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Sending money internationally during the coronavirus pandemic

Learn what you need to know about getting money abroad to loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Updated

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Self-quarantining and social distancing are changing the way we send money across borders. Here’s everything you need to know about what impacts the coronavirus might have on getting money to your loved ones.

How is the coronavirus affecting money transfers?

As Singapore reacts to the coronavirus pandemic, the remittance industry is being affected by the following:

  • Closures. Some non-essential businesses like bars and restaurants are beginning to shorten operation hours. Although banks and money transfer agent locations remained open (accurate as of 27 October 2020), using online transfer options will help you maintain your self-imposed quarantine.
  • Exchange rate volatility. We haven’t seen this kind of volatility in decades. Fluctuating exchange rates could make a difference of several hundred dollars to what arrives in your receiver’s pockets, so it’s important to pay close attention to the live rate – things could change quickly.
  • Customer service availability. Many companies will be reducing the availability of their customer service agents, both online and in call centers. PayPal, for instance, recently alerted customers that “Due to coronavirus (COVID-19) safety precautions, we currently have limited customer service staffing so wait times may be longer.” So if you happen to make a mistake in your online transaction and need to reach someone on the phone to fix it immediately, or need a human voice to help you through the online steps, don’t expect the same support you’d normally receive.

Sending $1,500 from Singapore to Europe during the coronavirus pandemic

Let’s say you need to send $1,500 to friends or family members that are stuck quarantined abroad. Here is what you might face in fees and physical contact risks as of 27 October 2020.

Online money transfer serviceCash transferBank transfer
Physical contactNoYesMaybe
Fee$7.04$5$25 + additional correspondent bank fees
Exchange rate1 SGD = 0.6220 EUR1 SGD = 0.6094 EUR1 SGD = 0.6164 EUR
Transfer speedWithin a few hoursMinutes2-5 days
Amount receivedEUR€928.62EUR€911.05EUR€909.19
Verdict
  • Best value – no physical contact
  • Fastest – physical contact
  • Slowest and most expensive – maybe physical contact

The bank option ends up being both the slowest and gets the smallest amount of money to your recipient, but you may be able to send it entirely online. If you go with the digital money transfer service, your recipient ends up with EUR€19.43 more than the bank offers. If speed is crucial, a cash transfer can typically have your transfer to Europe in as little as 15 minutes; just be aware of the need to pick it up in person.

Be sure to look at the margin on the exchange rate as well as the fees to figure out if you’re getting a good deal. We’ve gone into more detail on this in our full guide on sending money internationally.

Online money transfer services

The table below shows a round-up of some of the most popular online services that can help you send money to where it needs to go.

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
SGD 2,000 1 - 2 days SGD 0.00 0.745 USD
3,724
WorldFirst sends 60+ currencies at competitive rates with no fees. If you find a better eligible quote, WorldFirst will beat it. Go to site Show details
USD 60 1 day SGD 50.00 0.75 USD
3,710
Skrill offers easy transfers to many popular destinations, but keep an eye out for added fees. Go to site Show details
SGD 250 1 day SGD 0.00 0.745 USD
3,724
Exclusive offer: Discounted exchange rates for your first and ongoing transactions. $0 transfer fee.
OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 45+ currencies.
Go to site Show details
SGD 2,000 1 day SGD 0.00 0.745 USD
3,724
TorFX guarantee to beat any competitor's exchange rate for a transaction. Conditions apply.
TorFX sends money overseas in 30+ currencies, with competitive rates for transfer amounts over $2,000.
Go to site Show details
SGD 1 Same day SGD 3.99 0.749 USD
3,740
Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Conditions apply.
WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups.
Go to site Show details
SGD 250 1 day SGD 0.00 0.745 USD
3,724
SendFX guarantees to match any competitor's exchange rate. T&Cs apply.
SendFX has fee-free transfers in 30+ currencies to over 200 countries.
Go to site Show details
SGD 1 1 - 2 days SGD 22.50 0.752 USD
3,745
TransferWise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 45+ currencies. Go to site Show details
SGD 5 1 - 2 days EUR 3.00 0.748 USD
3,740
Special offer: Zero fees on your first 10 transfers.
CurrencyFair has bank-beating exchange rates and fast transfer times on 15+ popular currencies.
Go to site Show details
SGD 1 1 day SGD 21.50 0.752 USD
3,746
Pay no fees on your first two transfers, up to S$3000.
SingX offers the real exchange rate every time you make a transfer and can help you send money across the world.
Go to site Show details
SGD 200 2 days SGD 25.00 0.75 USD
3,730
InstaReM offers simple transfers with a flat 0.5% transfer fee for most transfers. Zero-margin rates on some currencies. Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.

What if my recipient doesn’t have a bank account?

Depending on the provider, you can still make an online transfer to a recipient who doesn’t have a bank account.

Emergency cash transfers

If you need to get money abroad now instead of later, there are ways to speed it up. Many online money transfer services offer delivery in as fast as a few minutes. Learn more about the limits and fees for emergency transfers.

Many emergency transfer options require your recipient to pick the money up in person, as delivering to a bank account often takes more time. Double-check how the transfer will be received, especially if you are sending to a country that is recommending self-quarantine or social distancing practices during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a recent report in Reuters, handling banknotes doesn’t pose any added risk of contracting the coronavirus. Your recipient shouldn’t fear to collect cash so long as they take the usual precautions and wash their hands frequently.

How to send money to someone without a bank account

Unfortunately, options without physical contact are limited when it comes to sending money to someone without a bank account.

If you or your recipient doesn’t have a bank account, look for a local company that supports storefronts for cash payments. These services include agent locations in other countries that allow your recipient to pick up cash without a bank account.

Call the agent location before sending your transfer, if possible, to make sure they will be open when your recipient goes to pick up cash.

How do fluctuating exchange rates affect my international transfer?

No one has a crystal ball here, so it’s important to keep an eye on exchange rates regularly. That will help you gauge when it’s a good time for you to send money abroad. Online transfers can often lock in a rate for you, which, with roller-coaster markets, could potentially help you get more bang for your buck.

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Updated: 15 Jan 2021 14:49:38 UTC

What other ways can I send money around the world?

Aside from traditional money transfers and bank transfers, there are other alternatives you can use to help move money during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • International digital banking. Although it may take some time to set up, creating an international digital bank account can help reduce the costs of moving money to loved ones abroad.
  • E-wallets. Electronic wallets are a great way to manage your funds digitally. PayPal is one example, but so are services like Revolut, TransferWise and Apple Pay. By relying entirely on digital services, you won’t have to touch cash or interact physically with anyone. Some stores even accept e-wallets for payment, making your transaction entirely contactless.
  • Cryptocurrencies. If you and the recipient are both computer savvy, cryptocurrency can be a very fast and cheap way of sending money internationally, in a way that doesn’t require either of you to have a bank account or leave your homes. If you’re interested, our comprehensive guide over at Crypto Finder can get you started.

Bottom line

Sending money internationally may be more important for you now than ever, especially if you have loved ones quarantined abroad. Although it’s become trickier to send money overseas, there are still plenty of online options that can help you get your money where it needs to go.

Pay extra attention to movements in the exchange rate, and consider locking in a forward contract if you’re concerned about a dip in the currencies’ value. It pays to compare a number of money transfer services to make sure they meet your needs and can give you the best deal.

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