For foreigners living in Korea, banking can be easy or an incredibly frustrating experience.
And when it comes to sending money overseas, while commission fees on transactions made at the bank vary little, not all Korean banks are the same.
On top of this, shopping around is not simple ― a person is only allowed one designated bank for overseas remittances and must go through a transfer process to change to another.
But major Korean banks usually offer discounts on remittance services via ATM and through online and mobile banking, and switching to online options will often save you more money than switching banks. However, it is wise to check with the bank on whether it charges intermediary or other bank fees when sending money.
Some have even introduced special programs to make it easier to send money abroad, especially for foreign clients.
On top of having a division devoted solely to foreign clients, Korea Exchange Bank offers its Easy-One Remittance Service, which is an account that automatically sends whatever money is deposited into it to a designated overseas account. While it requires a minimum deposit of 100,000 won ($92), the service offers a 30 percent discount on commission fees, according to its website. This is cheaper than the rates available at the bank, but more expensive than the online option it offers for its regular accounts.
Ileana Quintano, a teacher from the U.S., recommended banking or sending money overseas with KEB. She uses the Easy-One Remittance Service and says it’s “the most hassle-free remittance option I’ve seen so far.”
“All I have to do is transfer whatever amount I want into that account and the funds are automatically remitted to my American account. If I transfer money into my Easy-One account before 6 p.m. on a business day, the money is in my American account the next morning,” she said.
KB Kookmin Bank has a similar service. The KB Wise Overseas Remittance Service allows clients to set up a schedule and fixed amount for remittances and currencies, and then sends money from the account automatically. The service has 50 percent lower commission fees and a 30 percent discount on exchange rate margins.
While Shinhan Bank does not offer any special services for overseas remittances, it does have the Shinhan Expat Banking division, which offers services in multiple languages. There is a 50 percent discount on commission fees when sent through Internet banking, which is compatible with both PC and Mac, according to its Facebook page. The bank also charges an intermediary bank fee, which varies depending on the bank.
“My experience has been positive with both SH (Shinhan Bank) and KB (Kookmin Bank). The tellers at SH were helpful in letting me know exactly what information I needed and the time frames for delivery,” said Evan McKinney, from the U.S.
Woori Bank offers services in English and Chinese and its commission fees run from 5,000 won to 25,000 won plus an 8,000 won cable fee when remitted from the bank. It says there is a 50 percent discount on the exchange rate margin when using Internet banking and no commission fee. However, it does charge an intermediary bank fee.
Not all foreign clients have been happy with Woori’s customer service.
Thoa Le, an exchange student from the U.S., said she received poor customer service when she sent money to her home bank from Woori before leaving Korea last year.
“They were really rude about it. Asking me multiple times with an attitude of where I got my money from, suspecting that I did some illegal work to get that money. I showed them that the money was sent to me from the U.S. in my bank passbook,” she said. “They were rude till the very end. It took me over an hour to transfer it.”
U.S. grad student Chelle B. Mille, who sends money overseas about once a year, said Woori didn’t fully explain the fees for overseas remittances and didn’t have a user-friendly website.
“I realized I could have purchased traveler’s checks instead and paid less in fees, but since they only notified me after the fact, I didn’t have that option,” she said.
Industrial Bank of Korea offers online banking in English and Chinese, with a 30 percent better exchange rate when sending money through the Internet or smart banking. It does not charge a commission fee for remittances made through online and mobile banking, but does charge additional banking fees. Commission fees on remittances made in the bank range from 5,000 won to 20,000 won. Overseas remittances can also be sent through their ATMs in English with lower fees. Smart banking is available in English for Android users.
By Emma Kalka (email@example.com)