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I have an HDFC Forex Plus Multi currency card. It has Euro and GBP but no Zloty (Polish currency). How would I use it in Poland? I have not found a suitable answer yet so asking again. I am not sure if withdrawing cash is a good idea.

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Generally a Visa card can be expected to work for (almost) every currency in the world. If the currency of the transaction is different from the currency the card balance is kept in, the issuer will seamlessly convert the money according to the exchange rate for the day.

You pay for this service in the form of slightly worse exchange rates than wholesale forex market quotes -- but the rates on a credit/debit card will usually be better than what you can get at a brick-and-mortar foreign exchange counter.*

As far as I can see, the HDFC Multicurrency ForexPlus appears to be a Visa-branded debit card that can maintain balances in several different currencies. Presumably this allows you to bypass the bank's own exchange rates for those currencies, and instead go seek your own fortune with a forex broker of your choice. But the bank's description doesn't seem to say those currencies are the only ones you can do transactions in.

For zloty I would expect it works just like an ordinary Visa card, converting to one of the currencies you have a balance in.

*) The rates and fees page about the card explicitly lists a 2% markup for cross-currency transactions, so it is clearly possible. It's a matter of temperament whether you consider 2% to be fair or a rip-off, but it compares quite favorably with the 7.5% markup over the ECB reference rate currently offered on zloty by a random exchange counter in Berlin. (I tried to google for currency exchangers in Warsaw, but their websites all seem to be in Polish and the apparent spreads on them are so tiny that I think there must be a separate markup or transaction fee charged that I just don't know how to look for).

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    This is actually a very good point. But if you don't have a balance in a particular currency, who decides which currency to use for the conversion? The plot thickens. :) – Juan Jimenez May 29 at 8:49
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    @JuanJimenez The terminal itself has sometimes (not all terminals offer this) the option you can choose from in which currency you want to pay. Usually it is your card currency and the local currency, just different rates apply. – Zibelas May 29 at 10:09
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    @Zibelas: That will make the conversion at whatever rates the merchant or their processor sets, which are usually horrible. The usual advice is to always make the transaction in the local currency as far as the card is concerned and have the card issuer convert. – Henning Makholm May 29 at 10:14
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    @JuanJimenez: The issuer wants to retain you as a customer. If they started charging more than they claim on their own fees page, there's a high chance that you would leave them (and posssibly report them to a relevant authority for false advertising). A random merchant knows that it's unlikely a tourist customer would come back anyway and can expect absolutely no repercussion for marking up their rates by, say, 10%. – Henning Makholm May 29 at 10:19
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    There is a good chance that Polish sites you have browsed are internet exchanges, rather brick-and-mortar ones. Online exchange is indeed quite favorable (spreads are below 1% and no hidden transaction costs apply). Checking some random 'real' exchange point gives me (for EUR) 4.23/4.38 for small exchanges and 4.28/4.33 for ones above 500EUR (which is around 3.5% or 1.1% spread accordingly). In general, if you want hard currency, exchange money in Poland, but do it in the city, not at the airport or train station. Obviously, only use real exchange points, no random people ;) – Artur Biesiadowski May 29 at 11:29
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Assuming that card works like a standard Visa/Mastercard, it will work fine. Whenever I have used my (GBP) Mastercard in Poland, the card machine has asked if I want to pay in Złoty or convert to GBP (and siliar in other countries with other currencies)

Note that the conversion rate is usually much worse than the Visa/Mastercard rate, so it's generally better to pay in the local currency and let your card issuer do the conversion - but check their terms first to make sure they don't charge a commission.

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    +1 - if POS or ATM is proposing you custom rate to "save" you money, 99% is you're getting ripped off. – Agent_L May 28 at 18:54
  • I also experienced that when traveling to Poland using a corporate American Express card; and my personal MasterCard, but was not given an option to use local currency, or if I was, the POS terminal had some message that basically said "we will take care of currency conversion at our current values" and so my personal MasterCard could not reimburse the exchange fee charged. – Mark Stewart May 29 at 14:08
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It is not a bad option these days to use your regular debit card (at ATMs) or credit card. Check with your bank about the foreign currency charges. Indian banks generally give your a good currency conversion rate but they do charge 2-3.5% foreign currency fee plus 18% (of the fee) GST. In my experience, credit card fees tend to be higher. Call your bank and find out that day's Forex rate and the foreign currency fees applicable to your card(s).

I generally do try to get a Forex card and some cash as a fallback. Since you are not able to get zloty, carrying Euros/GBP as backup should be fine.

Hope you enjoy your trip!

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Most businesses that take cards in Poland will allow you to pay in Euros. Withdrawing cash from ATM's is also possible with Euro cards. The conversion rate may or may not be the best, but you can do that.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – JoErNanO May 29 at 12:43

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