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Remittance from Singapore – Expats’ Guide To Cheaper Overseas Money Transfers

Joanne Poh

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Like many foreigners, you might be living and working in Singapore and then remitting money back to your home country on a regular basis. You might have a family to support, social security contributions to make, or simply want to ensure you’ve got some spending money when you make trips back home. Since remittance is a big part of being an expatriate, it helps to keep costs low.

The two main ways to send money overseas are through banks or money transfer companies, whether online or off. But which is the best?

Let’s compare the various services available in Singapore to see which is the most cost-effective and most convenient.

Contents

  1. Sending money overseas through banks in Singapore
  2. Sending money overseas through money transfer companies
  3. Is it better to send money overseas through a bank or money transfer company?
  4. Our top picks for overseas money transfers

 

Sending money overseas through banks in Singapore

There are two ways you can remit money through banks:

  • By effecting an online money transfer overseas through internet banking, or
  • By effecting an outward remittance at your bank branch.

Using internet banking is often cheaper, but will require you to first open an account with the bank, and will usually subject you to transfer limits.

Below, we compare the various fees and charges the most popular banks are charging.

Note that where applicable, these figures apply to those with SGD accounts. If you have a foreign currency account, you will typically be subject to higher fees. For remittance at the bank branch, we have provided the price of telegraphic transfers.

In addition to all the fees below, you might also be charged agent fees by the bank receiving the money.

Bank

Cable/Telex charges

Handling commission

Limits

Time

Notes

DBS online overseas fund transfer

$20

$5 for < $5,000

$10 for = or < $25,000

$35 for all other amounts

$200,000 per day for all countries except Indonesia and UK

$40,000 per day for Indonesia and UK

2-4 working days

When remitting to Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, UK and USA, can use DBS Remit, which does not charge cable/tex charges or handling commission.

DBS remittance via branch

$20

0.125%

min $10

max $120

2-4 working days

When remitting to Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, UK and USA, can use DBS Remit, which does not charge cable/tex charges or handling commission.

OCBC online overseas funds transfer

$20

$5 for up to $5,000

$10 for >$5,000 up to $25,000

$20 for >$25,000

$100,000 per day

From few hours to 5 business days

OCBC remittance via branch

$20

0.125%

min $10

max $100

No limit

From few hours to 5 business days

UOB online overseas funds transfer

$20 to Malaysia

$30 to other countries

0.0625%

min $100

max $400

$50,000 per day

Up to 4 business days

UOB remittance via branch

$20 to Malaysia

$30 to other countries

1.8%

min $10

max $100 with exchange, $300 without exchange

Unlimited

Up to 4 business days

Minimum transaction amount of $200 for Indian Rupees and Philippine Peso

HSBC online overseas funds transfer

$20

$20 for HSBC Premier customers

$25

$15 for HSBC Premier customers

$1 million per day

Immediate

HSBC remittance via branch

$20

$20 for HSBC Premier customers

$35

$20 for HSBC Premier customers

No limit

1-2 working days

Citibank online overseas funds transfer

$20

Free if transferring to another Citibank account abroad

0.125%

min $20

max $200

Free if transferring to another Citibank account abroad

$100,000 per day

Immediate through FAST

3 to 5 working days

Citibank remittance via branch

$30

$10

+

0.125%

min $20

max $200

No limit

2 to 3 working days

Bank of China online overseas funds transfer

$20 to China

$30

0.0625% until 31 Dec 2018, then 0.125%

min $10

max $100

$50,000 per day

1 week

Bank of China remittance at branch

$20 to China

$30

0.125%

min $10

max $100

No limit

1 week

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Sending money overseas through money transfer companies

If you don’t wish to remit money using a bank, your other option is a money transfer companies. Their services could be based online or offline.

One of the biggest differences between money transfer companies and banks is the fee structure. Online money transfer companies do not charge cable or telex fees. Instead, they earn money by tacking on a margin to your exchange rate, or charging a per-transfer fee.

Here are some of the more popular platforms in Singapore.

Service

Fees

Speed

Minimum / Maximum Amount

Exchange rates

WorldFirst

No fees, no charges

Margin is in exchange rate, varies from currency to currency and amount

1-2 days

Min 2,000 SGD

Current SGD-EUR exchange rate for 2,000 SGD is

1 SGD = 0.6124 EUR

(1.3718% margin)

TransferWise

Charge varies according to currency and amount

USD: 0.35% + 2 SGD

EUR: 0.35% + 1 SGD

GBP: 0.35% + 1 SGD

AUD: 0.35% + 1.70 SGD

RMB: 1.5% + 5 SGD

Margin in exchange rate

1 SGD = 0.62672 EUR (0.0602% margin)

1 SGD = 0.55244 GBP (0.0178% margin)

1 SGD = 0.75045 USD (0.0174% margin)

1 SGD = 0.99427 AUD (0.0195% margin)

1 SGD = 4.75642 RMB (0.174% margin)

Western Union

Charge varies according to currency and amount

To change 2,000 SGD into EUR, fee: 136.26 SGD

Margin in exchange rate

Same day

Varies

2,000 SGD to Euro = 1,184.04 SGD ($68.70 or 3.435% margin)

