The Wise Travel Money Card is one of the smartest options for travellers to Korea looking to avoid bad exchange rates, card fees, and carrying lots of cash. You can get some of the best currency exchange rates possible in Korea and withdraw cash in Korean won fee-free. The Wise card will save you a lot of hassle as you travel.
The Wise multi-currency travel money card is a cheap and efficient way to spend money in Korea and other countries without having to use money exchanges or pay hefty fees for using your traditional bank or credit card when travelling.
You can use the Wise card to pay for almost all of your travel expenses in Korea, including shopping, eating out, cafes, attractions, hotels, transport, and even for online purchases. It’s as functional as your regular bank card, but with lower fees and instant currency exchange.
Find out more about how you can use the Wise travel money card in Korea and how it can save you time and money when you travel. And not just to Korea, you can use it around the world. Be a wise traveller and save more when you visit Korea.
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Wise Travel Money Card In Korea Summary
Travellers to Korea can use the Wise travel money card, a prepaid travel card, to cover most of their payment needs, including hotels, transportation, shopping, eating out, and lots more.
Here are the main benefits of the Wise travel money card for visitors to Korea. I’ll provide more details and examples of these points later on in the article.
No need to exchange money: Convert money instantly from your home currency to Korean won using the Wise app and get much better exchange rates than you would at a bank or money exchange. You can completely forget about exchanging money in Korea or at home.
Pay in Korean won fee-free: Once you’ve converted money from your home currency into Korean won, you can pay using Korean won all over Korea. There are no fees for using the KRW balance on your Wise account after you’ve converted the money.
Top-up instantly: If you run out of money on your Wise multi-currency travel money card, you can top-up with a deposit from your home bank account instantly. Other people can send you money, too.
Free withdrawals from ATMs: You can withdraw up to £200 / $250 USD per month fee-free. After this amount, you will only pay 1% of the value of the withdrawal. Fortunately, Korea is a mostly cash-free society, so you don’t need that much cash anyway.
No unexpected bills when you get home: As it’s a prepaid travel money card, you can’t ever spend more than you put on the card. That means you won’t receive any unexpected fees or additional charges when you get home.
No leftover foreign money: Any money you don’t spend on the card you can simply convert back to your home currency or leave it for a future trip back to Korea. You’re free to hold as many of the 50+ different currencies available with the Wise travel money card.
Use the card in other countries: Visiting Japan after Korea, or travelling to other countries later on? You can switch the balance of your Korean won to another currency and use the card in that country instead. It’s a very flexible travel card you can use globally.
Track your spending: Thanks to the simple-to-use Wise app, you can track your spending as you travel and see what you spent each day. The Wise app automatically categorises the spending for you, so you can see how much you spent on coffees, eating out, tickets, and more.
Safe and secure banking service: If you lose your Wise travel money card while travelling, you can use the Wise app to freeze your account and block the card. The app is password protected, too.
What Is The Wise Travel Money Card?
The Wise travel money card is a prepaid travel money card that can be used globally to hold and convert more than 50 currencies, including the South Korean won. You can use this money when you travel, paying with the travel money card as you would a regular credit card*.
Please note: This isn’t a credit card. You can’t use it to borrow money or finance payments. You must transfer money to the Wise travel money card before you can spend with it.
Pay for hotels, flights, meals, transportation, shopping, and lots more.
The Wise multi-currency travel money card is available to residents of the USA, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and many other countries (but not Korea) and can be used in dozens of countries around the world (including Korea).
Travellers can withdraw money from global and local ATMs (fee-free for the first £200 / $250 USD), pay for hotels, flights, meals, transportation, shopping, and lots more.
The card can be used both online and offline and you can use a physical or virtual card (or both) and the physical card is both Chip & PIN and contactless enabled.
The Wise travel money card is connected to the Wise app, which lets you top-up, check your balance and transactions, convert money in real time, transfer money, freeze or replace your card, and manage everything you need to.
When you use the Wise travel money card in Korea or elsewhere, you will receive a notification on the Wise app to show how much you spent and where. You can check your transactions in the app and they will automatically be designated a category to help you track your spending.
Not only can you use the Wise travel card when travelling, it can also be used to receive payments from other people (only available in GBP, EUR, USD, AUD, NZD, CAD, SGD TRY, HUF), receive salary payments, and even buy stocks.
Use the Wise travel money card in Korea instead of your own bank or credit card, use it in dozens of other countries when you travel, or even use it to pay for goods in your local shops.
