COVID-19 has impacted the world more than we thought when it first came to surface on December 2019, both socially and economically. This unprecedented change has made Singaporeans realize how their financial savviness is a very important perk in this trying time.
Financial planning is all about wise-spending that eventually leads to more savings. For some, it’s a no-brainer, but others may find it hard due to certain factors. For instance, some may need to send money overseas to support family members or have returned to Singapore to be with their families, losing their main source of income, but still need to pay rent, mortgages, and other expenses overseas.
If you’re the latter and still trying to figure out what to do, here’s a handy list of financial tips that could help:
1. Check the Exchange Rate
When paying or sending money in other currencies, most Singaporeans aren’t aware that banks and other providers often set their own unfriendly exchange rates (which tend to be lower than the mid-market rate found on Google) and also add on credit card fees or foreign transaction fees. This means Singaporeans are paying more money than they need to every time they make an online transaction.
One way to see how much mark-up banks add on their exchange rate is to check the mid-market rate and compare that with the banks’. The mid-market rate is essentially the median average of the buy and sell prices of two currencies. The closer your bank’s exchange rate is to the mid-market rate, the better it is for you.
That said, it can be hard to keep track of fluctuating exchange rates. Stay on top of changes with online tools – for example, XE’s Rate Alerts and TransferWise’s Rate Tracker can be used to track exchange rates between two currencies daily or to set email notifications for when it reaches your desired rate.
2. Pay in the local currency with a multi-currency account
One way to avoid paying the marked-up exchange rate and other hidden fees is to set up a multi-currency account. This allows you to hold a number of different currencies at a time and pay for your purchases in the same currency you’re being charged in.
There are a number of multi-currency accounts available on the market, each with its own complimentary debit card. It is wise to do some research to find the best option that works for you. Some accounts operate on a monthly subscription, while others have different exchange rates at different hours and days of the week.
3. Beware of ‘Free Transfers’
How much a transfer really costs is made up of two things — the Advertised Fees and the Exchange Rate.
Many of the providers offer transfers that are ‘free’ or ‘0% commission’. The truth is, ‘free’ international money transfers don’t exist because every time a consumer sends money, they’re paying for something.
In a lot of cases, the provider has marked up the exchange rate to cover the cost, which means consumers lose money on that unfriendly exchange rate — even if there are no fees advertised upfront.
4. Set Budgets and Track Spending
Consider setting daily or monthly spending limits on your card to avoid going over budget accidentally and ending up having to borrow from a bank or licensed moneylender like A1 Credit — most digital banking or multi-currency apps have this feature. Some of these apps also have built-in budgeting features so you can set different budgets for different categories (e.g. Transportation, Groceries, Entertainment).
Services like Google Pay, Apple Pay and TransferWise also allow you to enable notifications every time you spend, making it easier to track spending on the go.
Singapore is still entering the second week of the circuit breaker. Save as much as you can by following these 4 money-saving tips.