Wise Debit Card: 7 Reasons Why it’s the Best Travel Card for Bali

Photo credit: @baliholidaysecrets

If you are looking for a sure-fire way to save money while travelling, the Wise Debit Card is a must-have. I’ve been using Wise (formerly Transferwise) to transfer money between bank accounts in different currencies for a couple of years, and I swear by it. But the addition of personal debit cards as well as their original business debit card makes this the best travel debit card by a country mile.

Why Wise Debit Card is cheaper than banks and credit cards.

The reason Wise can exchange currencies cheaper than your bank is that they process so much volume they acquire (formerly Transferwise) real-time foreign exchange rates without the markup your bank charges for the privilege of exchanging currencies.

Think of it this way – every moment there is a market between two commodities. The amount you are buying another currency (for example, the Indonesian Rupiah) and the rate someone else (your bank) is willing to sell that Rupiah. Your bank charges a fat margin – Transferwise has lower margins – therefore you get more Rupiah for your Dollar.

Check out the screenshot below showing the transfer of AUD$1,000 using Wise compared with NAB, PayPal and Commonwealth Bank.

Wise Debit Card Transfer Comparison

The difference can be as much as IDR600,000, which is around AUD$60. The currency in Bali is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR), and let me tell you, AUD$60 goes a long way in Bali.

Using Wise for sending money from Australia to Bali.

Many Australians have friends and family in Bali and need to send money from Australia to a Bali bank account.

Let’s use an example of sending AUD$100 from your Australian bank account to a friend’s bank account in Bali. Remember, the currency in Bali is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR).

First, you register your own personal Wise account. Register on a desktop or laptop first, then download the smartphone apps for Android and Apple.

It’s very easy to confirm your identity (required by law, same as any Australian bank) using a passport or driver’s license, but the verification process is quite quick.

Next, you create a new Australian bank account complete with BSB Code and Account number. This account behaves exactly the same as any of your other Australian bank accounts. Now you have the new account number, it’s dead easy to transfer money from your current local bank account to your new Wise bank account.

So now you have an account within Wise in Australian Dollars. Next, you use the menu options to open an IDR balance. The difference between a balance and an account is that a balance is simply holding a foreign currency without a bank account attached to it — an account is a proper bank account with account numbers.

Now here is the fun bit — you can send IDR to your friend’s Indonesian bank account. All you need is the name on their account, the name of the bank and the account number. This makes it almost impossible to make a mistake and send it to the wrong person because the confirmation screen will display the name of the account holder, which you can check against the details they provided you.

Once confirming the transfer, you can track its progress online and also receive email notifications when it arrives in their account.

The difference when transferring from your bank directly to a foreign bank is huge.

  • You get charged an “administrative fee”, usually around $20-50.
  • The exchange rate they transfer your money is the retail rate, meaning they are making a significant margin off you.
  • A “delivery” fee is often charged. The recipient’s bank is literally charging them for receiving the funds being transferred.

Wise cuts out the middle-man, in this case, your bank, and withdraws the money from your account (without fees), exchanges it for the destination currency (which is where you save the most) and deposits it in the recipient account for a tiny fraction of the fee that your bank would charge.

The Wise Travel Debit Card.

If you apply for a Wise Debit Card, you can use it to spend Indonesian Rupiah while in Bali without any transaction fees at all.

Think about this. You go to dinner in a restaurant in Seminyak and in a fit of generosity pay the bill for your four guests. Maybe drinks and dinner come to IDR 4,000,000.

Using the rates in the above example, you will be charged around AUD$360 if you pay with your Visa or Mastercard. The bank decides what exchange rate it will charge you in Australian Dollars, and let’s be frank – the rate isn’t great.

On top of that they may charge you an “overseas transaction fee” because, well, they can. That’s just another bank tax. Since the consumer commissions in several countries made “overseas transaction fees” against the law, most banks simply sneak it in with an even worse foreign currency conversion rate.

Either way, they get you, and you end up paying a lot more than the original IDR4,000,000 bill.

