Going overseas on an exchange programme is becoming increasingly popular among local tertiary students. It is no longer enough to just complete one or even two internship stints in Singapore – in typical fashion, local students now push to gain a superior edge in the employment market by pursuing experience and exposure outside of our little red dot.
When you travel abroad for an extended period of time, be it for an exchange, an internship or for an overseas education, there are many things to prepare for: your enrolment; visa requirements; insurance needs; personal belongings; and many more.
One thing many people tend to leave until the last minute, is the money you will need to reside in a foreign country. Many students are just not familiar with the different options available to access and use money overseas, and how they can get a good exchange rate with no add on fees.
Put yourself in this situation for a minute.
Imagine you are going to be based overseas for the next 12 months. You will not be making any trips back to Singapore during this period. How would you ensure you have enough money to spend while you are overseas?
While some people still trust cash, we’re going to rule it out because of the administrative challenges of declaring money brought into countries as well as the significant risk of theft you would be exposing yourself to. Here are other viable options you can consider.
# 1 Credit Card
One alternative is to bring a small amount of cash with you and supplement most big expenses with several credit cards. Of course, it’s best to find one that offers you discounts and perks when making purchases abroad.
The advantage of using credit cards is that it provides convenience and limits risks, as you do not have to carry large wads of cash wherever you go. If you’ve taken a card that offers great perks, you would not have to worry about having insufficient money on you, or the fees involved with using them, since your credit cards are your preferred mode of payment in this instance. Of course, you must ensure that your credit limit is sufficient for your trip and that you’ve authorised your bank to transact overseas charges.
There are, however, limitations with using credit cards as your preferred mode of payment. There might be significant charges, hidden or otherwise, that you may incur, including suffering large foreign exchange spreads and add-on fees from credit card companies and banks.
UOB’s Visa Signature and One card and Citibank’s M1 Platinum Visa offers up to 5% rebates of overseas spend, with a caveat that you have to charge between $1000 to $3000 monthly.
For students on exchange, it might be useful to have a supplementary card from your parents that you can bring with you overseas. This would be handy especially if you need to pay for unexpected costs – not to mention the fact that the bill will be sent to your parents too!
# 2 ATM Withdrawals
As some of you would have known, you can use your ATM card for cash withdrawals outside of Singapore as well. Students can also consider getting a debit card that allows them to make such cash withdrawals overseas.
While ATM withdrawals represent a convenient option, many people don’t realise that they will end up paying a significant fee each time they use the service.
Withdrawal fees apply each time a withdrawal made from the ATM. For example, if the withdrawal fee was $5, you would have to pay $5 regardless of the size of your withdrawal. There is also a foreign exchange spread charged by the banks that users would have to bear. To get the most of this option, you’d have to research which cards would offer you the best rates. For example, banks with international branches, such as ANZ, waive overseas withdrawals for their customers. However, you would still be exposed to its foreign exchange spread.
# 3 Bank Transfers
One of the most common methods students rely on are bank transfers. An overseas bank account is set up in the country they are in and money is transferred into this bank account from their account (or their parents’ account) back in Singapore.
Having an overseas account allows you to ensure that you have enough money in the overseas country without the need to carry cash around all the time.
However, bear in mind that bank transfers are also subjected to foreign exchange spreads that are usually unfavourable, meaning that you won’t always get the best rate. In addition, most banks also charge a fee for the transfer of money to an overseas account.
# 4 Online Money Transfer Services
Banks make money from wide foreign exchange spreads and other overseas transaction fees.
In contrast, online money transfer services such as World First can offer a better solution that reduce these costly inefficiencies many students encounter.
1. Competitive Exchange Rate Spread
Using World First for the transfer of funds overseas, you enjoy competitive spreads on the exchange rate than what is typically offered by most banks. This gives you an immediate saving.
2. No Transfer Fee
Adding to that saving is the fact that any transfer made to your overseas bank would be free. Unlike bank transfers, private individual users do not need to pay a transfer fee for the transfer of funds overseas.
This could save you as much as $30 each time you make a transfer.
3. Customer Service Oriented
Unlike the other options available, where money transfers are done via faceless entities, World First clients are assigned dedicated dealers who are able to advise them on foreign currency transfers based on their personal needs.
This is important since the company provides a range of different services to fulfil the needs of different clients. These include Spot Contracts, Forward Contracts and Firm Order, all of which could help clients save significant amounts of money over the long term.
Equally important is the fact that World First has 6 different offices around the world. That means even if you are on the other side of the world living in a different time zone there would still be international offices that are operating.
To find out how to make cheaper, faster international money transfers, go to World First today.