How To Get A Wise Travel Money Card
You need to be a resident of an eligible country to apply for a Wise travel money card. Download the Wise app and apply through there, or visit the Wise website and apply with your email or a Google, Facebook, or Apple account.
In order to verify your identity through the Wise app or online, you will need to have a valid mobile phone number, a government ID (passport / driving licence, etc.) and a bank account in the country you’re applying in.
Once you have submitted all the necessary documents, completed the Wise account setup, and ordered your travel money card, you’ll get a Wise travel money card within 2 weeks.
You can sign up to region-specific Wise accounts using the links below or visit the Wise website for full details about the Wise multi-currency card and more.
Wise Travel Money Card: Eligible Countries
Residents of the following countries are eligible for a Wise travel money card. Unfortunately, people in South Korea can’t apply for a Wise travel money card, but that may change in the future.
Asia: Singapore, Malaysia and Japan.
Oceania: Australia and New Zealand.
North America: Canada and the US.
Latin America: Brazil.
Europe: Austria, Belgium. British Virgin Islands. Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France (only Metropolitan), Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Gibraltar (British Overseas Territory), and the UK Crown Dependencies: Guernsey, Isle of Man, and Jersey.
Other countries in the European area: Andorra, Åland Islands, Saint Barthélemy, Curaçao, Falkland Islands [Malvinas], Faroe Islands, French Guiana, Greenland, Guadeloupe, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Cayman Islands, Monaco, Saint Martin (French part), Martinique, Montserrat, New Caledonia, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Réunion, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, San Marino, Sint Maarten (Dutch part), French Southern Territories, Holy See, Virgin Islands (British), Wallis and Futuna, Mayotte.
The Wise multi-currency travel money card should arrive within 3 days in Singapore, 2 to 6 days in the UK, 2 weeks in Europe, Japan, or Malaysia, and 3 weeks in the US, Australia, or New Zealand.
How To Use The Wise Card In Korea
After you’ve received your Wise travel money card, add money by transferring money from your bank account (free), a credit or debit card (small fee), or with a SWIFT transfer (free). Once the balance has cleared, convert whatever amount you want into Korean won or any other available currency you need.
When you transfer from your preferred currency into Korean won (or any other currency), you will have to pay a small fee for the transaction, but this should offer a better exchange rate than you’ll find at the airport and other money exchanges.
Tip: If you plan to use a Wise travel money card in Korea, but aren’t sure how much you’re likely to spend, then transfer between your home currency and Korean won in batches. For example, transfer $200 / $500 at a time, then transfer more when your KRW balance is running low.
When exchanging money from your home currency to Korean won, the amount you pay in fees won’t change whether you transfer one large amount or many small amounts. Therefore, it’s just as convenient to do it in batches, which will help you avoid exchanging too much money.
Activating The Wise Travel Money Card
Before you can use the Wise travel money card in Korea to pay for goods and services, you will need to activate the card using your PIN. Unfortunately, most shops in Korea don’t use Chip and PIN features, so it can be hard to activate the Wise card.
The screenshot below shows what happens when you try to pay with your Wise card in Korea at a contactless terminal before the card has been activated – the transaction will be denied.
The easiest way to activate your Wise multi-currency travel money card is by withdrawing cash from an ATM inside Korea. You need to use your PIN number when withdrawing cash from an ATM, which activates your card, as shown in the picture below.
Fortunately, it is easy to withdraw cash from an ATM in Korea with a Wise travel money card. Go to any global ATM in Korea, put your Wise card in, enter your PIN number, and select the amount of money you want to withdraw. Most ATMs in Korea have English and other languages options available. The ones at Incheon Airport certainly will.
After you have withdrawn cash from an ATM using your Wise travel money card, it will now be activated and you can use it for contactless and Chip and PIN payments throughout Korea.
Tip: Use an ATM at Incheon Airport to withdraw cash with your Wise travel money card when you arrive in Korea. Not only will this activate the card, it’ll give you cash to buy a T-Money Card at Incheon Airport, which you can use for transportation into Seoul and around Korea.
Are Korean ATM Cash Withdrawals Free With A Wise Travel Money Card?
Wise claims that you can withdraw up to £200 / $250 USD fee-free using the Wise travel money card when you’re travelling. This is true, from what I’ve heard from other travellers in Korea that have used the Wise card, but it depends on the ATM you use.
