By Susan Claire Agbayani

YOU LOVE TRAVELING. You don’t go to just one destination at a time. You are adventurous that way: exploring (or maybe, even doing business) in different cities in different parts of the world at any given time. But then, switching currencies can be such a hassle. Once you get home to the Philippines, you get “bill shock” over the additional charges you had incurred due to multiple conversions from one currency to another.

Or, you might have called or visited your bank prior to the trip, and opened other accounts for currencies you may have needed for your trip, believing it would make it easier for you to hop from city to city or country to country.

Citi Philippines Consumer Business Head Manoj Varma notes that opening a new currency account with other banks — apart from one’s having to physically go to a branch of that bank — could take anywhere from half a day to two days.

“We make it as convenient as possible for all our clients. We don’t want to inconvenience them by requiring them to visit our branch for each transaction,” said Therese Chan, Retail Bank Director for Citi Philippines.

Naturally, Citi has a solution.

Frequent travelers to foreign destinations can now access eight currencies with one Debit Mastercard with Citibank Global Wallet, a new feature which allows customers to make purchases overseas at point-of-sale or online, and withdraw cash from Citibank ATMs without incurring additional currency conversion charges, says a press release from Citibank.

Citi Philippines Retail Bank Products Head Rene Aguirre noted during a press conference at Grand Hyatt Manila in BGC earlier this month that “The product evolved largely due to feedback from our customers. One of their common pain points when it comes to travelling abroad is usually the trouble or hassle of having to hold multiple debit cards to be able to access different currencies.

“Usually, in other banks, if you had, let’s say, five to eight currencies, you would have to have the same number of debit cards. One debit card for each currency,” said Mr. Aguirre. That would mean either a different wallet for each debit card, or a thick one containing all debit cards — which is so inconvenient — noted Mr. Varma.

“In this case, you get all eight currencies in one single debit card,” Mr. Aguirre said.

Citi is the first bank in the Philippines to introduce this feature, said Ms. Chan. And it is linked to the Citigold and Citi Priority Debit Mastercard, the press release indicated.

If one doesn’t have a Citibank account as yet, one can just go through the usual account opening process. “Once you have an account with us, you can activate the Citibank Global Wallet via the Citi mobile app,” said Ms. Chan.

“All you need to do is download the Citi mobile app which will show you a list of all the accounts you have with us, whether they are bank or credit card accounts. At the very bottom of the screen, there is an option for you to activate the Global Wallet. With just a few clicks, you can open eight different currencies,” Ms. Chan said.

Aside from the Philippine peso one can also open US Dollar, European Union Euro, Great Britain Pound, Australian Dollar, Japanese Yen, Singaporean Dollar, and Hong Kong Dollar accounts.

“The app also allows you to choose what source account you’d like to use to fund all of these currencies. It’s at your convenience. You don’t have to create eight accounts all at once. You can just choose what’s relevant to you or what you need at that time,” Ms. Chan said.

She added that a client needs to have a Citibank Debit Mastercard to use the Global Wallet.

The credit card is also smart enough to switch to the currency one is transacting in.

In addition to this, “CitiGlobal Wallet automatically assigns a primary account where you probably would have most of your funds, so that if the currency that you need is not immediately available — but you need to draw funds — it can draw from that primary account,” Ms. Chan said.

There are two elements in a credit card transaction: a foreign exchange rate, and a transaction fee. On the average, a typical credit company will charge anywhere from 3.5 to 4% for any transaction involving foreign exchange. With the Citi Global Wallet, the client, said Mr. Aguirre, is “levied only a slight fee of half a percent.”

It also promises transparency in terms of the FX rate “so you don’t get ‘bill shock’ because you know exactly at what exchange rate you’re getting converted,” Mr. Aguirre said.

The mobile app can also handle wire transfers.

There’s a catch though. The Citi Global Wallet is exclusively for Citi Priority and CitiGold clients of Citibank, “for now.” Mr. Aguirre said that those who open a Citi Priority or CitiGold account from now until Sept. 30 get a welcome gift of up to $5,000 cash credits that can be spent around the world.

“Our clients can also enjoy free ATM withdrawals not only in Citibank ATMs but from any ATM abroad. Until Oct. 31, 2019, the international ATM fees of our CitiGold clients are on us,” said Mr. Aguirre. “Clients can enjoy rebates on withdrawal fees charged to your account when you withdraw from non-Citi ATMs abroad with your Citigold Debit Mastercard. This is available for transactions in US Dollar, Euro, Australian Dollar, Sterling Pound, Japanese Yen, Hong Kong Dollar and Singapore Dollar. Aside from this, clients can continue to enjoy free ATM withdrawals at any Citi ATM worldwide.”