No matter which travel survey you read or friend you speak to, it seems like Singaporeans are always planning their next holiday. As some of the world’s most frequent travellers and biggest travel spenders, Singaporeans are definitely making good use of their world’s strongest passports!
When we are planning to travel, we would naturally also be on the lookout to get the biggest bang for our Singaporean bucks. That’s why knowing how to get the best out of money changers in Singapore is an essential piece of knowledge.
In this article, we look at this question, and other aspects you should think about when trying to get the best exchange rates.
Which Money Changer Is The Best In Singapore?
This is one of the most common questions anyone will ask when they are travelling. The thing to note is that there are several money changers around Singapore that have built a reputation for offering the best rates. They are:
– The Arcade at Raffles Place;
– People’s Park Complex; or
– Mustafa Money Changer
While other articles may cite other locations, these three are generally included in most lists. The reason they are able to offer the best exchange rates in Singapore is mainly due to their busy locations.
A busy location typically translates into higher volume for the money changers, which also mean they can afford to offer better rates. Busy locations also attract other money changers, and this added competition will mean that the money changers have to offer the most competitive rates.
Where To Get The Best Exchange Rate For Popular Currencies?
We look at the best exchange rates for countries that were the top 10 travel destinations for Singaporeans in 2018, according to SkyScanner, as well as three other popular currencies (bottom 3 in table).
|Currency (Country)||Money Changer Outlet||Address||Best Exchange Rate|
|Thai Baht (THB)||Haja T & T Trading||The Arcade #02-21, 11 Collyer Quay, 049317||$1 : ฿23.045|
|Capital Forex Pte Ltd||11 Collyer Quay #02-01A The Arcade 049317||$1 : ฿23.0404|
|Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)||Capital Forex Pte Ltd||11 Collyer Quay #02-01A The Arcade 049317||$1 : RM3.042|
|Peoples Corner Money Changer||The Arcade #02-07, 11 Collyer Quay, 049317|
|Japanese Yen (JPY)||Haja T & T Trading||The Arcade #02-21, 11 Collyer Quay, 049317||$1 : ¥79713|
|Sarmus Exchange||#01-K95A People’s Park Complex 1 Park Road||$1 : ¥79681.2|
|Indonesian Rupiah (INR)||Fiat Money Changer||The Arcade #02-37, 11 Collyer Quay, 049317||$1 : Rp10470|
|JL Union Garmets Enterprises||Blk 205 Bedok North Street 1 #01-369 Bedok Central, Singapore 460205|
|Firman $hah International Exchange||208B New Upper Changi Road #01-71, Singapore 462208|
|Australian Dollar (AUD)||Peoples Corner Money Changer||The Arcade #02-07, 11 Collyer Quay, 049317||$1 : AUD$1.0493|
|Capital Forex Pte Ltd||11 Collyer Quay #02-01A The Arcade 049317|
|Indian Rupee (IDR)||Peoples Corner Money Changer||The Arcade #02-07, 11 Collyer Quay, 049317||$1 : ₹52.4|
|Fiat Money Changer||The Arcade #02-37, 11 Collyer Quay, 049317||$1 : ₹52.3|
|Renminbi (RMB)||Peoples Corner Money Changer||The Arcade #02-07, 11 Collyer Quay, 049317||$1 : ¥5.037|
|R&R Money Changer Pte Ltd||201B Tampines 21 #01-1063 Tampines Estate, Singapore 522201||$1 : ¥5.0355|
|Philippine Peso (PHP)||Peoples Corner Money Changer||The Arcade #02-07, 11 Collyer Quay, 049317||$1 : ₱37.7|
|Firman $hah International Exchange||208B New Upper Changi Road #01-71, Singapore 462208||$1 : ₱37.601|
|South Korean Won (KRW)||Haja T & T Trading||The Arcade #02-21, 11 Collyer Quay, 049317||$1 : ₩857.5|
|Firman $hah International Exchange||208B New Upper Changi Road #01-71, Singapore 462208||$1 : ₩857.122|
|New Taiwan Dollar (TWD)||Firman $hah International Exchange||208B New Upper Changi Road #01-71, Singapore 462208||$1 : NT$22.521|
|Fiat Money Changer||The Arcade #02-37, 11 Collyer Quay, 049317||$1 : NT$22.5205|
|US Dollar (USD)||R&R Money Changer Pte Ltd||201B Tampines 21 #01-1063 Tampines Estate, Singapore 522201||$1 : US$0.7243|
|$ & C Xchange Centre||101 Upper Cross Street, #01-26 (along main road) Peoples Park Centre, Singapore 058357||$1 : US$0.7241|
|Euro (EU)||Sarmus Exchange||#01-K95A People’s Park Complex 1 Park Road||$1 : €0.6485|
|Unique Money Changer (Bedok)||Blk 209 New Upper Changi Road #01-K1, 460209 Singapore|
|Hong Kong Dollar (HKD)||Unique Money Changer (Bedok)||Blk 209 New Upper Changi Road #01-K1, 460209 Singapore||$1 : HKD5.69|
|Firman $hah International Exchange||208B New Upper Changi Road #01-71, Singapore 462208||$1 : HKD5.6821|
Source: Cash Changer
As we can see, majority of the money changers on the list of most popular destinations and currencies are located at the Arcade at Raffles Place or Chinatown. There are also a few money changers that are located in the heartlands.
