy any foreign currency (lack of internet, etc), you can still use your Merchantrade Money card. However, do note that there will be a 1% transaction fee subject to Visa’s exchange rates.

Whilst we were walking around the island, there were quite a few situations where the only form of payment was cash.

A workaround: you can still withdraw money from your Merchantrade Money card overseas using a Visa Plus ATM machine, with a charge of RM10 per transaction. (Some banks do impose a surcharge on top of the transaction amount. Do check with local banks at the foreign country you are visiting to be safe.)

App + Card Integration

In this day and age, a service or product is only as good as as the digital platform on which it is based. In other words, the success and usability of Merchantrade Money’s service is very much dependant upon the Merchantrade Money app.

There is a variety of settings you can twiddle with on the app, with the ability to block your card instantly also a major plus point for me. If you’re a stickler for privacy, you can also regularly change the pin number for your Visa card here as well.

You can also choose to disable options such as Visa PayWave and ATM withdrawals among others, while keeping track of your transactions via the transaction history tab. (something useful for those of us who struggle to keep track of their spending while on vacation)

Verdict

When it comes to e-wallets or even cashless payment options in general, it’s often difficult to make a distinction between the offerings in such a heavily saturated market. Most e-wallets have the same purpose; to negate the need to carry around cash in your wallets.

As Merchantrade Money works as a multi-currency wallet that further differentiates itself by using Visa as the primary payment option, my verdict is based on the experience I had while using it on holiday in Bali.

While there are certain things that I would like to have as part of the app such as different options to top up the e-wallet, the overall user experience for me was one of convenience.

In the past, I’ve mainly bought foreign currency via conventional money changer stores—something that is so time-consuming that I usually just buy the currency without bothering too much about the rate.

For travellers, especially during the holiday season that is upon us, Merchantrade Money offers a way to monitor currency rates and to lock your exchange in when the time (cough, price) is right. As an extra sweetener, there’s also 2% cashback on foreign currency purchases.

We’ve also been told by Merchantrade Asia that 10 additional currencies including Korean Won, Indian Rupees and Hong Kong Dollars have been launched for Merchantrade Money.

  • You can download the Merchantrade Money app on the Google Play Store for Android devices and the App Store for iOS devices.
  • For more information on Merchantrade Asia, visit them here.

This article is written in collaboration with Merchantrade Asia.

VP Verdict is a series where we personally try and test out products, services, fads, and apps. Want to suggest something else for us to try? Leave a comment here or send the suggestion into our Facebook page.

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