In the picture below you can see a fee applied for withdrawing cash from an ATM in Seoul using a Wise travel money card. This wasn’t a fee charged by Wise, so technically they were being honest, but a charge made by the Korean bank for using their ATM.
I visited several ATMs to check the rate, including the ATM inside Seoul Station AREX terminal, and found that they all charged me a fee of around 3,000 KRW. I don’t think any of the ATMs I checked were ‘global ATMs’, which is probably why I paid a fee.
You can find global ATMs at Incheon Airport and in banks in Seoul and other cities. They are clearly marked as global ATMs and shouldn’t charge you a fee for withdrawing cash with a Wise card.
Where Can You Use The Wise Travel Money Card In Korea?
Travellers in Korea can use the Wise travel money card to pay for a wide range of transactions, including hotels, restaurants, transportation, trips, entertainment, cafes, and almost everywhere else that you can use a card for in Korea.
The Wise travel money card is available with Visa or Mastercard, the two most widely accepted payment methods in Korea. Therefore, the card will be accepted everywhere that regular credit or debit cards are accepted in Korea.
Whether you spend 600 won for a bottle of water, or 60,000 won for a Korean BBQ meal, there are no transaction fees.
As the Wise card is a debit card, you won’t be able to use credit features when shopping, instead you pay with your current balance, which you can check on the Wise app at any time. Korea is a card-friendly country and aims to be a cash-free society as soon as possible.
Here is a summary of some of the available places you can use your Wise card in Korea:
Hotels: Pay for your hotel on arrival or online* in advance.
Shopping: From large department stores to small convenience stores and everything in between.
Eating Out: Cafes, restaurants, and even Korean street food sellers will accept card payments.
Entertainment: Theme parks, attractions, bars, Korean noraebangs (karaoke), and more.
Sightseeing: Pay entry fees for famous attractions in Seoul and beyond.
Transportation: Pay for KTX train tickets, intercity bus tickets, and taxis in Korea.
Day Trips: You can book tours online* in your home currency or Korean won.
*online payments in Korea can be fiddly and sometimes foreign cards can be rejected due to Korea-specific security protocols or language-based technical issues.
When using your Wise card’s Korean won balance in Korea, you will only pay the price stated. Whether you spend 600 won for a bottle of water, or 60,000 won for a Korean BBQ meal, there are no transaction fees charged by Wise.
When you see a price in a shop or restaurant, that’s the price you will pay. Sales tax or other fees won’t be added on to the price, with the exception of shipping costs if buying online. Restaurant bills typically don’t include a service charge as tipping is not a Korean custom.
Tracking Your Expenditure In Korea
When you use the Wise multi-currency travel money card to pay for something in Korea, you will receive a notification showing your expenditure. You can check all of your transactions in the Wise app and each one will be categorised, as can be seen in the screenshot below.
This is a really useful way to manage your spending when travelling and to see where your biggest costs were when you get home. This can help you plan spending for future trips. If you want to know how much you’re likely to spend in Korea, check out my article about the cost to travel to Korea.
Where Can’t You Use The Wise Travel Money Card In Korea?
In my personal experience, there has only been one place where I wasn’t able to use my Wise card in Korea, which was a ticketing machine at a bus terminal in Daejeon.
The card was rejected when trying to book an intercity bus and I was forced to use my regular Korean bank card. However, I didn’t try paying at the ticket window, that could have worked.
There has only been one place where I wasn’t able to use my Wise card in Korea.
The Wise travel money card works in most locations in Korea, whether in small restaurants in rural Korea or busy cafes in Seoul. There may be some places that it’s not possible to use it, but you can safely assume most places will work. Certainly popular tourist destinations that are used to cards.
Is Wise Cheaper Than Incheon Airport Money Exchange?
Below you can see an example of an exchange I conducted recently. I converted £10 into Korean won with a total fee of £0.07p (0.7%) and got the mid-market rate for the whole transaction. The mid-market rate, or interbank / middle rate, is the rate between the buy and sell prices of a currency.
Transferring money at a money exchange will either involve a higher fee (around 2.5%) or a worse exchange rate (typically 2-4% lower than the mid-market rate). That’s how money exchanges make money. The airport money exchanges can charge even higher fees or give even worse rates.
These figures are based on research and my personal experience exchanging money when travelling. If you want to see an example of the amount of money you can get for your home currency into Korean won, check out these estimated rates at Incheon Airport.
What Happens If You Lose Your Wise Card?
