If you’ll indulge me, I’ve got one more vacation-related post for you…
It was almost a year ago that I first wrote about Canadian fintech startup Zenbanx, an app and web-based service allowing users to send money to friends and family in other parts of the world and, of much more interest to me, allowing those same users to withdraw funds in local currencies while travelling.
I’ve now used Zenbanx enough times abroad that I can speak with some authority about it. The first thing you need to know is that the app is a complete waste of time—at least it has been for me. Perhaps it’s because I’m running a custom Android ROM on a rooted phone, but I’ve rarely, if ever, been able to get past this first screen you see here.
That’s the bad news. Now the good news (and maybe just a bit more bad news).
You don’t need the app at all; Zenbanx works just fine on a mobile or desktop web browser. Maybe it’s because I run Linux on my desktop computers but for me, the site hangs on every transaction. The transactions do go through, and I’ve been able to sidestep this odd behaviour by using the “back” button instead of refreshing the page—either way you’ll get an instant email notification of any account activity, which should calm any jitters about putting money into Zenbanx.
For me, the killer feature of Zenbanx is the debit card. While you’ll still get dinged for international ATM fees, you’ll never have to deal with a foreign currency conversion fee from your scumbag bank ever again—because your cash will already be converted and ready for you to withdraw.
How those withdrawals are posted to your account is, well… interesting. When I got ¥10,000 Japanese Yen from an ATM in Tokyo was logged as three separate transactions:
- You made an international ATM withdrawal of: ¥8,335
- Debit: ¥1,665 JPY
- Out of Country ATM Withdrawal Fee: ¥270 JPY
Those with a keen eye for accounting will notice that numbers 1 and 2 add up to ¥10,000 JPY. But why they’re separated like that is beyond me.
Lest you think that your hard-earned dollars will languish until you actually need them, here’s some more good news: Zenbanx gives you interest on selected currencies. Here are the most recent rates, direct from an email that I received this week:
Remember too that you can hold positions in up to five currencies at once, and there are no limits on moving funds between them. I myself have closed my positions in Hong Kong Dollars and Japanese Yen, consolidating the $200 or so I have in USD to protect against our sinking Canadian Loonie. Next time I go back to Hong Kong I’ll open up a position in HKD and be good to go.
To sum up, I can absolutely recommend Zenbanx to anyone visiting a country using one of their supported currencies—currently AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, INR, JPY, SGD and USD. If you wanted to sign up with my referral code hit me up with a PM and we’ll both get some extra cash.
Just don’t bother downloading the app.