The holiday season is here and you are probably being bombarded with deep discounts and offers on trip packages and flight tickets. Browse for the best deals, but don't forget to lock-in to the best forex rates too. The rupee has been on a falling streak and even small fluctuations can make a huge dent in your vacation budget.
The fall session in colleges will begin soon and parents, who are already grappling with high tuition fees and living expenses, now have to worry about the depreciating currency too. The only way to save your vacation or college budget is to book your rates in advance.
Banks and financial institutions know this and have been coming up with innovative solutions to tap the market. Axis Bank, for instance, recently opened its online forex booking services for non-Axis bank account holders too. For all other banks, you need to have an account and payments can be made online using Net banking.
Axis is the first bank to launch an outward remittances website (www.axisforexonline. com), which can be used to remit money to any bank account in the world, even if you are not an Axis Bank customer. Besides outward remittance, the website allows you to order multicurrency forex cards and cash in 100-plus foreign currency.However, you don't choose a forex service based on convenience alone. The exchange rates vary from bank to bank. Also, in case of forex cards, the fees and charges will vary across service providers. For instance, HDFC Bank Multicurrency Platinum Forex-Plus Chip card charges an issuance fee of Rs 500 per card, while Axis bank charges Rs 150.
On the other hand, the card reload fee for an Axis Bank card is Rs 100 and cross-currency charge is 3.5%. HDFC has lower reload fee and cross-currency charges of Rs 75 and 3%. Online aggregators like Bookmyforex.com, and Fxkart.com can come to your rescue. Not only do they offer product comparison a cross banks, but also get you a wholesale ex change rate, much lower than what is offered by banks or currency exchange shops.
Get the right rate
Think of these aggregator sites as the travel portals that get you bulk discounts on flights, hotels and holidays. They also bring transparency to an otherwise opaque and fragmented currency exchange market with widely varying rates between different vendors and hun dreds of small stores.
A marketplace for retail forex and overseas remittances has tie-ups with banks and exchange companies to whom they offer very large number of orders. These channel partners in turn quote wholesale volume rates. "The dashboard then automatically compares and displays these competitive rates along with service quality metrics across hundreds of banks and exchange companies for each product in real time and connect the customer with the most ideal forex vendor in real time," says Sudarshan Motwani, Founder and CEO, Bookmyforex. com. Doing this kind of research offline is nearly impossible.
"Rates quoted on the site are 2-5% lower than what you will be offered by a bank or at money exchanges, and about 12% better than an airport counter of a money changer or a bank," says Motwani. A difference of even Rs 1 per dollar can translate into savings of lakhs, especially for larger amounts like tuition fee and living expenses. For instance, while ICICI bank quoted a rate of Rs 78.29 per E, the marketplace was offering Rs 76.07. That's a difference of Rs 2,336 per E1,000. If the college fee for a semester is around E8,000, it could mean a difference of Rs 18,687. There are options to set a rate alert to if you think you could get a better rate and even freeze a rate for the transaction.
They also offer some unique deals. While banks charge close to $2 (or more) per cash withdrawal from an ATM, BookMyForex partners with select banks to offer three free ATM withdrawals every month, throughout the validity period of five years. Also, there is no reloading charge or issuing fee. The transactions are secure as the sit e connects you directly with the bank. "The transaction including rate is confirmed on our site, a customer is directed to make payment directly into bank's own account, while stringent service-level agreement with vendors ensures excellent order fulfillment and customer experience," says Motwani.
Get the right mix
To get the best deal, you need to understand how to use different forex services optimally. For instance, choosing a foreign currency draft instead of a wire transfer when the student is still in India can save you $15-50 in a mid-size remittance (the college fee), as you won't be paying intermediary bank charges.
You have currency notes, a forex card and wire tra nsfers and demand drafts to choose from. The generic advice is to carry the minimum requirement in cash, as it is the costliest option. If you are a holidayer, depend mostly on the forex card. Get a multi-currency card if you are planning to visit more than one country.
This will save you from crosscurrency charges. If you are student, there are specific forex cards designed for you, like the HDFC ISIC Student ID ForexPlus Chip Card that offers special discounts on books, food, shopping, accommodation, leisure activities and travel. But don't just go by offers that give you petty savings. Compare the charges and rates, since even small differences can have a snowballing effect.
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