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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Credit Card Usage Oversea or Online

I am writing this based on myself living in Singapore using a Singapore Credit Card issued by the banks in Singapore Dollars (SGD).  You however can also checkout the information in your respective counties.  The concept works almost the same.

Many of us travel overseas.  We know we can use our Credit Card overseas with convenient.  Often when you made a purchase while overseas, do you encounter why retail counters often ask if you like to pay your purchase in their foreign currency or Singapore Dollars.

So I did a asked on my Facebook and see what was everyone's choice.  Guess what?  Everyone chosen foreign currency where they are at.  So is this the best choice?

Most of us like myself isn't aware.  Paying something in foreign currency do incur charges from the bank that issue you.  The percentage however are mostly the same except for one or two special credit cards.  I am not going to sniff one particular card.  Below is the list of banks direct pages of charges out of which Standard Chartered has the highest transaction fee for foreign currency payment using VISA or Master

Here you can refer to the various bank terms and conditions.  There was none from OCBC.
Citibank, DBS/POSB, UOB, Standard Chartered

Other than AMEX which have a high charge for transaction fee, the rest for VISA and Master are as follows.  I will use a purchase I made in Paris recently to use as illustration.

  • All purchased made in foreign currency, the currency will be converted to USD then to SGD and the total will have a transaction fee of 2.5% based on the sum.  You will be subjected to the spread by the bank on the currency paid to USD and from USD to SGD.
  • For payment in SGD outside Singapore, including purchase made online e.g. Amazon or using Paypal where their retailer uses a foreign payment, there will be a 0.8% transaction fee of the total sum.
Scenario 1
I paid for an item for EUR79 and my credit card bill came as SGD124.30.  This was after a 2.5% transaction fee.  Most people if not aware will divide out and thought it was 1.57 exchange rate.  The actual amount is actually SGD121.258 (exchange rate after two conversion 1.53) before the 2.5% transaction fee.

I was also offered at the cashier to pay for SGD123.55 (exchange of 1.564) before a transaction fee of 0.8%.  If I were to pay in SGD, my credit bill will reflect SGD124.538 (taking transaction fee would be 1.576).

In this case, my purchase made in foreign currency is better than paid in SGD with a saving of SGD0.20.

From the above, it seems that paying in foreign currency favours the buyer.  At the time of my purchase, the exchange rate by the bank for EURO to USD and USD to SGD was lower than what the spread that the retailer exchange offered me (1.53<1.56) or after transaction fee ratio (1.57<1.576).

This amount can change if the exchange rate does not favour you, payment in foreign currency will made you loses.

So which should you choose, since Forex changes everyday, you can do your homework.  Just choose the currency that you like honestly.  Of course if you are in US, please pay using USD as you will only lose one conversion rate and normally bank rate are better than the retail rate.

The difference is minimal so for convenient sake, you might just pay in foreign currency since you know the bank rates are never as bad as the retail rate.

Update 13th Dec 2015
Here back again to update this post.  Apparently though reading that AMEX has a high transaction rate but the exchange rate overall including the rate in EUR was lower than Citibank VISA.  Doing a check at EUR/SGD, there was slowly increasing from 7-12 Dec.  I did some spending on Citibank VISA on 7th Dec and on AMEX on 8th Dec, and another CITIBANK VISA on 11th Dec.  The rate for both Citibank VISA was higher than AMEX even though the EUR/SGD rate was going up over these few days.  Seems like spending overseas might be better to use AMEX after all.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Touring Paris On Foot Guide

Updating in progress...

This is my first time to Paris and and decide to took a stay using AirBnb as usual just like my London trip guide and as well some of the advice here hoping to help you get around.

AirBnb Apartment
We stayed at a small apartment near Eiffel Tower.  We booked it the moment it was first listed and the owner, Phlippe offered us a bottle of their local champagne on our arrival which he did.  He was at the location as communicated early to wait for our arrival and his response through AirBnb is fast.  Apartment uses key, so you have to carry around.

The Good: Great view of Eiffel Tower and walking distance.  Supermarket and river cruise is just around the corner.  Host provide basic instructions for nearby attractions.  There are also some attraction books which can be used.  Comes with WiFi, utensils, toiletries, bathing towels and toothpaste, hair dryer and stove.

The Bad:  No washing machine.  Train station is quite a distance with about 15mins walk.  The lift is rather small so you might have to take multiple trip to go up.

Here is a look of the apartment:

 Upon entering you see the apartment rather small as it has a sofa bed.

There is TV but unless you understand French that is.

The view is great looking out.

The attraction comes when you look out of the windows and turn left.

It is the magnificent Eiffel Tower.

 Yes, the lift fits two.

Moving around from Airport/Train/Hotel/Apartment
If you arrived via the airport, you can go to arrival hall for Uber.  We arrived taking Eurostar from London to Paris.  From the train station, there is taxi stand.  I suggest you use Uber.  It's a cashless taxi service which you can sign up here.  Uber is very popular in Paris and the cars are waiting at the main entrance of the train station not at the Taxi stand.  Use the fare estimate here.