I cannot thank you enough for this tip

I cannot thank you enough for this tip. I have used Transferwise in BALI last week and it worked perfectly without the horrible australian banks fees. also, it’s so easy to withdraw money from the many ATM’s around and I must say that I am now using it in Australia if and when I need to transfer money abroad. Best tip ever.

With a Wise Debit Card, you pay… Rp 4,000,000 for dinner. No extra fees, no transaction charges. That’s because the money you are holding in your IDR currency is used to pay just like a local would using their Indonesian debit card.

And the best feature is that whenever you make a transaction you get an alert on your smartphone telling you where the transaction was made and how much. That means whenever I use it (and I make several transactions a day) I get an instant confirmation showing the local currency transaction.

Not only does this give me a great sense of security but I can also confirm how much is left in the local currency account where I’m travelling.

Withdraw Local Currency with your Transferwise Debit Card

Other than using the card for purchases without any transaction fees while you’re on holiday in Bali, you can also withdraw cash from ATMs in Bali as well.

That means you don’t need to bring cash to exchange at a money changer or get hit with exorbitant bank fees by using your existing Visa or Mastercard.

Not all ATMs will accept the Transferwise Debit Card but many do — I’ve found several around Bali that allow cash withdrawals, with my favourite being the yellow-coloured Maybank (there’s one outside Biku in Seminyak).

Maybank ATM - Transferwise Debit Card Accepted here
Maybank ATM – Transferwise Debit Card Accepted here

No leftover foreign currency at the end of the holiday.

One of the biggest pains when travelling is using up the local currency before you leave. Or conversely, for me, it’s not having any when I land in a new country.

Using the Transferwise smartphone app I can move money between currencies at the most competitive rate on the market. Which means if I’m a bit short because of a big splurge with a few days to go, I can exchange money from one of my other currency wallets into the local currency.

And when leaving, or anytime after I leave, I can move the leftover money into the currency I’m going to use next. Because the rates are better than I can find anywhere else, the stress of getting a horrible exchange rate for small or large amounts is no longer a factor.

It’s just one less friction point when travelling, so I can focus on making my Indonesian Rupiah, Vietnamese Dong, Malaysian Ringgit or Euro go further.

Save money by spending local currency during airport transits.

One of the pains of travelling far and wide is the transit times while changing flights at foreign airports. There’s not enough time to get outside immigration, but enough time that you may want some food or drink (always a good idea), or check-out the local airport shopping (never a good idea).

The problem is you don’t have any local currency, and using the currency exchange booths means paying either a commission or a shockingly expensive exchange rate, especially for small amounts.

My solution is to figure out what I’m going to get (usually food or drink while waiting for my connecting flight) and transfer that amount using my Transferwise smartphone app and then paying for it using my Transferwise Debit Card.

That way I get the most competitive rate even with small amounts, and paying for it using my card means it’s being transacted in the local currency.

So buying a laksa at KLIA doesn’t mean paying my credit card issuing bank an “overseas transaction fee” along with a grossly uncompetitive exchange rate. The last time I tested the difference I paid 54% more than I would with my Transferwise Debit Card using local currency. An AUD$8.20 curry turned into a $12.67 charge on my credit card.

And if you doubt this, or have had a similar experience, please leave a comment below.

Saving for a holiday made easy.

We all know that saving for a holiday is hard work. And when you go to change your hard-earned cash into the local currency you are at the whim of the prevailing exchange rate.

What I do is transfer money from my home bank account into my Transferwise Debit Card account and regularly exchange those dollars into my destination currency.

For example, for a holiday to Vietnam, I transfer a few hundred dollars a month into my Transferwise account and then swap those dollars for Vietnamese Dong regularly. That way I’m averaging the exchange rate over a length of time – which means I won’t get the best rate or the worst rate – but an average rate over the time I’m saving for the trip.

So there it is. Put funds into your Transferwise account, change it into any currency you like, and spend like a local. You can try it out by getting a Transferwise account, connecting it with your own bank account, putting in a small amount to try it out (that’s what I did) and testing the exchange rate by using the same amount as a foreign exchange transaction using your own own Internet banking, or asking for an over-the-counter transaction at your local bank branch (like that’s somewhere we go any more).

