[sbinews] The world is your ATM (Rediff)

  • From: "Rajendra S. Pai" <rspai9@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: sbinews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 1 May 2004 04:48:04 -0700 (PDT)

The world is your ATM
Smita Tripathi | May 01, 2004

It was a familiar ritual for any traveller heading to
foreign shores. First you stood in a queue for your
visa and then you headed off to convert your foreign
exchange into travellers' cheques.

Now there's a new option and it comes in the form of a
pre-paid card. Travelex, the world's largest dealer in
foreign exchange which started operations in India
last November, calls their card the Cash Passport. And
the State Bank of India has just introduced a similar
product with a desi-flavoured name: the Vishwa Yatra

Both are basically pre-paid cards, which can be loaded
with dollars and then used at over 850,000 Visa ATMs
across the world to withdraw money in that country's
currency. So if you use the card in Paris to withdraw
cash from an ATM, you will get euros and in England
the card can be used to withdraw pounds. The
equivalent in dollar terms will be reduced from your

The cards are pin protected and are therefore safer
than carrying cash or travellers cheques. Says Gavin
Azavedo, CEO, Travelex India, "The most lucrative
aspect of the Cash Passport is that it provides safety
when it comes to carrying foreign exchange. Also, it's
convenient to carry and gives you the freedom of
withdrawing the exact amount you need." So if you need
40 euros to buy something in Paris, you don't need to
encash a travellers' cheque of $100; you can withdraw
the exact amount.

There's another advantage of these cards: they can be
reloaded instantly. This is especially useful for
students studying abroad. Supposing your child has
gone to the US for higher studies and you initially
buy him a card loaded with $5,000. Now if he or she
needs more, all you have to do is to contact Travelex
or the SBI (depending upon whether you have Cash
Passport or the Vishwa Yatra card) and the card will
be reloaded instantly with the desired amount.

Of course, you have to pay a fee for this. In case of
Travelex, it is $2 for every reload, while SBI charges
Rs 50. The minimum reload in case of Travelex is $100
while the minimum reload for SBI is $250.

Cash Passport comes with an international helpline
number for emergencies. This number is your lifeline
on foreign shores as it provides assistance in every
field from medical and legal emergencies to loss of
passport and even translation services. Assistance is
free but you'll have to pay for the services.

For example, if you meet with an accident you can call
up Travelex for help. Travelex will make sure you are
taken to a hospital and taken care of. You will have
to pay the doctor and the hospital charges.

SBI's Vishwa Yatra card provides a personal accident
cover of Rs 200,000. So in case of death due to
accident, your nominee will get Rs 200,000. The card
also provides travel insurance, which covers loss of
checked-in baggage (Rs 50,000) and delay in checked-in
baggage (beyond 12 hours) Rs 15,000.

The Vishwa Yatra Card scores over the Cash Passport as
it can also be used as a debit card at over 13 million
Visa Electron merchant establishments worldwide. Says
an SBI official, "Travellers going abroad on a leisure
trip may find the card most convenient as it saves
precious time in locating authorised money changers.
Also, different money changers charge different
exchange rates and so the traveller may lose out."

However, the Vishwa Yatra Card does not come with the
facility of an add-on card. Thus, only one card is
issued in the name of the traveller.

Travelex, on the other hand, issues an add-on card,
which has a different pin. So the card can have a
common pool of $10,000 and both you and your wife can
use it. The add-on card fee is $2.

While both the Cash Passport and the Vishwa Yatra Card
have a maximum limit of $10,000, the Cash Passport can
be bought for a minimum of $100 while the Vishwa Yatra
Card has to be bought for a minimum of $500.

SBI issues its card for a fee of Rs 100 while Travelex
charges 1 per cent of the card amount as issuance fee.

Travelex India also offers the buyback policy. Under
this you can sell all unused foreign exchange to
Travelex at the same exchange rate at which you bought
it. Hence, you are safe from exchange rate
fluctuations. Currently, no other foreign exchange
player offers such a service.

However, in order to make use of the facility you need
to inform the branch, when buying the card, that you
will be availing of this facility when you return. You
need to pay a fee of Rs 100 for this facility.

Under the Vishwa Yatra rules, the unused amount of the
card can be returned to SBI and no return fee will be
charged provided the balance amount is claimed within
three months of the expiry of the card. If claim is
made after three months of expiry of the card the
amount will be refunded after deducting Rs 100 as bank
charges. However, the dollars will be converted into
rupees at the prevailing exchange rate.

These cards do have their disadvantages. The biggest
is that Visa charges between 2 per cent to 3 per cent
of the amount as transaction fee every time you
withdraw from an ATM. You also need to pay around
$0.40 to check your balance.

R.S.Pai, Web Address: http://rspai.tripod.com

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