30 October 2012

Travels with a OneSmart card

Blog-onesmartOneSmart, Air New Zealand's pre-paid travel card, sounds like a good idea. But what's it like when you actually want to use it? Does it work everywhere you want it to work? Is it cheaper than using a credit card, or using your ATM card to withdraw cash?

The answers are surprisingly complicated ...

In the last couple of months I've been to Holland, England and Australia. I gave both MasterCard and OneSmart a bit of a work-out and perhaps busted some myths.

Myth one: MasterCard is not as widely accepted as Visa. Busted. Everywhere I offered my MasterCard it was accepted, and that includes the US and Canada on a previous trip.

Myth two: OneSmart works in all ATM machines. Nope. Not at the first one I tried at Amsterdam airport anyway. But it did in the second brand of ATM I tried. Trying to buy a train ticket to get into the city proved challenging. It turned out that only Dutch debit cards work in Dutch ticket machines, so back to the MasterCard which copped a 0.5 euro fee plus the usual currency conversion charges.

Other than that OneSmart was reliable. Mostly I was asked for a PIN – I only met PayPass (no PIN required) twice, at a bookstore in Notting Hill and a bottle store in Adelaide. Surprisingly OneSmart worked just fine in the Australian outback. I withdrew cash at Marree and paid for camping at Wilpena Pound and for lunch at Parachilna. You can't get much further into the "sticks" than Marree – I was surprised to find an ATM. It had to be tested!

It's worth knowing that eftpos systems treat OneSmart as a credit card and you'll often get a message on the ATM screen warning you of cash withdrawal charges. ANZ machines at Sydney airport said there were two fees because it was a foreign credit card - $5 all up - so I chose not to withdraw. But despite a fee warning, there was no charge at a BankSA ATM in Adelaide. In outback Marree at an unbranded machine it was $2.50, but 50 cents more at NAB in central Adelaide. I can't see much logic to the fees, or a simple way to find out whether you'll be charged or not. Expect the worst when taking out cash.

So, the big question: is OneSmart cheaper or dearer than using a credit card or withdrawing cash from an ATM? I didn't try withdrawing cash using my eftpos card on this trip, but past experience is that charges are similar to the credit card.

Between a credit card and OneSmart, it depends mostly on what happens to the exchange rate. As an example, on the 7th of October I loaded Australian dollars to OneSmart's Aussie "wallet" at a rate of 0.7826, which fixed the cost of my Aussie cash dollars and OneSmart purchases. On the 8th and 11th of October I bought diesel on MasterCard at 0.7829 and 0.7830 (including taxes and conversion fees). So from the 7th to the 11th there was just 0.05% or almost no difference between the cards.

By the 19th of October, the exchange rate had dropped by 1.3 cents or 0.0130, which means MasterCard purchases would have cost 1.6% more than using cash from OneSmart. Luckily – we were back home! As one of our commentators has pointed out, being able to fix your overseas currency in advance is one of the benefits of OneSmart. If you can lock in overseas money at a good rate, it's even better.

Disclosure: We paid our own air fares to Adelaide on Air NZ and Virgin Australia. I’ve always wanted to write a travel article and say this at the end!


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EC 30 October 2012

How about monthly costs? I was planning to use it but it seems there were many catches especially for occasional travellers.

Paula McArthur 30 October 2012

We recently travelled to America, and used our OneSmart card during the whole trip. Mostly it was fine, but there were a couple of points to note;
* the cash rate does lock in, but at a rate that is lower than 'the exchange rate'. It locks in at the same rate as you can buy the cash from a bank - so a little lower than you might be using in your head to do the exchange rate sums
* the card worked just about everywhere, including ATM machines, and there weren't any fees charged for each transaction. However we didn't find a single ATM machine on our trip (in LA and San Diego) that was a chip reader, so the card befuddled several cashiers. One refused to use it because it looked so different to what they were used to. Also, the strip didn't work in some machines.
* it takes at least a day for money to transfer. We moved some money onto the card on a Thursday, and it didn't appear until the Monday - by which time we were home. We had to withdraw the money as cash in order to get it OFF the OneSmart card.
On the whole though, we liked it. Easy to use, good to lock in the cash rate, and no per-transaction fees.