While most anyone can open a Transferwise account, Debit Cards can only be issued to residents of certain countries.

Disclaimer: Using the links from this website means I get a very small commission from anyone who signs up for a Transferwise account and makes a currency conversion. I’ve been using Transferwise for over two years and I love it. Ask any questions in the comments section below.


Leave a Reply
  1. Hi guys someone mentioned Maybank no fees for previously converted idr. Is that even above the $350 a month? Thanks for confirming

  2. Hi Michael.
    In my wise card I got balance of Indonesian rupiah and AUD. while iam in Bali if I want to spend some money with my wise card, how can setup my card to use the Indonesian rupiah not the AUD for the spend. Does the card will choose by it self ? How’s that work

  3. Can I ask I’m travelling to Bali from Aus so so I load the money onto the card as IDR (under the IDR account ) or do I load under Aud account ? I want to be able to withdraw in Bali or use my card to pay in restaurants etc..

  4. Thank you!
    Didn’t receive my physical card before my journey, but got my virtual instantly. You can pay contactless at all upscale restaurants, shops and more. Used your link. The least I could do. Saved a lot.

  5. Hi
    Just want to say, I’ve been using Wise for quite a long time to send money overseas and it has saved me a huge amount of money. It’s fast, safe and fees are very low.

    I was one of the first in Australia to get. Wise debit card and I no longer use a credit card issued by an Australian bank. Absolutely great service.

  6. Hi,
    Which ATMs would be available at the airport in Bali upon arrival? Thinking about withdrawing money at airport with Wise card. I have to have enough money in IDR in my Wise account?
    Which Banks with ATMs at the airport, have highest limit, and lowest or no fees, or both?
    If I need to use the ATM to withdraw cash more than twice using a WISE card, would the total cost with extra fees and charges (including ATM fee, WISE ATMs withdrawal fees and fee once past free allowance) still be less than money exchangers in Australia for cash (eg Travelex), or withdrawing money at ATMs with Australian bank debit cards with their own fees and foreign exchange conversion rates?

    • Hi Fabian, that’s a lot of very specific technical questions to which I do not have the answer. I cannot tell you exactly what each bank charges in withdrawal fees.

      Safe travels, Michael

  7. Hi Michael,

    Have I just organised the wrong card to use as a debit card overseas? I went online and filled in the form. The picture they are showing me of the card says Wise then the word VISA at the bottom.


  8. Hi Michael, thanks for this post, and indeed many other pages on your website.

    Do you know if Bali has Cardless ATMs for withdrawing cash? For example, can I use my digital Wise card to withdraw cash, or must I use the physical card?

    Many thanks!

  9. Hi Michael,
    Is there any need to exchange my AUD into local currency on the debit card i.e. can I just load AUD and let the conversion happen “in real time” at the time of purchase, transaction by transaction? Is the only reason to convert beforehand to lock in favourable exchange rates or is there some other financial saving i.e. cheaper fees/costs?

    • Hi Mie, the banks all have different fees, and I am unsure of any that charge no fees for Wise withdrawals.

      I do know that when using your Wise card in shops and cafes there are no fees when making payment in IDR if you have IDR in your wallet.

      Safe travels, Michael

  10. Be careful using the card at an ATM if you need to do more than 2 transitions in 1 day, as ATMs in Indonesia only give you 1 million Rupiah at a time. So if you need more that 2 Million Rupiah you will be charged a fee from Wise for ever Transition after that.

  11. Hi,
    I am wondering about the debit card to use for purchases and withdrawing money at atm’s. I see conflicting advice on this forum about which banks charge fees and accept the card. Could you please clarify?
    Thanks so much.

    • Hi Jen. I am unsure precisely what fees each of the banks charge for using any number of international debit and credit cards.

      Could you be more specific? Which card will you be using, and what bank is it issued by? Which specific piece if advice is conflicting? Perhaps I can rectify this.

