When you can't count on money changers, here's where you can get foreign currency exchanged in Singapore.
So just in case you can’t rely on money changers, here’s where else to get foreign currency exchanged in Singapore. You may even save a bit:
1. Use a Credit Card
Okay, this isn't exactly a place. But if you enable your credit card for overseas use, you can get away with carrying very little cash. Bring at least a MasterCard and a Visa, in case one is not accepted.
The tricky part is the foreign transaction fee. With most credit cards, this is usually around 2.2 to 2.7 per cent. While that doesn’t amount to much, if can be wasteful over multiple transactions (if you use the card 10 times, you’ll pay an extra two percent or so every time).
So try to find a credit card with the lowest possible Forex charge - you can browse a range of options on SingSaver.com.sg.
Do not take a cash advance from an ATM overseas. Besides the additional Forex charges, there are often high fees for cash advances. This is typically six per cent of the amount withdrawn or S$15, whichever is higher.
Note that the interest rate on a cash advance may also be higher, around 26 per cent per annum. Again, this is on top of what may be a bad exchange rate.
In addition, credit cards get a bit...unpredictable when you try and use them on foreign ATMs. In some cases, the machine will decide some kind of fraud is happening and swallow the card. So while you can charge things to your card, we advise against using the cash advance function.
In case of an emergency, many large hotels provide currency exchange. Approach the front desk and ask for it. However, be warned that you are not going to get a good rate.
This varies based on which hotel you go to. In the United States and Europe, many hotels tend to charge around three per cent of the amount changed. This is on top of a fixed currency conversion rate, so it is much more expensive than going to a money changer. However, if you absolutely need cash and there’s no alternative, this is your last resort.
One upside to this is that, in many larger hotels, the service is available 24/7. If you’re in a situation where you need to change money at two or three in the morning, this is it.
3. Mustafa Centre
Yes, Mustafa Centre really does sell everything, including foreign currencies. Mustafa is not just a mall, it’s a money changer with comparable rates. Best part? They are open 24 hours. You can check their prices online. In addition to Forex, they also provide a remittance service.
Banks can be a little more expensive than money changers. This is because most banks charge a commission or administrative fee, whereas most money changers don’t.
While bank branches are not open 24/7, some banks do operate 24-hour exchange services in Changi Airport (ask the airport staff for directions when you get there).
You might get preferential treatment if you have the right bank account. Some multi-currency accounts, for example, may give you access to lower Forex rates. Shop around and ask.
If you change money on a regular basis (e.g. you study abroad and constantly send money to an account there), be sure to bring this up to the bankers. The tellers may be able to recommend a better type of account than the one you are currently using.
5. Forex Brokers
If you are dealing with large amounts, or constantly exchange large sums, you might want to find a Forex broker instead.
For example, if you are moving to Australia, it might be impractical and unsafe to convert several hundred thousand dollars of your life savings at a money changer. Likewise, if you are converting money from the entire sale of your flat because you’re moving, a bad rate could mean losing a spectacular amount of money.
You also stand to absorb significant losses if you constantly exchange large amounts. For example, if your side business in the United States is bringing in converted sums of S$3,000 every month, and you lose two per cent in various transaction costs, that’s S$720 a year, on top of any exchange rate losses.
On a related note, do open a multi-currency account if you have income in foreign currency. This will let you wait to convert it at a better time, as well potentially net you a better interest rate.
6. Don’t Forget to Ask Friends!
If you are travelling abroad, don’t forget to get on Facebook and ask friends if they happen to have the right currency. Plenty of Singaporeans have ringgit or Thai baht or Indonesian rupiah lying around, for example. If it’s a popular holiday destination, your friends may have some foreign currency left over.
Unless they are stingy, they will probably give you a preferential buddy rate!