Consumer Staff 30 October 2012

@EC We go into the monthly costs in detail here:

Julien 30 October 2012

Used the card in US and Italy no fees charged locked in euros and $us at good rate worked at ATM to get cash out did not try to use to purchase Used in Aus and got charged fees at nab and commonwealth bank ATM but it proved way cheaper than eft pos we found it great seems like a no brainer

John Lamb 5 November 2012

We have recently returned from Europe and found our OneSmart card worked really well. Only once did we get charged $3 for a withdrawal.
The one frustration I have had has been on our return home. We had NZ funds left on the card that we wanted to cash up. Easier said than done !! Firstly one can only withdraw $800 at a time. Each withdrawal incurs a fee. Then there is the monthly fee and all the NZ ATM fees for checking balances and withdrawing funds. A real challenge to have the right amount on the card to be able to withdraw to get to a zero balance. Of course it needs to be cleared funds ( after fees ) and then in multiples of $20.

Richard Bentley 5 November 2012

I don't think the Onesmart card is all it's cracked up to be. When I bought US currency recently I could have bought cash 1c cheaper. I suppose you could argue that you get the cent back as Airpoints. Then I found it didn't work as a Debit card even though it is called a Debit card. As a credit card it was fine most of the time, but I wish someone had told me. Then there was the issue of the "Pending Payments" listed in my account online. It took me a week or so to realise that the pending payments weren't pending at all - they had already been deducted from my balance. But I thought I had used up everything on the card and I hurriedly tried to transfer more cash from my bank to the card. It took 4 days! I'm now home and awaiting the outcome of some payments that are still "pending". A petrol station somehow charged me twice for the same transaction, and both charges were deducted from my balance. A call to Onesmart was no help - they just said wait until the pending payment period is over and if the extra charge hasn't been refunded they will help me as long as I get a written statement from the retailer that they double charged me. Trouble is I'm back in NZ now.
Frankly, Amex is far less hassle.

Gareth 5 November 2012

Used the card in Ukraine and China which aren't supported currencies so had to work in NZ$. One ATM in Ukraine crashed (had to wait a while for it to spit the card back out which was scary), another had a rediculously low limit, but otherwise everywhere gave cash with no fees and converted straight from NZ$. Sure better than credit card!

Lyla Smiithies 5 November 2012

I have the original cash card of US Dollars from Travelex. It was working fine in USA last time, but only at certain banks and not at some ATM,s. Recently they changed over to Mastercard. The money still in it was transferred to their Mastercard cash card. However when trying to get US cash out from in from ATM,s while in Alaska recently it refused saying "incorrect pin". I tried it a number of times with the same result. I could use it as a credit card where a pin wasn't required but I could never get cash. I was left with only USD5 to pay for an Airport trolley if I needed one. Once at home I had a huge effort to get hold of Travelex (they have closed the Rotorua office). When I finally got hold of them they told me that THEY choose the pin number and they didn't ever tell me what the number was, so no wonder I could not get cash. One can't change their choice of number for your own choice. I think that this is very irresponsible, it caused me a lot of trouble and could have others in great difficulty also. I realise that your article is about Air NZ One Smart card but the Travelex card is similar and has been around longer. There are people who have it and I feel that people should know about this problem and Travelex should be told about it.

JohnB 6 November 2012

I recently returned from the UK and Europe. I used the card in ATMs, hotels, and to purchase goods in England and France over a 7 week period. The card was not always accepted and I sometimes had to revert to my credit card. When it was accepted there were no apparent additional fees charged.

Gray Tait 22 November 2012

For what it is worth, we have used our cards extensively in the UK, Europe, Canada and the US over the last two years. It has, generally, worked well except that few places particularly in England, would take our pin and we therefore had to sign the dockets. Recently in some parts of Germany where we have just come back from, the pin worked but not England, France or Brussels.

