Meet Fi: The neobank that gives you a (true) 0% forex conversion debit card

One of the most common ask for frequent and infrequent travellers has been for a payment instrument that gives you a zero per cent forex markup. Of course, the US has it, so we want it here in India too (who does not want to save money?), but hardly any bank in India has moved down that road for a simple reason; no one else did it. RBL Bank has a credit card product with zero forex charges, but it also does not reward your international spending.

Enter Fi – the free debit card with 0% Forex conversion charges

Fi is one of the neobanks that have come through in 2021 into the market. I signed up for Fi in June 2021 since I was on their early invite waitlist somehow, and I signed up somehow with a borrowed Android phone since the bank did not have an iPhone app then (it is now available). I opened a zero balance savings bank account in Federal Bank, with my KYC being done via the app itself at the backend. The free Visa debit card arrived soon after opening the account.

I did not use the app much because there was no iPhone app, but now that there is one, I’ve found some compelling use cases for it. One of their statements on the website is zero forex markup. That means an instant savings of 4.13% (3.5% forex charges plus GST).

The reason I prefer using a credit card over cash abroad is the simple fact that I have liability coverage in case something goes wrong. There is a dispute resolution mechanism even when I get back home.

So, in the past few months, I managed to get out on work trips twice, once to Dubai and once to Paris/Toulouse, and I decided to test out the new debit card product on these trips. It turns out the promise is correct, and there is no hidden charge being levied.

For instance, check out this 6 UAE Dirham purchase I made at a convenience store in Dubai at the Expo 2020.

For reference, this is the Visa conversion calculator, which gives me the transaction as per Visa crossover rates on the day. It tallies to the second digit.

 

Here is another transaction from my trip to Dubai.

Again, it tallies up with the Visa Conversion Calculator. I am putting up the full-screen grab to see that all the details add up.

 

 

The same thing worked for me in France as well. Here is a quick 5 Euro quick bite I picked up from a roadside eatery one evening.

Here is the Visa conversion for the same transaction. There is some internal conversion markup, but that reconciles overall.

I’ve still not given up on my thesis of using credit cards for large purchases abroad where I need purchase protection (and get reward points). However, I now use my Fi debit card forcket items, such as F&B the smaller ti, and it serves the purpose just fine.

I know there have been other cards in the market which have provided the zero per cent rate, but they were more on the lines of Forex prepaid cards and needed constant loading, and here, I add a fixed sum of money to be used during the trip and add or remove cash as it gets spent.

Also, the debit card can be activated or deactivated via the app in one moment, so when I am not using the debit card, I keep it off so that if I misplace it, I am not on the hook for someone else swiping it.

Sign up for Fi

Fi offers existing members an opportunity to refer new members. You can sign up with my fi.nite code to jump the queue and get an INR 200 into your account as a bonus if you add INR 3000 to your account within the first seven days. Join using the Fi.nite code 6R4NP3TZJL. All you need is your name, PAN Card, and Aadhaar Card to sign up.

Just remember, however, Fi is only available for working professionals at the moment, so they run a check on your employment status before providing you with a bank account.

Bottomline

Fi Money is offering a zero-balance free savings account, which comes with a free debit card for you. This debit card offers true zero per cent markup on forex transactions. You can open an account using the Fi.nite code 6R4NP3TZJL during signup, and you can earn rewards worth INR 200 or more.

Have you used the Fi Debit Card before? What has been your experience?


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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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Comments

  1. This feature has been there in the matket with Niyo for more that 2 years now. Now they are also offering lounge access also and their UI is also very smooth. Can you compare both brands?

  2. How do they check employment status? What tool/platform they use, it’s new to me.

    Appreciate if you can confirm it

      • I noticed this change in the 5th of Dec 2021. However, it is posted under Offers, and so might be only a limited time promotion. They also mention that cross currency charges will still apply.

        • Yes, they removed the 5% cashback on international transactions and made the markup charges 0. Jiten mentioned on their blog that it is easier for customers because the cashback thing had certain restrictions as well.

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