28 degrees of international shopping and travel: part 1

Up until about 2 years ago, I didn’t have a credit card.

(In case you’re now questioning my credibility and online shopping expertise, don’t worry: I spent a many years well acquainted with Paypal, and years before that memorising various family member’s credit cards — with consent, of course.  Boy, did I have trouble when they started requesting the CCV number as well.)

Seeing as I now tell anyone and everyone who will listen about my great love affair with my 28 Degrees credit card (when we first met it was called the Wizard — how mysterious! — but had a rather ugly orange fake tan), I honestly don’t know how I survived those dark, dark years.

(Perhaps ironically, that photo is from another website which says money can’t buy you happiness after $75,000 a year.)

Eye on the money

If you’re planning a trip overseas, chances are you’ve got your eye on the current exchange rate.  You might be thinking:

  • Oh, how much money should I convert before I go?
  • Which little hole-in-the-wall place should I use to get the best rate?  But not too far in the wall, because it might be counterfeit money… 
  • Should I get one of those Travel Money Cards (a.k.a. the new travellers cheques)?  
  • Can I just put all my purchases on my credit card?  
  • Should I convert all my money now — what if the dollar continues to drop, instead of heading towards US$1.50 like the media keeps trying to tell us that it will???  (And will Customs think I’m laundering money if I tick the box which says I’m carrying more than $10,000?)

For me, the 28 Degrees credit card was the answer to most of these questions (except for the last one, you’re on your own there).  Today, I’m going to explain a little of how it worked for me, starting with the exchange rates.

A case study 

I’m feeling kinda nerdy with all this numbers talk, so let’s do a case study.

On 15 May 2011, I made a very big purchase in Paris.  (It was on my brother’s behalf, so sadly I have nothing to show for it except this case study.)  I put about half on my 28 Degrees credit card and the other half on my CBA Amex… and yes, I did get some urgent calls/sms’s from the banks because I busted my credit cards.

This chart shows a comparison of the exchange rates I got from each card.  Just for the heck of it, I’ve also included the actual rate (from the Reserve Bank of Australia) and the exchange rate that CBA was offering for people buying a Travel Money Card on the same day.

….hmm, I thought this chart would be way more dramatic, like season finale cliffhanger dramatic!  It must be because we’re looking at Euros and not US dollars.  Well, I guess we could also say that, compared with the actual rate:

  • The 28 Degrees rate is about 1% lower
  • The CBA Amex rate is about 4% lower
  • The CBA Travel Money Card is about 5% lower

Or it’s like your own DIY loyalty card — buy 5 pairs of shoes, get a dress for free!

To be continued…

In the next part(s) I will go through the fees and charges (spoiler: if you use the card right, there are none!) and other practicalities like applications, using the card for overseas or online purchases, and withdrawing cash overseas.  Hopefully it’ll help some other serious shoppers make some informed decisions, so stay tuned!

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