Our biggest gripe is that, yes you have to fiddle around with the wallets (ie money), changing from New Zealand currency after you have loaded it in from your normal trading bank, to the other currencies, using the internet, but what make my blood boil, is that I can't do it using my iPad. I have to used a pc laptop, which means that when we go overseas like we have done, twice this year, one 3 month trip and the other a two month trip, I have to cart a pc laptop, just to do those transfers.

I rang Air New Zealand when we came back from the first trip this year, which was mainly around the UK, Ireland, France and Spain, and was told to in effect take a hard pill. They had bought the software from some Australian company and that what you had is what you are going to get. In this day and age, I suggest there are more iPads in active service, than pc laptops. They couldn't give any explanation as to why the pins didn't work and whats more they were not interested. They do work normally when we use our Mastercard credit card. Surely a pin is far more reliable and secure that a scribbled signature, which any user can get by looking at the back of the card.

Claire 23 November 2012

I did quite a bit of research into these sorts of cards before 7 weeks in the UK, Europe & US. OneSmart already looked like the best option, even before I remembered I already had one!

I was very happy with the card. It was accepted everywhere (except for French self-service train ticket machines and booking websites; the machines complained about it not having a chip, but I think both cases were related to it being an overseas card, as my VISA card with chip was also rejected). I was charged ATM fees twice in the US and once in the UK, and each time there was a sign on the machine clearly stating fees would be charged. Two of those transactions were at airports where they have a captive audience; I had no issues or fees when using major banks' ATMs elsewhere.

The automatic e-mails after each transaction were a really good prompt record of what I'd spent.

I can't comment on how competitive the exchange rates were; for me, the convenience was worth taking a little hit on conversions.

My only gripe would be that the website is not easy to use on a smartphone, and I didn't want to pay to use the YAP service instead. A mobile-optimised site or an app would make this card well nigh perfect.

karin 8 January 2013

That information that someone posted on 5 November is incorrect that you have to withdraw $800 a time in nzd if you want to clear the account. I rang one smart, you can withdraw any amount that the money machine will accept. There is also an interesting discussion on about onesmart vs credit card. On the whole they found it was the best and mst convenient deal.

Anon fella 18 February 2013

In response to one of the comments in this thread, you can use Onesmart on your iPad successfully.

Goto to the App Store and download PUFFIN (14 day free trial and if your're happy pay $4.19 after the trial). Note read the Puffin limitations about which sites can be accessed from different locations . All I know for sure is that I can safely access Onesmart from NZ - I will have to wait and see what happens when I travel overseas in a few months time (Asia, UK, Europe and USA).

From what I've been told, when you try and open the Onesmart login page, you will see "https" is retained so that will make access to your account secure.

If you don't want to pay the $4.19, you will eventually get access to Onesmart via Google Chrome (free App) but without the "https" which means anyone can hack into your account.

I am disappointed that Air NZ omit to tell customers about the iPad access issue given iPads and Onesmart go together in terms of mobility products/services.

Hopefully the above solution works for you.

Joanne 15 March 2013

My teenage son is in France for a year and has taken his Onesmart as his main access to funds. It's working well, has been accepted everywhere he's tried it (inlcuding in Kuala Lumpur on the way there) and has not been charged any fees.

Not sure what Richard (comment 5 Nov) means about it only working as a credit card, not as a debit card?

It works as a Debitcard MasterCard which is what is intended - a credit card is where you are borrowing funds from your bank. A debit card you are using your own money, and a debit MasterCard you are accessing your own money, but accessing it via the MasterCard network. As long as you use it where you see the MasterCard and cirrus logos, you should have no problems

Graham Pomeroy 15 April 2013

We have just returned from a trip to the USA and while the card worked as expected, there is a very important aspect you need to be aware of.

We loaded the card with US dollars which we used both as a Mastercard and for cash withdrawals. The problem arises when you present the card to secure possible future charges - i.e. you give a hotel your OneSmart card when you arrive to cover 'incidentals'.

