This post was first published on 18 October 2019 and updated to include the latest information for 2021 remittance services in Singapore.
As a global city that aims to be the best place to live, work and play, Singapore has attracted a large portion of non-Singaporeans living on our shores. About 30% of people in Singapore are non-residents.
Remittance services today are relied upon by an ever-increasing group of people, including migrant workers, expatriates and Singaporeans who have family members living overseas.
This guide introduces you to various remittance options available, as well as the pros and cons of using each type of service so that you can best retain and transmit the value of your hard-earned money to your loved ones.
Overseas Remittance Services In Singapore
Overseas remittance refers to the act of sending money from Singapore to another party overseas. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, such as a wire transfer, electronic payment system, mail, draft, or cheque.
Because overseas remittance is one way ill-gotten money can be laundered or illegal causes like terrorism can be supported, all remittance services in Singapore are regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
Companies must be registered in the list of licensed remittance agents in order to operate, and they must follow strict Know-Your-Customer (KYC) processes when performing transactions.
It is illegal to run a remittance business in Singapore without a valid license from MAS, and you should make a report to the authorities if you come across advertising or are offered remittance services by a company or individual without a license.
In general, overseas remittance services in Singapore are provided by two classes of companies: banks and wire transfer companies.
When choosing between remittance services, you should look at factors like admin fees, exchange rates, processing duration, minimum transfer amounts, countries supported, and convenience (such as availability of branches or in-app features like tracking of transactions).
In general, the larger the amount you send each time, the lower the proportional cost you incur, so it makes sense to work out an optimal frequency of remitting money back.
Bank Remittance Services
Often, one of the most convenient (but not necessarily cheapest) way to send money overseas is to do so with your bank. Furthermore, if you make the transaction before the cut-off time, your transfer could be completed on the same day for selected destination countries.
If you’ve already activated internet banking facilities, you can remit money overseas by making an online money transfer overseas. You don’t have to first do a bank transfer to your remittance agent, wait for them to confirm the receipt of funds, and then have them send the money overseas for you. In the event the transaction is rejected for some reason, your money stays put in your bank account.
Since you’re using your bank account, you’ll be subject to the prevailing transfer limits on your account, so you might want to increase it prior to performing your remittance.
To facilitate the transfer, your bank may request additional information from you, such as your recipient’s name, address, contact number, bank details (SWIFT/BSB/IFSC/sort code) and account number/IBAN.
You can receive overseas remittance services from all of the local banks (DBS, OCBC, UOB) as well as foreign banks, including Bank of China, Citibank, Maybank, Standard Chartered, and many others. Some foreign banks have preferential rates and quicker transactions for overseas fund transfers to an overseas account of the same bank.
Overseas Wire Transfer Companies
To serve the pool of foreigners in Singapore, the number and variety of companies providing remittance services have been growing.
There are small companies operating out of a single location; multi-national wire transfer companies with a large network of branches like Western Union, and purely digital FinTech remittance platforms like InstaReM, SingX, Wise, WorldRemit, and Revolut.
To send money overseas using one of these companies, you’ll first need to take the extra step of transferring the funds from your bank account to the money transfer company, or if you want to remit physical cash, you’ll have to do so at a physical branch.
InstaReM is a Singapore-headquartered digital cross-border payments company that was started in 2014, with presence across Asia-Pacific, North America and Europe. InstaReM allows you, as an individual or business entity, to make money transfers internationally. You can expect to pay at a significantly lower cost than what it normally costs you via banks or traditional remittance companies.
You can send money overseas from Singapore (and 8 other countries/territories) to more than 55 countries across the world including China, India, Indonesia, The Philippines, Thailand, and the United States and Canada.
To make transfers out of Singapore, there is a minimum transfer amount for individuals of S$100 or US$50. You can also refer to the full list of InstaReM’s International Money Transfer Limits here. There are limits on maximum inwards remittance amount too due to regulations in receiving countries.
With processing fees of between 0.25% and 1% (depending on the country), with zero extra margins on the offered exchange rates, InstaReM has one of the lowest charges among money transfer companies in Singapore.
Wise (Previously Known As TransferWise)
Wise is one of the pioneer innovators in the remittance space, and they’ve grown to be one of the largest and well-known names in the global digital remittance space. They allow payments between 70 over countries, including Singapore. On average, Wise can be 7x cheaper than banks and PayPal.
You get transparent rates and fees, which differ based on the transfer amount. Money takes a maximum of 2 days to arrive, though in most cases, money is received much sooner, in as little as an hour, in fact.
In addition to remittance services, Wise offers an international (“borderless”) money account with debit card and can help businesses receive payments from around the world.
You can sign up for Wise here.
WorldRemit’s unique selling point would be the ability to remit physical cash by depositing it with one of WorldRemit’s partner networks of any branch in the Xpress Money network, in addition to the usual method of bank transfer, using the WorldRemit Wallet or Mobile Money e-wallet.
From Singapore, you can send money to more than 130 countries almost instantly to most countries.
Your recipient can receive the money via a bank transfer, using supported e-wallets, or even opt for cash delivery, so they don’t have to visit a branch to receive physical cash.
SingX allows transfers from Singapore to 38 other countries, with transaction fees of between 0.5% (for stable, frequently traded currencies) and 1% (for more volatile, less frequently traded currencies).
SingX also has an alerts service that notifies you when exchange rates hit a certain target threshold you want to monitor for.
Depending on the time you sent the funds and the destination country, funds can be received as soon as the same day, or within 2 working days at the latest. You can refer to their processing times for full details.
Western Union is one of the most recognisable remittance services in Singapore. You can choose to make your transfer using their large network of physical branches, by visiting their website or using their app.
You can send money to one of 40 countries around the world, and your receiver can choose to pick up the money at a Western Union branch or have the funds deposited in the bank account.
You can pay for the transfer using a bank transfer, handing over cash in-store, or by using a credit/debit card.
Launched in 2015, Revolut, a London-based fintech has since included cross-border transfer in their extensive offerings to customers to spend, transfer and control their money internationally. By downloading the Revolut app, we can now transfer to any Revolut user instantly or do bank transfers to over 130 countries.
For cross-border transfers, which means transferring in recipient’s domestic currency, Revolut will charge 0.3% of the amount sent, pegged to a minimum of S$0.30 and a maximum of S$9. For SWIFT transfers, which mean transferring in a currency foreign to receipent’s country, Revolut will charge S$5 to send USD, GBP, EUR, and CHF and S$9 for other supported currencies.
You can sign up for the Revolut card here.