If you lose your Wise travel money card, or it gets stolen while travelling, you can use the Wise app to freeze the card instantly. Open the Wise app and select the ‘Card‘ option on the bottom menu to get to your card details. You’ll see the screen below (with your own card details).
From this screen, select ‘Freeze card‘ to stop anyone using your card and protect your balance. You can order a replacement card in the same screen, which should be delivered within 2 weeks. You can also unblock your PIN (in case you accidentally block it) and view your card and PIN details.
Losing your card when travelling can be a big issue, but fortunately you can still use your Wise account with a digital card to spend online or in store (when accepted). Swipe left on your card picture in the Wise app to select the ‘digital card’ to get an app-based version of your regular card
The digital card is free and connects to your existing balances in your Wise account. You can also add it to Google Pay and use it for payments where Google Pay is accepted.
Unfortunately, Korea’s payment ecosystem hasn’t adopted Google Pay and Apple Pay widely, with Samsung Pay being the preferred digital payment method. Therefore, it might be difficult to use the digital card as freely as you can use the physical Wise card.
Wise Travel Money Card For Expats In Korea
If you live in Korea, the Wise travel money card can be really useful for spending money from your home currency in Korea, when travelling in Korea or abroad, and for receiving money from other people (depending on your country).
Digital nomads living in Korea can receive payments in their home currency and convert that into Korean won to spend in Korea. The same applies to people collecting a pension from another country and those who otherwise collect a salary from outside of Korea.
Expats in Korea typically still have connections in their home country, whether that’s friends, family, or business partners. Being able to receive money and spend money while in Korea with a Wise card can be a good way to buy and receive birthday presents and other gifts.
From surveys I’ve conducted from expats in Korea who use the Wise multi-currency travel money card, it seems that it’s also a good option for travelling outside of Korea. The main reason for this was that Korean banks charge high fees to exchange money or to use your Korean card overseas.
Can Expats Apply For A Wise Travel Money Card In Korea?
Technically, expats in Korea can’t apply for a Wise travel money card while living away from their home country as Korea isn’t an eligible country for setting up a Wise account. You need to be a resident of an eligible country, which technically you wouldn’t be if living in Korea long term.
You’ll also need to be in the country to order a Wise travel money card, as you have to have phone number in that country and receive a call from Wise to setup your account and use the app.
However, if you still have a bank account and postal address registered in your home country, as well as ID, it might be possible to apply with those details and get accepted when returning to your home country. I was able to do this when I returned to the UK.
The only real criticism that other expats in Korea had about the Wise card was that, on rare occasions, the money transfers weren’t instant. Some people said that they had to wait up to 3 days for their balances to clear, which would be an issue if you need to spend money instantly.
I’ve been using the Wise travel money card frequently since signing up on my last trip back to the UK, and now I want to share my experience of using the card as I’ve lived and travelled in Korea.
My Experience With Wise In Korea
I picked up a Wise travel money card in the UK and have been using it in Korea for a few months. Here are some of the good and bad things I’ve found out about the Wise travel money card.
It works in most places: As mentioned, I’ve only had one payment rejected, which was at a bus terminal ticketing machine. Everything else has been really smooth.
It has saved me money: Transferring money between the UK and Korea isn’t cheap and the Wise multi-currency travel money card is certainly a much cheaper way to get my UK money into Korea.
More convenient for transfers: If I want to send money from the UK to Korea, I need to do it through my banking app in the UK, which can require a phone call to approve it. Using Wise, I can skip that and it’s done instantly and hassle-free.
Helps me track my spending: I love the Wise app, it’s much better than my UK and Korean banking apps and shows me what I’ve spent money on more cleary.
Can use it when travelling: I’ll certainly be using my Wise card when I travel. Although I haven’t been anywhere but Korea or England for the last 4 years, I’ve heard it’s easy to use Wise on the go.
Can’t always get free ATM withdrawals: I’m not always in a busy, touristy part of Korea that has lots of global ATMs, like Myeongdong. If I want to withdraw money from a regular Korean ATM, there is a fee of about 3,000 ~ 4,000 KRW.
Interferes with my other contactless cards: I have a contactless Korean bank card in my wallet which I use to pay for things by pushing my wallet to the card reader. As the Wise card is also a contactless payment card, it confuses the card reader and I have to take my Korean card out of my wallet to use it. It’s not a big hassle, but it’s worth considering.
Generally, the Wise card has been a great advantage to my range of payment options in Korea and helps me manage my money in the UK and Korea more conveniently and cheaply.