InstaReM

0.25%

1-2 business days

50 SGD min

Official exchange rates with no added margin

Zhongguo Remittance

Charge varies according to currency

Fees for converting SGD into:

USD: 30 SGD

AUD: 40 SGD

GBP: 30 SGD

EUR: 30 SGD

RMB: 18.18 SGD

3-5 working days

Official exchange rates with no added margin

Metro Remittance

4 SGD to bank

4.50 SGD cash-pick-up

Margin in exchange rate

Next banking day

Current SGD-Philppine Peso exchange rate is  0.6447% lower than official interbank exchange rate

1 SGD = 38.70 pesos

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Is it better to sending money overseas through a bank or money transfer company?

So, should you use a money transfer company or just go with your bank? Here are some factors to consider.

Transfer companies are generally cheaper to use than banks, especially for smaller amounts

Transfer companies generally make most of their money through the currency conversion process and many do not charge cable telex fees or handling commission.

In addition, the currency conversion rates offered by many transfer companies still tend to be better than the bank’s prevailing exchange rates.

Not having to pay cable fees in a lump sum means that transfer companies are almost always cheaper to use when transferring smaller sums of money. This is something to think about if you’re regularly sending money overseas in small amounts.

Bank transfers are more convenient

If you already have an online banking account with a particular bank, transferring funds using the bank’s online banking overseas transfer option can, admittedly, be more convenient. You can see the funds being deducted, and if they are rejected by the receiving bank they will just be deposited right back into your account.

To use a money transfer company, you’ll have to take the extra step of transferring your funds from your bank account to the money transfer company, and in the event that your transfer is cancelled or refused, you’ll have to move the money back to your bank account.

Customer service of money transfer companies is generally better

While the level of customer service varies from business to business, the bigger money transfer companies like Worldfirst and TransferWise tend to offer better and more accessible customer service than banks. If you hate talking to people on the phone, you can even email them your inquiries.

Banks, on the other hand, are known for being a little elusive. Calling them on the phone usually involves lots of time spent keying in your IC number or account number, having to sit through lengthy automated messages and trying to figure out which number to press to speak to a customer service officer.

Both offer good security, just make sure they’re registered with MAS

So long as a bank is legally operating in Singapore, it is probably 100% safe to use them to transfer money.

On the other hand, you don’t want to use the first money transfer service you find online. When using money transfer services, you want to ensure the money transfer service is a licenced service provider in Singapore. So always check that they are regulated by the Money Authority of Singapore.

Setting up an account

In order to enjoy better rates from banks, it is usually necessary to set up an online banking account. But in order to do so, you will first need to set up a savings or checking account with the bank, and you might have to cough up a minimum cash amount if there are fall-below fees or a minimum deposit amount.

With money transfer companies, there is no need to maintain an account deposit to transfer money overseas. However, depending on the company, you might need to pay a one-time fee to set up an account, or transfer a minimum amount on your first transaction.

Transaction time tends to be faster with money transfer companies

Remitting money through a bank, whether through a branch or online money transfer, typically takes an average of 2 to 4 working days.

Money transfer companies tend to be able to get the job done faster, with some sending money over instantly, or within one working day, subject to any public holidays or other delays on the receiving bank’s side.

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Our top picks for overseas money transfers

Ultimately, the transfer service you should pick really depends on the currency you’re converting your money into and the amount you’re sending over. In addition, just because one service offers a good rate for USD doesn’t mean the same is true for their RMB rate.

Bearing that in mind, the following transfer services stand out.

Bank: DBS online banking funds transfer

DBS’s online overseas funds transfer comes out tops with very good promotional rates, provided you try to transfer as close to the maximum in each commission bracket as possible.

So, if you’re going to pay $10 commission (for transferring $5,000 to < $25,000), you’ll get a much better rate sending $24,000 than $5,000. The one-time cable fee of $20 is also low compared to what other banks are charging.

The high daily limit of $200,000 and maximum daily commission of $35 also mean that this is the bank you should use if you need to send large amounts.

Money transfer company: InstaReM

Singapore-based company InstaReM stands out because their fee of about 0.25% is low compared to what the other companies like WorldFirst and TransferWise are offering.

The fact that they do not tack any margin onto their exchange rates makes for greater transparency when working out the cost of a transfer, while their low minimum transfer amount and fast transaction speed are also impressive.

 

Related:

Here’s Why Singaporeans Transferring Funds Overseas Through a Bank Are Just Wasting Money

Insurance For Expats And Dependents In Singapore – A Guide To What You Need And Costs Involved

Rent In Singapore 2018 – Cost Guide To Renting A Room Or Home

The Expat’s Guide to Personal Finance in Singapore

Have you ever remitted money from Singapore to another country? Share your experiences in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.