Making the most of your OneSmart card (and also, what the hell is a OneSmart card?)
Here at the last bus stop on the planet we love our travelling. But you can’t leave without a good pocketful of money and there’s no avoiding it: you’ll have to change your Kiwi dollars into some other currency.
That’s where the irritation starts. They love to clip the ticket, those money changers.
And every time they do, you brace yourself. How much are they going to sock me for this? Who’s going to take a big fat cut out of my hard-earned cash? It’s not enough to put you off backpacking through Asia or baking in the sun in the Greek islands, but it still makes you grit your teeth every time you put your card into an ATM in some exotic place, far from Lower Hutt.
If this is you, you might want to look at the OneSmart card and see if you’ll come out better off.
OneSmart is an Air New Zealand Airpoints card that also works as a debit card: a cash machine card you can use right across the world to pay in the local currency, withdraw the local currency, and pay online in … the local currency.
Air New Zealand has set it up with the idea that they’ll clip the ticket when you change your money but they won’t go hard on the fees. Why? Because it’s a pretty good way to sign up Airpoints members in big numbers. What that means to them, potentially, is more loyal customers.
So how fair are their fees and exchange rates? You don’t get the keenest possible exchange rate, but it’s generally fair and the fee is reasonable, and here’s the crucial bit: it’s cheaper than the competition. And it’s free to join, so as long as you’re comfortable with Air New Zealand sending you the odd email, you really have nothing to lose.
How does it work? Let’s say you’re taking $5,000 with you to backpack from Vancouver to Santiago. Your first step is to load that $5,000 on to the card, which is easily done with your online banking and the OneSmart site. Then, once the funds have loaded, which will take a day, maybe two, you go onto the OneSmart site (or use their app) and convert your $5,000 into one of eight different foreign currencies.
Easy. When you go to use it, you’ve got the necessary flavour of foreign funds loaded up on your debit card ready to go, ready to put into almost any eftpos card machine, almost any ATM. The exchange rate is set at the time you convert it and from then on, you’re set, no fluctuations, so you’ll know exactly how much you have to spend.
You don’t even have to leave the country to find it useful – let’s say you want to buy something on a website in Europe. You need to pay in euros but you don’t want to get stung by a stiff currency conversion. No problem – pull out your OneSmart card and pay in euros right from your euro wallet on the card.
There’s no charge for your OneSmart – you just have to sign up, for free, as an Air New Zealand Airpoints member. As you might imagine, that means your OneSmart card also carries your Airpoints balance. If you’re looking to cash in some points to book a flight but don’t have quite enough of them, you can top up to the necessary amount using the money on your OneSmart card. And as you spend your way with OneSmart money, you’ll be clocking up more Airpoints.
Your OneSmart card also gives you 90-day purchase protection insurance. That covers you against any loss or damage for any item you purchased with the card, so long as you make your claim with within 15 days of the incident.
The OneSmart card app also gives you the ability to request and create a virtual card within. What that means is you can access your card details to make online purchases when you don’t have the card in your hands. You can imagine how helpful that could be on the unhappy day when you lose your card or some lowlife steals it.
All in all, It’s a pretty handy little card.
- Just watch out for a couple of fishhooks: if you use it for that ‘pre-authorised’ payment that the hotels and car rental people like so much, you may end up with the payment amount plus an additional 15% on hold as a deposit and you won’t have access to that money during the hold period. Same with ‘pay at the pump’ terminals at petrol stations. Their hold-on funds can stay glued to your account for quite a few days.
- Also, you’ll want to transfer money from your bank account to the OneSmart card a few days ahead of when you might need it. The new balance can take a day or two to show up.
- Another tip: when you get home, to avoid the monthly charges of $10 or so, clear your card of all currencies either at an ATM or by spending the money in stores. So long as there’s any money in the account they’ll keep deducting the monthly fee but if there’s a zero balance, they’ll just leave you alone until you load it up again.
- But most of all: as terrific as the OneSmart card may be, you always want to take more than one card or money type, even if you never use it. You never know when a machine or technology might let you down. Have your backup ready – be it cash, credit, or prepaid currency card. Having to pay a stiff commission is one thing, but not being able to pay money at all, 10,000 miles from home, is almost no fun at all.
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