Today, the exchange rate for the Korean Won took one of the largest drops it’s had in over a month, bringing it from about 1356 Won down to 1278.25 (to $1 US). This also marks the lowest the exchange rate has been in almost 4 months (it was lower in early January, but only for a day or two). And the April monthly average for the Korean Won is the lowest it’s been since October of last year (2008).
This is great news for expats who need to transfer money to our home countries, as it means we’ll lose less of our money in the exchange. However, due to the ever-fluctuating world economies, it also means that we can’t depend on this kind of exchange rate to last (the Won was up to nearly 1600W per dollar in March). Therefore, it is important to be able to quickly and easily transfer money on one of these “low-exchange-rate” days.
Enter the Korea Exchange Bank (KEB)’s “easy-one 외화송금전용통장” or “easy-one Foreign Currency Remittance Service.”
When most foreign English teachers come to Korea for the first time, they get everything provided for them by their sponsoring school. Things like a house, phone, Internet, TV, furniture, and bank account are provided to teachers within a few weeks of their arrival.
However, the bank accounts that most schools set up aren’t necessarily targeted toward foreigners who need to send money home. Therefore, money transfers can end up being a big pain as expats often have to go to the bank, wait in line, and fill out papers each time they need to make a transfer (at least in my case I had to go to the biggest bank branch downtown, and fill out and sign papers each time). They have to do all this without speaking much Korean, so it is often better to get a Korean friend to help them out.
But why get a Korean friend to help transfer money each time you need some sent home? Why not just get some help to set up an “easy-one” account at the KEB? It’s a one-time deal, and the money is automatically sent home when it’s transferred into the KEB account.
A Better Way to Transfer
KEB (Korea Exchange Bank) is a specialized foreign exchange bank, is the 5th largest bank in South Korea (assets), and is Korea’s largest foreign exchange bank. It has been the longest running exchange bank in Korea, and currently provides more than 37 currencies for foreign exchange (Wikipedia). You can tell that KEB is foreigner friendly just by looking at the bank book they give you after you open an account. There are 10 languages on the front cover!
The best thing about this account, is that once it’s set up, all I have to do is transfer money in to this bank account, and KEB automatically transfers the money to the bank in America it has on record for me. I get a text message to my phone about 5 minutes after I transfer money telling me something to the effect of “KEB has transfered XXX Won equaling XXX Dollars to your bank in America.” So, it is not only instant, but it also tells me the exact amount of money (in my home currency) I have transferred. Talk about slick! -> That’s so much better than talking to a service rep and filling out paperwork every time I need to transfer money.
How to hook yourself up with an “Easy-One”
1. Locate the KEB
First of all, you’ll need to locate the KEB bank in your city (assuming there is one). Ask other foreigners in town if they know where the local branch is. In Jeonju, it is downtown (Gaeksa) just across the street from StarBucks (near the old KFC and Dunkin Donuts). Check out the Jeonju Map here to find StarBucks.
2. Investigate KEB’s services
You might want to familiarize yourself with some of the benefits of opening an account at KEB. Check out their “easy-one Foreign Currency Remittance Service” (and other Remittance Services) here. The bank homepage is here, if you want to check out any other interesting things KEB might have. The beautiful part about these sites is that they are completely in English (and good English at that) -> English Internet banking too. You might also want to go to the bank and physically check things out, I’ll leave that up to you.
3. Prepare your materials
In order to apply for an account at the KEB bank, you’ll need to gather the following materials and information:
- Your Foreigner Registration Card
- Your passport
- (Know) your address and phone number in Korea
- Transferring bank information (in your home country). This includes:
- –> Bank Account #
- –> Routing # and SWIFT Code (or BIC Code)
- –> Address of your bank in your home country
- –> Receiver’s name
This should be all you need (unless I forgot something), but in any case, it will get you started. You’ll have to check at the bank branch to see if there are any other necessary materials.
4. Recruit the help of a Korean friend
This step is not completely necessary as many Koreans speak passable English (especially those at an exchange bank). However, it is always nice to have “back-up” for help with the language and a little extra peace of mind.
5. Apply at KEB
Head on down to the KEB bank and apply for your new account. The account you want is the “easy-one 외화송금전용통장” or “easy-one Foreign Currency Remittance Service.” After you request that account, they should bring out the paperwork for you to fill out. When you’re done with that, they’ll probably take your passport and Foreigner Registration Card to make a photocopy, then do some work on the computer, and set you up.
6. Don’t forget to keep your old account too
You’ll definitely want to keep your first bank account that your school set up for you as well. The school will still transfer money to that account for your paycheck, and you can transfer money from it into your new KEB account. And since the KEB account will automatically transfer your money to your home country, you wouldn’t want your whole paycheck to get dumped in there before you have a chance to take out what you want.
7. ONLY use the new account to transfer money home
Korea only wants you to use ONE bank to transfer money home. So, if you used a different bank to transfer money first, KEB will call that bank and change your transfer information (and legal stuff) over to their bank when you set up your account. From that point on, you won’t be able to (easily) transfer money from the first bank again, as KEB should be the only bank you use to transfer. Although I’m sure that you could change your “transferring” bank back to the original, why would you want to?
KEB’s “easy-one” service is so simple, you can literally go to any ATM in town at a moment’s notice and transfer money from your first bank account into the KEB account and have it instantly sent home.
8. Make your first transfer
Immediately after setting up my KEB account, I walked over to my original bank and made a transfer to the KEB account. (Although it is possible to transfer funds from any ATM, I wanted to save a possible ATM fee – using a different card – and my bank was close anyway).
After my transfer, I turned, opened the door, stepped outside, and received a text message on my phone that told me the exact amount of US dollars I’d just sent home. Nice!
Any other bank advice?
What about you? Do you have any other bank advice in Korea? I’ve found that while I get paid at my first bank account, it doesn’t get any interest. Therefore, I went and opened another account (for receiving interest) at Honam Solomon Bank. Therefore, I now have 3 accounts -> one to receive my paycheck, one to “pay” myself with (and receive interest), and one to transfer money home with (KEB).
Do you have any other helpful advice for banking in Korea? If you’re interested in financial advice in Korea, I stumbled upon this website earlier. It seems pretty helpful. Good luck in Korea!