Best Travel Cards in Malaysia 2023
If you love to travel, or shop online with international retailers, you may be wondering:
What’s the best way to spend in foreign currencies without getting hit by high fees?
How do I get the best exchange rate when I’m spending overseas?
Are international debit or credit cards worth using?
International travel credit and debit cards can be a great choice if you spend in foreign currencies, and want to cut your costs or earn better rewards as you spend. This guide walks through the advantages of international and travel focused cards, how they work, and which ones to look out for from Malaysian providers.
5 travel cards that we’ll cover in this article:
Travel cards for overseas spending: 5 of the best options in Malaysia
|Travel Card||Best Features|
|Wise debit card|
|HSBC Visa Signature Card|
|Hong Leong AirAsia Credit Card|
|RHB Visa Signature|
What is a travel card?
Travel cards are simply payment cards which are convenient to use internationally. That means you can use your travel card to spend when you travel, make international ATM withdrawals or shop with foreign retailers online - just like you would with your normal payment card.
The key difference when it comes to travel cards is that they may offer cheaper international purchases by lowering the costs of currency exchange - or they may have travel focused perks and rewards which mean you unlock specific benefits when you travel. We’ll look at a few specific examples in detail, later.
How does the travel card work?
Depending on the type of travel card you get, you’ll find a few different features.
Travel debit cards - like the Wise card which we’ll look at shortly - allow you to hold and exchange foreign currencies in an online account, which you can then spend conveniently when you travel.
Because they’re debit cards you don’t need to worry about running up high bills, or hitting unexpected interest charges. Cards like these are easy to apply for online or in a provider app, and can offer a flexible way to cut your international spending costs.
Travel focused credit cards on the other hand, typically offer higher levels of rewards for foreign and travel spending, with travel perks like lounge access and insurance often thrown in, too. These cards are credit cards, which does mean you’ll need to keep an eye on your balance and pay off your bills promptly to avoid penalties and late fees, and make the most of the rewards on offer.
Types of travel card
You’ll most commonly run into 3 different types of travel cards - prepaid cards, travel debit cards and travel credit cards. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and different card types will suit different customers. Here’s a run through of a few things to consider.
1. Prepaid travel card
Prepaid travel cards, which can also be called travel money cards, may allow you to top up your card in MYR and convert online or in an app to the foreign currency you need. This has the advantage that you’ll know in advance how much you have to spend when you travel. However, these cards do come with fees, which may include charges for topping up the account and for currency exchange.
2. International card with traditional banks
Malaysian banks such as RHB do often offer foreign currency accounts which may have linked debit cards, which allow you to hold foreign currencies and spend conveniently when you travel. These accounts might have have fairly high minimum balance requirements, and the exchange rates on offer may not be the best available.
An alternative from traditional banks is to get a credit card with travel features. We’ll look at a few of these in more detail later.
3. Multi currency travel card like Wise card
A smart alternative for many customers is to get a travel debit card from a modern online alternative, often called a neobank. These providers can provide flexible travel cards with low fees - and often a far better exchange rate compared to a traditional bank. Options like the Wise account do not have any minimum balance or monthly fee, and cards are easy to order online or in the app.
Best travel cards in Malaysia 2023: a comparison
Some specialist money transfer providers offer cheaper and more flexible alternatives to the travel cards commonly issued by traditional banks. These include the Wise account and card, which is available for Malaysian customers.
We’ll look at the Wise card and a few other options in more detail in a moment - first, here’s an overview of the cards we’ll profile:
|Provider card||Fees and exchange rates|
|Wise debit card|
|Maybank Visa Signature|
|HSBC Visa Signature Card|
|Hong Leong AirAsia Credit Card|
Wise Debit Card
It’s free to open a Wise personal multi-currency account, with no minimum balance and no monthly fee to worry about.
You can set up your account online or in the Wise app for free, and then order the Wise card for a one time fee. Use your Wise account to hold, convert, send and spend in 50+ currencies - and make purchases in 170+ countries and in 150+ currencies with your card, with the mid-market exchange rate.
