Wisely Transferring Money from the US

June 30, 2020

As if that title is not a clear giveaway--Yes, I use TransferWise!

It's quick, easily accessible, has one of the best foreign exchange rates and lowest transfer fees, has intuitive user interface, and have I mentioned it's really quick?

It took 9 seconds to send money from my Transferwise US Dollar account into my Singapore bank account. If there is a competitor that does it faster, let me know in the comment section below.

Fast transfers and money savings from great forex rates
There are many other FinTech companies like TransferWise that have been disrupting the brick and mortar banking institutions all over the world. I happened to pick TransferWise a couple of years ago and just stuck with it because my customer experience with the company has been nothing less than excellent. 

The Issue

(Note: If you're reading this post for anecdotal experience on how to send money from the United States using TransferWise, feel free to skip this part. You do not need to be subjected to my life drama.

In Singapore, the income taxes are not usually automatically deducted from the salary, unlike how the US or the Philippines do it. The responsibility of paying for the taxes is on the employee and the filing of the tax return and the payments will normally be around April of the next year for the current fiscal year. But once a foreign employee leaves Singapore for good, there is what will be called a tax clearance process. The standard process is for the employer to withhold the last month's salary of the employee while the Internal Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) calculates for the total income taxes due. The tax liability will then be deducted from the withheld salary, and whatever's left will constitute as the backpay.

Due to a mix of terrible timing and company admin mix-up, I ended up having not enough funds in my withheld salary to pay for the entirety of my income tax. And since I have moved most of my Singapore Dollars here in the US, I'm now met with the need to send some money back to Singapore so I can pay my taxes to IRAS.

Before Sending Money From US to International Bank

My Savings and Checking accounts here in the US are with Chase Bank. Before hopping onto TransferWise, I did the following:

  1. Check the current foreign exchange rate of USD to SGD

    As of June 28, XE said if I sent 3,000 US Dollars, it would be worth roughly 4,179 Singapore Dollars.

  2. Check how much it will cost to wire the money directly from my Chase bank account into my Singapore POSB bank account.

    The forex quote can be easily done in-app thru Chase online banking. This screenshot says not only is the equivalent of 3,000 US Dollars going to be short by $120 vis-à-vis the current forex conversion, there is also a Wire fee of $5 on top.

  3. Check how much TransferWise will charge and the USD to SGD forex rate in-app

    And of course, the last check: Looking up the same transaction on the TransferWise. I don't know why this still surprises me every time. Quickly comparing this result versus how much Chase was intending to charge, it was a no-brainer that I should go with TransferWise for this international money transfer.

For those who have time to spare, there are several companies that you can send money through like XoomXE, and others. There will be some pre-work done like comparing the forex rates and transfer fees before proceeding to select which transfer will result in best bang for the buck. In my case, I couldn't be bothered because the difference, from experience, is always very nominal.

The Process and Other Considerations

Maybe I went about this the long way around--This is how I transferred my funds from Singapore to the US so I decided to do it the same process, just flipped the other way around.

Did I really just whip out a PowerPoint process flow SmartArt? Yes, I did! 

I thought it would be easier to illustrate how this transfer went through by using the trusty process flow tool in PowerPoint. I also added the time it took these companies to hand the money to each other. During my quick research, the Internet told me that ACH--the US financial network of payments and money transfers--usually takes 1-2 business days to complete domestic transactions.

Surprisingly, my transfer got completed in just 25 minutes since I submitted the wire transfer request from my Chase bank account.

It was a bit confusing on which number I needed to use, so I have marked the fields in Green arrow below as the ones I put in my wire transfer recipient details. I went for the Routing Number instead of the Wire transfer number purely out of semantics because Chase asked for a 'routing number' in the online banking app.

TransferWise USD Balance Bank Details

One can open up to 50 balances from difference countries and in their respective currencies. Setting up a Balance is extremely easy. Once the 'Balance' is created, a virtual bank account will be created under the name of the TransferWise account owner.

Opening a USD 'Balance' is as easy as selecting USD from this menu. A virtual bank account will be shortly created under the TransferWise account holder's name. 

Another thing that should be considered is if the US bank charges a Wire transfer fee. In my bank's case, there is a domestic Wire transfer fee of $25. This is another big thing that made me raise an eyebrow about US banking in general, but it may have been a matter of expectations. Coming from Singapore, there were no wire charges for Incoming and Outgoing bank transfers. Having that as my baseline admittedly destroyed subsequent banking experience for me.

For reference on the Outgoing Domestic Wire fees, I have pasted a table below from a Finance blog. I'm not a finance person nor is my blog a finance blog, so I want to leave this to the experts. Head on to Nerd Wallet for more information about Wire transfers.

Financial institution (click name for full review)Incoming domestic wireOutgoing domestic wireIncoming inter-
national wire
Outgoing inter-
national wire
Bank of America$15$30$16$35 sent in foreign currency;
$45 sent in U.S. dollars
Capital One 360$0*$30Not availableNot available
Chase$15$25$15$5 sent in foreign currency;
$40 sent in U.S. dollars
Fidelity$0*$0*$0*3% of amount in foreign currency;
$0 sent in U.S. dollars
HSBC Bank**$15$35$15$35
PNC Bank$15$30$15$45
U.S. Bank$20$30$25$50
Wells Fargo***$15$30$16$35 in foreign currency; $45 in U.S. dollars
[Source: Spencer Tierney of the finance blog Nerdwallet]

Once the money was in my TransferWise USD Balance, I initiated the next leg and quickly added my Singapore bank account as the recipient.

Some things to note: 

  • There is a nominal fee amounting to 0.5% of the total amount being transferred. (This amounted to $14.79)
  • There is an option to take away that fee from the total amount. (I did this, so instead of sending $3,000, I was effectively only able to send the equivalent of $2,985 so I can use the $15 to pay for the transfer fee)

Quick Facts:

  • Chase domestic outgoing wire fee: $25
  • Time it took the wire to get to TransferWise: 25min
  • Chase cut-off time for online wire transfer: 4PM EST (After cut-off, the wire will be processed on the next business day)
  • Chase cut-off time for in-branch wire transfer: 5PM EST
  • TransferWise fee: roughly 0.5% of amount being transferred
  • Time it took the money to get to Singapore bank from TransferWise: 9 seconds
  • Money savings of this transaction (after fees): roughly $60 for a transfer for $3,000

I don't want to do Math right now, but the only time it would have been practical to send the money through Chase was if the amount was so high, the TransferWise fee would offset any loss in bad forex rate using Chase global wire transfer.

All fees considered, I still managed to save roughly US$60 from going through TransferWise on this US$3,000 money transfer. At the end of the day, it's still up to the person to weigh in if not going through the bank to save some money is worth the trouble. Personally, apart from the obvious money savings, I also don't want to feel like I was being cheated by my bank.

Anyway, off I go to pay my owed taxes in Singapore!

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored, but if you click one of the TransferWise links and sign up, I'll receive a referral fee.

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