In retrieving these figures, we used the Cash Changer platform, which aims to make foreign exchanges rates more transparent, and help people find out the rates at the best money changers or nearest money changers, before deciding whether to head down.
Do We Look At Buy Or Sell Column When Changing Currency?
If you are confused whether to look at the buy or sell column when trying to exchange money, ask yourself this question: am I buying or selling the foreign currency? The answer: you are the buyer of the foreign currency, which makes the money changer the seller of the foreign currency. Therefore, you should look at the “sell” column for the rate that applies to you.
HOWEVER, if you are overseas tying to exchange your home (foreign) currency into the local currency, you become the seller of the foreign currency, and the money changer is the buyer of your foreign currency. Hence, you have to look at the “buy” column when exchanging your currency.
Is A Higher Or Lower Exchange Rate Better?
A higher exchange rate is generally better as we get more for our local currency when buying. This means we can get more of the foreign currency for our local money.
On the flipside, a lower exchange rate is better if we want to exchange foreign currencies back into local currency after our overseas trip. This means our foreign currency is worth more, and we get more local currency as a result.
How Do Money Changers Make Money?
If you have exchanged money, you would realise that the buy and sell figures are never the same. In some instances, they can even be quite disparate. This spread between the buy and sell columns is how money changers typically earn money from us.
This is why money changers at busy locations can afford to offer us a better rate, as they would still be profitable based on the volume of money that is transacted. Money changers in less busy locations may need to earn more per transaction for this same reason.
Money changers also take on foreign exchange risk when they complete transactions. Hence, they will be more willing to earn less for currencies that are popular and transacted in higher volumes, such as the Malaysian Ringgit, Thai Baht, Indonesia Rupiah, Hong Kong Dollar, and tend to want to earn more for taking the risk of holding currencies that do not trade as frequently, such as the Danish Krone, Croatian Kuna, Congolese Franc or Mexican Peso.
In many instances, money changers in Singapore do not offer these currencies, as they will have low volumes and need to take on much more foreign exchange risk by holding the currencies.
When Is The Best Time To Change Money?
There are several ways to consider when is the best time to exchange money.
#1 Depending on the country you visit, the best time to change money could be when you finally reach the country.
As mentioned, if we are visiting a country that do not attract high volumes in Singapore, we may get a bad deal. This does not mean we wait till we reach those countries to exchange our money, as our Singapore dollars would be equally low in demand in those countries. We should actually exchange our Singapore dollars into a global currency such as the US Dollar or the Euro before heading to those countries.
#2 Try to avoid exchanging money on the weekends.
During weekends, forex markets are closed. This means money changers will use the last available quote they have on Friday. Since there may be risk of the currency opening at higher or lower rates on Monday, money changers also typically factor in a mark-up for the increased risk that they take on.
However, in general, foreign currency cashflows over the weekends alone would not induce major fluctuations when forex markets reopen on the Monday.
#3 Monitor currencies over a period of time.
If we are aware of your travel schedules beforehand, we may want to monitor foreign currency exchange rates over a period of six months to determine if we will be receiving a good or poor 6-month average rate.