We used the card as 'security' for two hotels and for charges incurred on the cruise we went on. In the case of the two hotels they put through 'dummy' charges for $50 & $100 and although they reversed these when we left the hotel, it takes 2 weeks before OneSmart releases the funds back into your account. This means that if you had a $1,000 balance in your OneSmart account, your available balance will be $850 until 2 weeks after you left the hotel. This problem is worse when on the cruise they charge each purchase you make as a 'hold' against the account reducing your balance, and then consolidate all your purchases into one transaction when you leave. In our case, this process meant we couldn't access $1,000 of the US funds we had planned to use on our trip (although we had paid the cruise costs in full when we disembarked), and had to revert to a normal credit card and incur the respective conversion fees (which I intend to approach OneSmart to refund).

OneSmart need to clearly state the risks of 'pending' transactions and what this means to your available balance. Had I known, I would have used a normal credit card for the 'security' transactions which wouldn't have affected my ability to access my own money. I am still waiting for the funds to become available (even though I'm home), and will now incur costs in transferring the funds to NZ dollars.

I did phone OneSmart from the USA and sent them an email, their response was that unless I contacted the merchant, got them to send a particular form and a letter on their letterhead stating they wouldn't be processing the pending transactions, there was nothing they could do. Given I was in the USA on holiday, this response was not practical.

With the exception of this issue, the card is great. Cash advances from a bank EFTPOS machine in the USA incurred a charge of either US$3 or US$5, which is the same as other cards I have used. The benefit is that you don't also get a NZ bank fee in addition.

NB: Other travel cards allow you to have two cards issued so two people can access the same funds. This is not the case with OneSmart so if you are travelling with someone else, you need to have other arrangements in place.

Sue 3 May 2013

People often wonder how to get funds out after they get home from a trip. Just spend them at any NZ retailer who takes Mastercard. I used mine up with groceries and petrol!

Lin Dixon 5 May 2013

Just returned from Japan and Ireland. Any cash-out card a challenge to use in Japan, very cash oriented country but ATMs that accepted it could be found.

Ireland was easy, my concern is that when using card in hotels, retail stores etc, often there was NO PIN required and sometimes not even a signature. Even when signature was asked for, it was never checked against card.
Another family member was using the BNZ travel card and had same experience, so there are some security implications with travel cards.

Gael 1 June 2013

We are just starting a lengthy trip around the States and we are planning to use OneSmart as our main source of funding. We got off to a bad start because of late verification - couldn't do it online for some unknown reason and ended up trundling over the BNZ at AKL airport shopping centre, between checking in and boarding our flight. They said all was good but we heard nothing, which was pretty frustrating. Emailed the help desk but no response. Finally rang the help line. They couldn't understand why we hadn't got the confirmation email as file was saying we had been verified. I do think the Help Desk could up their service and response rate. Anyway, they clicked the right buttons and we could start the process of loading funds, then wait 24 hours for this to happen (I am with BNZ but that made no diff) and finally, finally, when our cash was nearly exhausted, we could start using it. So far so good in Hawaii. With the delay in starting to use the card we had to use our normal credit card and, using the exchange rate I finally got on the OneSmart, we are saving. Not much but every little helps towards the next glass of wine! Have used it in restaurants and supermarket with no problem but without checking of signature or ID which is good in one way because I cannot get my pen to write on it (!), but bad because of security issues. Don't think America uses pin numbers as much as we do. I looked at the help questions to see who was liable for charges made on a stolen card but couldn't find that info. Just said to report it asap and they would cancel it. What say the thief has spent the balance in the mean time? My big question is, how much will we be charged for ATM use in the States? Some people have said zero charge but some are quoting charges. Do some American banks charge and others not?