Pros of the Wise card
Free to open personal accounts with no monthly fees - just low transaction charges for the services you use
Hold, send and exchange 50+ currencies in your Wise account
Auto convert feature so you always get the cheapest available currency conversion
Check your account balances in the Wise app and get instant transaction notifications
Cons of the Wise card
13.7 MYR fee for your first card
ATM fees apply if you make more than 2 withdrawals a month
Spending limits apply
No option to top up account in cash or with a cheque
Maybank Visa Signature
The Maybank Visa Signature credit card can be used to spend all around the world where you see the Visa symbol displayed. Card holders can earn points and rewards as they spend, which can vary depending on the category of spending. There are also travel focused treats like airport speed passes to let you get through immigration quicker, and a travel concierge to give local information and advice as you travel.
Pros of the Maybank Visa Signature card
Popular, reliable and familiar bank
Earn rewards and points on spending
Travel perks available including airport speed passes and a concierge service
Cons of the Maybank Visa Signature card
Credit card - you may end up owning interest of penalty fees
Annual income of 70,000 MYR to 100,000 MYR required
550 MYR/year standard annual fee (waived in year 1)
2.25% foreign transaction fee
HSBC Visa Signature Card
The HSBC Visa Signature credit card allows customers to earn reward points on day to day spend - and more when shopping with HSBC preferred partners. There’s a higher rate of rewards on foreign currency spending, making this a card to consider if you want a credit card to use internationally. Foreign currency transactions do have fees attached though, so read the terms carefully.
Pros of the HSBC Visa Signature Card
Higher rewards on foreign currency spend
Travel treats like complimentary lounge passes
Secure card, from a huge global banking brand
Cons of the HSBC Visa Signature Card
72,000 MYR annual salary required as a minimum
600 MYR annual fee for the primary card, plus 300 MYR for secondary card
1% currency fee for foreign transactions + additional costs imposed by Visa
Hong Leong AirAsia Credit Card
Hong Leong offers the Hong Leong AirAsia credit card, which lets customers earn extra rewards and benefits when they fly frequently on AirAsia. Platinum card members can upgrade their frequent flyer status, and there are higher rewards on foreign currency spending compared to spending at home in Malaysia. Relatively high annual fees and salary minimums apply.
Pros of the Hong Leong AirAsia Credit Card
Flexible card which is widely accepted internationally
Earn rewards and extra points when you fly with AirAsia
Platinum cardholders can upgrade to Platinum Freedom Flyer status with Air Asia
Cons of the Hong Leong AirAsia Credit Card
Minimum annual income, or minimum deposit required - costs vary by card type
200 MYR - 300 MYR annual fee, depending on the card selected
5% cash advance fee, with a 15 MYR minimum
2% foreign transaction fee on any overseas spending
RHB Visa Signature Credit Card
RHB has a good range of credit cards on offer - but if you’re a frequent traveller looking for a card which offers travel perks, this may be the one for you. Cards offer airport lounge access, travel insurance and the opportunity to earn rewards on your spending at home and abroad.
Pros of the RHB Visa Signature Credit Card
No annual fee
Earn rewards when you spend
Lounge privileges and golf privileges available
Cons of the RHB Visa Signature Credit Card
High minimum salary of 80,000 MYR
5% cash advance fee with a 15 MYR minimum
At least 1% foreign transaction fee - extra fees from Visa may apply
What are the foreign transaction fees applies to a travel card
Using a specific travel card when you spend internationally can save you money, or - in the case of travel credit cards - boost your rewards and net you a few extra perks. However, there are a few fees to watch out for when you pick your perfect travel card.
Exchanging currency incurs costs. The way these costs are passed on to the customer can vary based on the card provider. In the case of travel credit cards, you’ll usually find a foreign transaction fee - which can be in the region of 2% or more of the transaction value - added to the costs. Travel debit cards may exchange your currency using the real exchange rate, and charge a separate fee for conversion - which can be cheaper and easier to calculate.
The other key cost to look out for when using a card internationally is any withdrawal fee applied. The card issuer may charge a fee - and the operator of the ATM may also have their own charges which are added, as well. If you’re using a travel credit card you could be liable for a cash advance fee - often around 5% - and interest which may be applied instantly from the point of the withdrawal. Check the terms and conditions carefully so you don’t run into surprise fees.