As a tourist in Korea, the Wise travel money card would be a very useful addition to anyone’s travel payment options and a good way to avoid using money exchanges, paying high overseas fees, and worrying about how much money to bring.
Money Saving Tips For Korea
Here are a few of my personal tips for dealing with travel money when visiting Korea. Besides using the Wise travel money card, there are other ways you can save money and spend smarter when you travel in Korea.
Don’t use the airport money exchanges: Although Incheon Airport money exchanges are less notorious for ripping off tourists than other airports (UK airports are especially bad), they still won’t give you close to the best exchange rates on your foreign currency. Use as a last resort.
Use WOW money exchanges: In the last few years, money exchange and tax refund services in Seoul have become a lot easier thanks to WOW Exchange. They operate money exchange machines where you can change foreign currency for Korean won, as well as get tax refunds on your shopping. Look for the bright orange WOW machines across Seoul.
Use a T-Money Card for travel: If you want to travel on buses and subways in Korea, you really need to get a T-Money transportation card. This card allows you to travel on buses and subways for discounted fares and avoids the need to pay in cash for every ride. Easy and essential.
Get your tax back: Travellers in Korea can claim tax back on a wide range of items. Save your receipts and complete a tax refund declaration either at the store you bought from (if possible), a WOW exchange machine, or last minute at Incheon Airport.
Book online to get discounted entry: Don’t turn up to expensive attractions on the day and pay the full price to enter. You can save so much money by using online travel companies like Klook, Trazy and Get Your Guide to book entrance tickets in advance.
Get a Discover Seoul Pass: Travelling to Seoul and want to see lots of premium attractions in a short time? Use the Discover Seoul Pass for 24 | 48 | 72 hours to get free entry to loads of Seoul’s top attractions. Want ideas about how to use it, check out my Discover Seoul Pass itineraries.
Want some more ideas about how to save money when visiting Korea? Check out my money saving tips for Seoul and other articles on this blog for all the best travel advice in Korea.
Korean Travel Essentials
Planning to visit Korea? These travel essentials will help you plan your trip, get the best deals, and save you time and money on your Korean adventure.
Korea Electronic Travel Authorisation (K-ETA): Most countries need a K-ETA to travel to Korea. Apply before you travel only with the Official K-ETA Site.
Incheon Airport To Seoul: Take the Airport Express (AREX) to Seoul Station or a limo bus to other parts of Seoul. Don’t want to carry heavy suitcases? Book an Incheon Airport Private Transfer and relax to or from the airport.
Learning Korean: Want to learn Korean before you travel? I recommend 90 Day Korean as they have well-structured lessons and loads of useful resources.
Wise Travel Money Card In Korea FAQs
Finally, here are a few FAQs about using the Wise travel money card in Korea, in case the above information didn’t cover enough for you.
Can you use the Wise travel money card in Korea?
The Wise travel money card can be used in Korea as the South Korean won is a currency available for purchase using the Wise multi-currency account. Payments using the Wise card can be made for a range of goods and services, including hotels, transportation, eating out, shopping, and sightseeing.
How do you activate the Wise travel Money card in Korea?
To activate the Wise travel money card, you need to use the PIN to certify a transaction. However, Korea doesn’t use PIN certification and relies on contactless or CHIP-only payments. Therefore, it is necessary to withdraw cash from an ATM, which requires you to enter your PIN number. This will activate the Wise card in Korea.
Is Korean Won Available With A Wise Travel Money Card?
South Korean won is one of the currencies available with a Wise multi-currency travel money card. It is possible to convert to and from Korean won and to use Korean won as you travel in Korea.
Is there a fee to use the Wise travel money card?
There is no fee for the Wise multi-currency travel money card when paying in shops and stores. However, there are fees for converting one currency to another, for withdrawing cash from ATMs after the free monthly allowance, and for some methods of adding money to your Wise account.
Can I Apply For A Wise Travel money Card In Korea?
The Wise multi-currency travel money card is currently not available to residents of South Korea. It is available in dozens of other countries and if you’re a resident of one of those countries, you can apply for the Wise card and then take it to Korea when you travel.
Is the wise travel money card cheaper than Incheon Airport money exchange?
Generally, the exchange rate offered with the Wise travel money card is better than most money exchanges and in particular is better than the rate charged at Incheon Airport. Money exchanges at Incheon Airport charge around 2.5% to exchange money, but Wise can be as low as 0.7%.
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