Onesmart in Thailand – worth taking with you?

Onesmart in Thailand – worth taking with you?

A couple of years ago Air New Zealand, in co-operation with BNZ, launched Onesmart – a travel debit card for it’s Airpoints members. Onesmart’s appeal lies in it’s low account fees, ability to earn Airpoints Dollars on purchases, and multi-currency wallets (meaning you can pre-purchase foreign currency without commission when the exchange rate suits you).

There are eight currency wallets to choose from, including all of the major currencies and those that Kiwis are likely to fly to on Air NZ services. If you’re travelling to a country with an unsupported currency you can still use your Onesmart card, but it will pull money out of your “New Zealand dollar wallet” and instantly convert it based on the current exchange rate.

It turns out that there isn’t a wallet for Thai Baht, and searching for information about using Onesmart in Thailand came up with nothing. I decided to try it out on my recent trip there and report back on how it went.

ONESMART’S SELLING POINTS

  • No commission charged when buying foreign currency
  • Earn Airpoints Dollars on purchases (1 Airpoint Dollar for every NZ$100 spent overseas)
  • Pay Air New Zealand no international ATM withdrawal fees (although in some cases you’re charged international withdrawal fees by the ATM itself)
  • Mastercard Paypass “Tap & Go” ready
  • Low account fees (NZ$1.95 per month in certain circumstances)

THE REALITY

My Onesmart card was my go-to funds for my trip and I ended up using it in Sydney, Bangkok, and Koh Tao. I made bulk withdrawals from ATMs, as well as EFTPOS transactions, and feel I gave it a fair test.

THE PROS

Onesmart actually lived up to all of the selling points I’ve listed above.

For ATM withdrawals I was charged a fee of 150 baht by the Thai bank, but no fees from the card provider with only one exception (a NZ$1.50 fee for an “unsupported bank’s ATM” – whatever that means). Compare this to a NZ$7.50 fee (in addition to the 150 baht fee) when using my Visa.

I wasn’t charged any currency conversion fees, and most of the ATMs in Thailand displayed just how much each transaction would cost me in New Zealand Dollars which was nice.

I found the Paypass technology very useful when I could find somewhere that accepted it – primarily this was at Sydney airport. While at Sydney I made use of a “Australian Dollar wallet” I’d set up before I left New Zealand, ensuring I locked in a good exchange rate.

THE CONS

Despite all the pros, there were still a few minor issues with Onesmart. Some Thai banks ATMs simply wouldn’t recognise it, and some that would said the card was corrupt and to contact the issuing bank.

For the record, the ATMs that did accept Onesmart every time were Siam Commercial Bank, and Bangkok Bank. There was also no difference in ATM fees between these two banks.

It was also slow to load money onto. It took up to two business days (based on NZ time) for funds to appear, which depending on when/where you need money could leave you in limbo (as it almost did for me on Koh Tao).

Whilst annoying, this isn’t a deal breaker and can be easily overcome by a bit of forward-thinking and being aware of time zone differences.

WOULD I RECOMMEND IT?

Yes. If you’re heading to Thailand and are an Air New Zealand Airpoints member, I think a Onesmart card is a valuable tool. Obviously, having another credit or debit card put aside as a backup is a sensible idea, but for day-to-day transactions Onesmart is great.

Just to make it clear, I am in no way affiliated to Air New Zealand or Onesmart. The opinions here are my own and based on my experiences.

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