John Reilly 12 June 2013

We have used our One Smart card in both the USA and France. Although the card has a chip, and I assumed that the PIN would operate as security, (as Lin Dixon (above) points out), the PIN isn't a functioning option anywhere other than in cash machines. In most places, the "security" is a signature. In every case, I have signed AFTER the card has been handed back to me. In the USA at all gas stations I simply put the card into the reader at the pump and got fuel - no PIN and no signature. Same thing at some gas stations and car-park facilities in France. I also had the problem one of the other readers has commented on with hotels taking a security swipe. No, it isn't a security swipe - they actually deduct the money from the account and you wait for two weeks or so for it to reappear. Now, in France, one trader (deal completed on a signature - any signature will do) has duplicated the costs of a purchase and I am waiting for One Smart to get it back. I have run this card down to zero and won't be using it again. I prefer to use my debit card from NZ to withdraw cash (PIN always required) and my NZ credit card for all purchases (PIN always required). I wouldn't have wanted to have lost my One Smart card when it had a few thou loaded on it. A thief would have cleaned it out without any difficulty. How long do you think it would take for One Smart to give me back my money. Weeks? Never? I suspect the latter. The security risk with the lack of a functioning chip is just to great for my nerves to take.

Aaron 18 June 2013

Does anyone know if the iPad top up issue also applies to Android tablets? When travelling I'd like to be able to manage my account via Android.

Andrea 23 August 2013

I'm now living in Toronto after travelling through the US on the way, and have found Onesmart a total waste of time. Most restaurants in Toronto will not accept it, and I still haven't found a cash machine that accepts it. I would not recommend it at all - now I need to think of a way of spending my trapped money.

Praise 25 August 2013

Thanks for Mr John Reilly posting. I am curious what happened to the duplicated expenses.
Can anyone show me how to find out the debit fund is guaranteed by which organisation? Can every customers get all their fund back in case "the organisation" gets into a situation similar to liquidation? Maybe I just worried too much.
Thanks in advance.

John Reilly 11 November 2013

I got the duplicate charge credited back to my account but it took nearly one month.

Ben Carpenter 15 December 2013

There is now an apple and android app so you can manage it on your ipad/iphone/android phone/tablet

John Crump 19 December 2013

I travel a lot in low- and middle-income countries, especially in Africa. In East Africa, Visa is much more widely accepted than Mastercard. I don't think that visiting three countries tells the whole story on credit card acceptance.

Lesley 11 February 2014

We have used this card twice now, first for our Japan trip in Jan 2013 and then to New York in Jan 2014. Just wanted to mention a couple of things. The exchange rates they charge to transfer money between wallets was not as good as when we went to Tokyo. The rate charged for our NY trip was the same as what you would get when you use your credit card overseas and about the same or slightly worse than the cash buy rates at the bank. Onesmart rates used to be better than the credit card and bank cash rates but I suspect that was introductory rates. Also there are fees between $3 and $5 for a cash withdrawal at ATMS.

Another point, don't present your onesmart card at the hotel when checking in. It will lock all your funds up and you will have to transfer more funds over via the internet if you want to use the card. Then when you check out the funds are not unlocked for about 10 days after you checkout.

I do like the email alerts on transactions (as long as you have internet access - we always do) and the wallet transfers are easy albeit not at the favourable exchange rates of 12 months ago.

Bitcoin ATM 3 March 2014

" we’re with a popular national Bitcoin ATM machine"

Steven Clark 17 April 2014

I was very pleased to find this site and wanted to thank you for this great read!!

Rona P 24 April 2014

Is it possible to cancel the OneSmart Card when I return from holiday overseas without losing my Air NZ airpoint status?
I cannot see it anywhere amongst the screeds of terms and conditions.

With such conflicting information about these cards, it is difficult to choose the right one.

Rona P 24 April 2014

I am here to answer my own question:

I have just talked with Califfa from Air New Zealand OneSmart Card. She told me YES, YOU CAN CANCEL if you wish - but if there is NO money in the account, there will be no fees. The fee is charged only if credit balance and it is at $1.00 per month.

YES: also you CAN withdraw the foreign currency money from the account once back in NZ.

That answers my concerns about the OneSmart Card.

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