Best Forex Cards for Indian Students

Aman Saxena
12.11.20
4 minute read

Heading abroad to study can be easier on your wallet when you know the best options out there- and which ones can help you save on fees.

Forex cards can be an easy solution for spending money abroad in the local currency. And now you have multiple choices of forex cards to choose from.

Plus, you always have to look out to see if there is a hidden exchange rate fee.

⚠️The exchange rate you see on Google or Reuters is the mid-market exchange rate- the same ones that the banks use.

So if your forex card provider is showing you a different rate than you are seeing on Google, you can guess they have snuck in a fee into the exchange rate you are getting.

And while it can seem small on the surface, that difference can start to feel larger if you are transferring large sums for tuition, or frequently sending or spending funds.

If you are currently studying abroad, take a look to see if any of these options can help you save on fees for your educational expenses.

Table of contents

Wise Borderless Card

Known the world over for low cost transfers, Wise can help you make payments big and small to local university and school bank accounts around the world

  • No sign up or issuance fees
  • You get the real exchange rate on every transaction
  • Only available in qualifying countries

Wise is completely online and lets you send money around the world in 60+ different currencies. But if you are in the United States, Europe, Australia or Great Britain to study, you could also get the Wise multi currency account. It is a single card that lets you hold over 45 different currencies and get free cash withdrawals up to $350 USD a month.

And that means you can spend whether you are going on holiday or fieldwork. If you are in India, you can send money or make payments to universities quickly from your mobile or online with just one low fee. And whether you go for the Wise multi-currency card or use TransferWIse to transfer money, you will always get the real exchange rate on every currency conversion. No mark-ups here.²

Open your free Wise account now

Niyo Global card

Niyo and DCB Bank have teamed up to give you a flexible and tech-enabled card that can be used in 90+ currencies, but it comes with fees and the Visa exchange rate.

  • Joining and Annual Fee of Rs. 200 + GST
  • Not available in all Indian cities
  • Load your Niyo Global Card from your INR account

Niyo is for the modern generation of students who want to access their card and convert money at any time, from anywhere. With a Niyo app, you can load money from your Indian bank account and swipe and use the card in 150 countries.

But you will get hit with an annual and joining fee, plus the hidden exchange rate fee tucked into Visa’s exchange rate. There is an in-person component to signing up, so first make sure you are in one of the cities in India that Niyo services.¹

Axis Bank forex card

Axis Bank has a few different options of forex cards for how you travel, but there are also different fees depending on the country you are in.

  • Axis Bank has 4 different options for forex cards
  • Sign up fees range from Rs. 300-500 + GST
  • 16 different currencies available

Axis Bank has the Axis Bank Vistara Forex Card which is linked up with miles from Vistara airlines, a Multi-Currency Forex Card, a World Traveller Forex Card that helps you earn miles and a Diners Card specifically for USD transactions.

With Axis Bank you will have to pay fees for signing up, reloading and for any and all cash withdrawals other than Axis Bank ATMs. You will also have to face an inactivity fee of $5 USD or the listed fee for each currency if the card is not used for more than 36 months.³

HDFC forex cards

One of the few banks with a student centered card, HDFC offers 5 different options in total for forex cards but some are currency specific.

  • Available for non-HDFC banking clients
  • One USD specific forex card and one Saudi Riyal specific for the Hajj
  • The student specific card is only in USD, EUR and GBP

The popular bank, HDFC, offers a range of forex cards, and one specially for students. The ISIC Student ForexPlus Card from HDFC is available only for the United States, Europe and Great Britain. And the card is accepted as a qualifying student ID globally as well.

But this particular HDFC card does come with an issuance fee of Rs. 300 and a reloading fee of Rs. 75. On top of that, you will always get the prevailing Visa/ Mastercard exchange rate and fees for cash withdrawals. If you want a more wide ranging card, try the other forex cards HDFC offers with 22 currencies supported, but keep an eye on those fees as well.⁴

ICICI forex cards

ICICI Bank offers 5 forex cards to choose from depending on the purpose of your travel and the level of luxury you are looking for.

  • The joining fees can range from Rs. 499- 2,000
  • Supports 15 different currencies across all cards
  • The student-specific travel forex card has an annual fee of Rs. 199

ICICI forex cards offer travel privileges and discounts that can be attractive to customers. With options like Goibibo Travel Forex, Sapphiro Forex, Multi-Wallet Prepaid Card, Coral Forex Card and Student Forex Prepaid, you have different forex card options to choose from. But Sapphiro Forex will cost you a lot more in fees, than say the Student Forex card.

The Student Forex card has a joining fee of Rs. 499 plus an annual fee of Rs. 199 from year two. Also, it is important to note the cash withdrawal charges and the marked up exchange rate you get on purchases. ⁵

What to consider when choosing a forex card for students

With so many options, how do you know the right one to choose? Take a look below to see what are some important factors to consider.

The true cost of sending USD to INR

Total cost of transfer

Sometimes cards can appear like a good deal upfront, but look a little closer and you’ll find yourself paying for fees you didn’t expect. Make sure that your transfers don't have hidden exchange rate fees, currency fees or annual fees so you aren’t paying more than you need to.

Flexibility

Flexibility to work the way that you work is key. Whether that's having an app so you can transact through your mobile, or having a wide range of currencies supported to make travel easier or even easy access to helpful customer support. Find the best card that is flexible enough to meet your needs.

ATM Withdrawals

Let’s face it, even in this digital economy, sometimes you still need cash. Check the ATM withdrawal fees and how much you may be losing on them. And at the same time, make sure the withdrawal limits, if any, are workable for the amount of cash you need.

Sources used for this article:

  1. Niyo Global Card
  2. Wise
  3. Axis Bank Forex Cards
  4. HDFC Student Forex Card
  5. ICICI Forex Card

All sources checked as of 11 November, 2020


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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