How can I use a travel card abroad for overseas spending?
Broadly speaking you’ll use your travel card overseas in exactly the same way you’d use a card at home, to pay merchants in person, or make withdrawals. You’ll need to double check the network your card is issued on is accepted by the merchant or ATM, and read through the fee schedule carefully before you travel.
It’s worth noting that credit cards - even those which offer perks for travellers - can have fairly steep international fees, including foreign transaction charges and cash advance fees if you choose to make ATM withdrawals.
How to request a travel card
If you want to apply for a travel credit card you’ll usually need to complete an online form which may include a credit check. You’ll also need to provide proof of minimum salary, or pay a deposit to get your card.
Travel debit cards from specialist providers are usually pretty easy to get, and don’t require any credit checks or minimum salary.
As an example, here’s how to order a Wise card:
Download the Wise app or head to the Wise desktop site
Sign up for a Wise account with just an email address, Google, Facebook or Apple ID
Get verified using your passport or MyKad
Order your card online or in the Wise app for a one off 13.7 MYR fee
Your physical card will arrive within 2 weeks - or you can access your card details in the Wise app right away for mobile payments
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Advantages of international travel cards
Depending on your preferences and the type of transactions you’re likely to make, getting a travel card can be a smart move.
Travel debit cards can offer flexible ways to manage your money across currencies, with low fees and a better exchange rate than a normal bank. You’ll also avoid interest charges, and benefit from secure spending as your account isn’t linked to your primary bank account.
Travel credit cards do usually come with fairly high fees, but can offer rewards in the form of cash back or benefits, including things of value to travellers like airport lounge passes and travel insurance. If you’re interested in getting a travel credit card, weigh up the advantages against the potential costs to make sure you’re choosing the right one for you.
Conclusion: What is the best international travel card in Malaysia?
Travel cards include prepaid cards, travel debit cards, and international credit cards, and can be issued by both traditional banks and online modern alternative providers. Different card types suit different customers - but they can offer some great features and benefits if you pick the right one for your specific needs.
If you’re looking for a low cost way to hold, exchange and spend in a broad range of foreign currencies, check out the Wise travel card as a great option which you can apply for securely and quickly online. Or, if you’re considering a travel credit card, use the top picks in our guide to compare the features and fees and see which may suit you best. Happy travels.
Best travel card in Malaysia FAQs
Different travel cards offer various features for overseas spending. The best card depends on the features that are most important to your needs.
Wise card doesn't have annual or monthly fees, and lets you spend in 170+ countries. RHB Visa Signature Card doesn't have an annual fee, and offers some travel related perks. Maybank Visa Signature Card offers some travel perks, but it's a credit card so interest and fees may apply.
In our article, we explored 5 different prepaid, credit and international debit card options. Check our guide to find details on card fees, exchange rates and features.
Travel card fees vary widely. Travel debit cards from online providers may have no monthly charges and no annual fee. Because they’re debit cards you also don’t need to worry about running up high bills and hitting interest charges. Travel credit cards may have annual fees, foreign transaction fees, cash advance charges, late payment fees and interest.
Wise cards don't have annual or monthly fees, there is only 13.7 MYR one time order fee. RHB Visa Signature Card doesn't have an annual fee, while HSBC Visa Signature has 600 MYR annual fee for the primary card.
Read our article to learn more about travel card fees and exchange rates.
Travel cards can usually be used abroad in exactly the same way you’d use your normal card at home. Make withdrawals, pay merchants, and spend with international retailers online - just keep an eye on the costs to make sure you know of any extra fees involved with overseas spending.
Travel cards are intended for spending and making withdrawals in foreign currencies. They can include prepaid cards, debit cards and credit cards.
If you want a travel credit card you’ll likely have to apply online and provide proof of income. A credit check may be required. If you’re interested in a travel debit card from an online provider or neobank you will be able to apply online or through an app, with no need for a credit check.
Picking the right travel card can mean you cut your costs when you spend in foreign currencies, or that you earn more rewards, perks and benefits. Use this guide as a starting point to see if a travel card is right for you.