      Safe travels, Michael

  12. Say I save up some money in Indonesian rupiah in my wise account when I get to Bali and use my debit card will it take funds from the Indonesian rupiah account or from Australian account first. How does it know which one I want to withdrawl from

    • Hi Mark – it will spend local currency first by default. So when in Indonesia, it will spend from your Indonesian Rupiah balance automatically.

      Safe travels, Michael

  13. Hello all,

    I recently returned from Bali and only ever used my TransferWise card.
    I can confirm the card works in the following ATMs (and possible other brands too):

    – BCA
    – BNI
    – Maybank

    In addition, I used to card to pay for services in restaurants and hotels – it worked 100% of the time.

  14. Hi everyone,

    How wide spread is the ability to pay with a card in your Apple Wallet in Bali these days in major venues and restaurants?

    • Hi Aaron – great question, and one I am unqualified to answer. While I use my debit cards here every day, I have never used Apple Wallet in Indonesia.

      If you have any direct experience, a follow-up comment would be much appreciated.

      Safe travels, Michael

  15. Maybank charges an ATM fee. I juts tried it. And also you are limited to around 250usd per month before a lot of other fees kick in. Good for point of sale with good exchange rate.

  16. You don’t need to exchange local currency on TW, it will be done automatically as needed when there is a transaction

    • That’s true, when you make a transaction using TW it will take funds from your default currency and change into the local currency automatically.

      The reason I like to exchange currencies is to take advantage of high exchange rates before I travel, locking in a favourable rate rather than taking the current rate during my travels.

      Thanks for the tip!

      Safe Travels, Michael

  17. I just got to Bali Canggu now. Will be staying for 26 days. Is it possible to have this debit card sent to my air bnb? I’m a Canadian citizen does it work for us? Thanks

  18. I cannot thank you enough for this tip. I have used Transferwise in BALI last week and it worked perfectly without the horrible australian banks fees. also, it’s so easy to withdraw money from the many ATM’s around and I must say that I am now using it in Australia if and when I need to transfer money abroad. Best tip ever. (and thank you about the line – stay on the left – at the airport, that made us save lots of time.

    • Hi Andrea,

      That’s so great to hear! I often wonder if people take my advice, and so to hear about your positive experiences really means a lot. Thank you so much! 🙂

      Safe travels (and shopping),

  19. Great info. Have you tried withdrawing money using your TransferWise debit card while in Bali? What sort of fee can we expect the local banks to charge?

    • Hi Roger,

      Yes, I use my Transferwise Debit Card all the time. I have found it doesn’t work in some banks (BNI), some charge fees (Permata bank) but Maybank works and there are no fees whatsoever. That means I’m using local currency with no transaction costs whatsoever. Saves me a fortune.

      Safe travel,

  20. Hi Michael, I just have one quick question, i’m only going on a very short trip to Bali (6 days) and was wondering if i should take just cash or a mix of cash and possibly this debit card?

    • Hi Giorgia,
      Cash and card are better. That way you can exchange your cash at a money changer and get the best possible exchange rates while using this travel card to spend in local rupiah and avoid expensive transaction charges, as well as transfer money in and out of your chosen currency at the absolute best rates on the market.

      I’m currently in Vietnam, and I just travel with the card as I can withdraw local currency from ATM here.

      Safe travels,

  21. What a clever and convenient concept. I can see all the advantages, with no obvious flaws. Must have taken a fair bit of experience and thought to put it together. We are still considering all the permutations and combinations of our proposed trip, this one being another possible link.However, as this could be our last overseas journey, perhaps another card in the wallet may not be necessary. Once again, many thanks for your past help and information. Your website is truly very helpful to all those who are fortunate enough to find it. Terima kasih, Karl.

    • Hi Karl,
      Thanks for the kind words, it’s very much appreciated. Hope you have a fantastic time on your Bali holiday.

      Safe travels,

      • Hi Michael.
        In my wise card I got balance of Indonesian rupiah and AUD. while iam in Bali if I want to spend some money with my wise card, how can setup my card to use the Indonesian rupiah not the AUD for the spend. Does the card will choose by it self ? How’s that work?

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