Once we notice that the current exchange rate is higher than the 6-month average exchange rate, we can make our currency exchange, or a portion of our currency exchange with the rest right before we travel.
Problems With Exchanging Money Physically
Travelling can be a very stressful affair, with the planning, buying of tickets, packing and eventually travelling. Worrying about exchanging our money in Singapore only adds to our long list of to-dos before we travel.
Carrying around this large wad of cash while in a foreign land is much more stressful. We need to declare these sums at the customs if we bring in more than US$10,000 or its equivalent into certain countries. This may not be far-fetched if we are on a European or US holiday.
Safety concerns is definitely another area we need to note. Not every country is as safe as Singapore, and carrying around large sums will only attract the wrong kind of attention.
Convenience is another matter – handling large stacks of money can be burdensome and make us stick out in a crowd (for the wrong kinds of attention).
Lastly, we also tend to overestimate how much we need while overseas. This is because we don’t want to be left short of money while overseas. This behaviour often leads to overspending or bringing home large quantities of foreign currencies (which either need to be exchanged at a loss or kept at home).
Where possible, we should try to use credit cards to cater for the emergency scenarios, as well as utilise multi-currency accounts (MCA) or multi-currency cards, such as YouTrip, to be secured and to travel cashless. We elaborate more below.
Should You Use Cash Or Credit Cards When Travelling Overseas?
There are pros and cons to using credit cards while overseas.
Why you should use credit cards overseas:
As mentioned above, credit cards gives you the flexibility of an emergency fund without attracting the wrong kind of attention holding large wads of cash overseas.
Credit cards also allow us to keep track of our overseas transactions, and flag it to our credit card companies, the authorities and even insurance companies for instances where we are pressured into making a large transaction overseas.
We also enjoy certain credit card perks by charging expenses to our credit cards. Some cards tend to offer better incentives for overseas spend as well, such as the Citi PremierMiles card which gives additional points for each dollar spent overseas.
Why you should NOT use credit cards overseas:
Many of us don’t realise that our credit card companies will charge us double conversions for our transactions. First, our overseas transactions will be converted into US Dollars, and then, it will be converted into Singapore Dollars when billed to us.
The conversion rates we are charged may be poor as well.
On many credit cards, we will be charged a foreign transaction administrative fee whenever we use our credit cards overseas.
Changing Money Online
Instead of using credit cards as our emergency funds, we can also choose to exchange our money online, and use cards and/or apps to make transactions overseas, in foreign currencies.
We can also exchange money on-demand, which means we will be able to avoid exchanging too much or too little. As the money is stored in our accounts, that we can access digitally, it becomes a more convenient and safe way to travel.
#1 Multi-Currency Accounts
Multi-currency accounts (MCAs), such as the DBS MCA and the UOB Mighty FX, can be used to make foreign currency exchanges online, via the respective banks’ platform. We’ve done this with both the DBS MCA and the UOB Mighty FX, and received relatively good exchange rates compared to money changers.
We can make transactions online and via a linked card with the banks.
YouTrip is a multi-currency mobile wallet that lets you pay in more than 150 currencies while you’re online shopping or travelling overseas.
Saving us another card slot in our wallets, YouTrip has also partnered EZ-Link and Mastercard, which means we can use it for our transportation and as a debit card worldwide.
#3 Thin Margin
Thin Margin is an online money changer licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. The company offers a unique service – allowing you to make foreign currency exchange online, via payments with PayNow, bank transfers or NETSPay, and letting you choose the time and date for the currency to be delivered to your doorstep.
The company claims to offer “thin margins”, which means it makes very little money from the transactions, and saves you crucial time and energy by sending your foreign currencies right to you.
We randomly checked its exchange rates for AUD, USD and HKD, and here’s what we found:
AUD: Unfortunately, the platform ran out of AUD.
USD: for transactions below $2,500, the exchange rate was US$1 : $1.386. Which is really an exchange rate of US$0.7215 : $1. While this is slightly lower than what we can get at the best money changer rates listed above, it may make up for it with the superior convenience it gives us.
HKD: The exchange rate for HKD was HKD$5.670 : $1, for transactions under $2,500. Again, this was marginally lower than what the best money changers can offer us.
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