There are few types of Taxi, the cheapest is UberPop, per trip is roughly between EUR4 - 8 depending on distance.  Do note this can come with all sizes of Taxi, big or small it's by luck.  I encounter a Suzuki Swift with our luggage to our restaurant.  UberX is the more premium ones and if you are going to airport or you need a big car for luggage, you can take this as the normal charges is about EUR50 to airport and water is free in the car in case you are wondering.  There is no need tips as the fare is inclusive.  You are free to give some if you wish.  Cab off the streets are much more expensive.  Most drivers speaks little to decent English.

Data/WiFi/Prepaid Service
Please get a Prepaid card in France.  There are hardly any free WiFi unlike London else your phone bill will skyrocket.

Metro Train Tickets
Metro tickets can be purchase with per trip.  Each Ticket+ ( that how it is labeled on their machine) cost about EUR1.8 per trip.
Train ticket for entry.  You don't need for exit.

Food are generally average priced to slightly more expensive at attractions or restaurants.  Tipping is not required and is also part of bill.  You may if you wish.

Touring London On Foot Guide

Updating in progress...

This was my first time to London of course I am not on tour.  If you are on tour you won't need this guide as that will be planned for.

I was on a Pre-Wedding Shoot trip to London and that was only 1 day.  I am staying there for about 7 days.  Of which, my fiancee and myself have planned our itinerary for this trip and I am going to share with you how you can save and go easy on your pocket.  Where to get the deals and how to get there.

To save on apartment, we stayed in an apartment using AirBnb.  I am going to review the apartment we stayed there so to let you know what to look out for.

AirBnb Apartment
First thing, the picture on their listing is one of the 8 units they have.  It is completely different from the one we stayed.  Apartment is accessed via numeric number locks.

The Good: Our apartment is at Great Tower street which is in between Monument Station and Towerhill Station.  It also has a supermarket, Tesco coming from Monument and a food joint, Weatherspoon from Towerhill.  This is hosted by Q Apartment.  Our apartment is very well equipment with fast WiFi, Iron, Dish washer, Washing machine, utensils, stove.  Enough for you to leave for a week for us.

The Bad: There have 8 units in this building and we were assigned unit number 1, which is on level 4 and there is no lift!  3 days before the stay, I also have to constantly send them message to get the actual address (AirBnb will only give you the exact 3 days before).  We didn't know you can request to change else we would have done so.  Their response isn't very fast.  Check the room in detail as there are hidden compartments looks not possible to open but when open, give you a wardrobe and more.  There are several hidden compartments which could have provided with some labels.  Instruction on equipments could be provided.

 Here you see the door on the upper right is where you enter.
You will see the washroom upon entering.
Further on you will see the kitchen.

 Entering from the kitchen will be the bedroom.  A fan to move the wind.  During day time is extremely hot.

The worse thing about this apartment is the rooftop is directly accessible by the next block and there were renovation works.  Anyone could just walk over and peep into your bedroom.  Yes the bedroom is facing the windows, facing the rooftop.

All windows panel in front of the bed covered with blinds where some are faulty.  You can see people doing construction and can easily walk over and take a peep.

Moving around from Airport/Train/Hotel/Apartment
First thing first, cab is going to be expensive in London and there is Uber however everything will be in pounds.  You can either use airport shuttle service or call this private car service which is pretty affordable Addison Lee.  Just call them up in advance and go through the phone options, they also have an app to use, just provide the location and destination and they will provide you the price.  No tips is needed is already part of the fare.

Data/WiFi/Prepaid Service
You can purchase a data card only with 500MB/1GB/2GB for a 4G modem or get a local Prepaid card for 20 pounds which comes with 2GB data and 500 minutes of airtime and unlimited SMS for 30 days.  My advise, save your money as London has so many WiFi hotspot, you hardly need to use that prepaid card.  I regretted buying it and my stay use less than 1GB.  Note this, there is no reception in Metro as they are underground so you won't see people using mobile phones in train other than playing offline games.  If you really need, go to any mobile shops they will sell these cards.  There are a handful at Oxford Street/Piccadilly (Similar to Singapore Orchard Road) e.g. Vodafone, O2.

Metro Train Tickets
Assuming you are like me first time in London, you might want to get a train ticket with unlimited access.  Most if not all the attractions are located in Zone 1 & 2, so get an Oyster card and purchase a 7 days Zone 1 & 2 access which will cost you 32 Pounds.  Check out the latest rates here.  Buses are free just let them scan your Oyster card and do a hope on and off for the experience.

Yes everyone loves shopping whether you are a guy or lady.  In London, there is one too which is a Bichester Village.  Just take the Metro to Marylebone station and switch to a Train to Bichester North station.  Here you can check out the service time.  You will have to get a ticket there for return ticket.  Remember to arrived early else you will have to wait for the next train.

Train station at Marylebone to take to Bichester North.

Once you reached the station, you will need to get bus tickets to Bichester Village from the train station.  Here you will find all the outlet store here.  Wifi is free throughout the village.

You can have some good food around.  However there is a food joint that has many branches everywhere call Weatherspoon.  They serve affordable and good food and if you drink, it's cheap as well.  They run many promotion at different time.  Get a table on your own, check out the menu on your desk, bring it to the counter to order and take note of your table number.  Order and pay at the cashier.