How to send money to Malaysians stranded overseas

Finance

Due to international travel restrictions being enforced worldwide, many Malaysians are still not able to return back to Malaysia.

Some who are studying or working overseas with valid visa/permit who scheduled travel back have to cancel their plans. This also caused many to be stranded overseas with money quickly running out.

What is the best way/method to send money to Malaysians who are overseas and unable to return?

I would start with the least preferable way and then work down towards the best method. I would also go through the pros and cons of each method.

Before I start, just a caution. As much as you can, do NOT withdraw via credit card as the charges are very high (second to only Ah Long, aka loan shark rates). Anyone who withdraw via their credit card will get charged with cash advance fee (1 time charge based on percentage of withdrawal) AND daily interest (usually 18% per annum). The daily interest runs from the day of withdrawal till the day the full settlement is made. And do note if example you already owed the card in RM5000 previously and now attempt to withdraw RM3k, in order for the interest to stop running, you need to pay everything, RM8k plus charges and up to the day’s running interest in order to clear your cash balance and stop the interest from running. If you only top up RM3k, the daily interest from cash advance does not get deducted because usually your payment would first offset older balances and bank charges first.

1. Direct withdrawal from overseas ATM machine using the Malaysian DEBIT card.

Debit card, is card where funds are deducted from a person’s Savings or Checking account. The person can use the debit card for cash withdrawal or to sign a purchase (just like a credit card). The funds deducted would be from the person’s own money so you do not much additional charges. Exception is if the person got the debit card from an overdraft account using FD or mortgage as a collateral in which in this case daily interest would be charged as well.

You can bank in funds into the person’s banking account so that the person is able to withdraw directly from any oversea ATM machine that have the Visa/ MasterCard facility (most ATM worldwide should have the facility).

But before you do so, there is one thing you need to check- can the person withdraw from overseas using Debit Card? This is because there is a local regulation that overseas withdrawal from Debit Card are not enabled by default. This means the Debit cardholder need to specify to their bank to have that facility enabled or else the Debit card cannot be used overseas for purchases or withdrawals. Some banks allow the activation to be done via phone call, some via online banking as well. However, I do know of a bank in Malaysia (old fashioned) that still requires the person to go to its ATM machine to activate the facilities.

Hence, if the person has not enabled the service before travelling, and/or do not have online banking access, chances are the person would not be able to withdraw the money you have deposited to their bank accounts. Because even though their Debit card may have a Visa or MasterCard logo, if it is not being enabled, they cannot withdraw from overseas due to security reasons. I am not sure if the regulation has been loosen in line with so many Malaysians being stranded overseas.

Pros of withdrawing directly from ATM overseas:

  • Money is available immediately

Cons:

  • High charges because both the Malaysian account and the bank (of the oversea ATM machine) would charge fees per withdrawal. Fees is per withdrawal so it is the same fee if per withdrawal is equivalent of RM200 or RM2000. The exchange rate usually follows the Visa/MasterCard international exchange rate which is not the best rate
  • If the person need a lot of money, this method is expensive because it is charged per withdrawal. ATM machine have a maximum amount per withdrawal due to the total number of notes that the machine is able to dispense out
  • Do note that most cases, any ATM machine will retain the card if the wrong ATM pin is keyed in wrongly for 3 consecutive time. Do note that retained ATM/Debit/Credit cards are usually destroyed by the bank- as far as I know they cannot return back the card to owner even though the passport and identification document can be shown because the bank is not able to really verify those document since the person is not the account holder.

2. Wire Transfer (applicable if the person have bank account in that country)

You can perform a wire or telegraphic transfer directly to the person if he/she has a bank account overseas. Do note that overseas bank will not open bank account for tourists. This is more applicable if the Malaysian is either studying/ working/ staying overseas on long term visa or permit.

Nowadays, you can initiate the transfer to an oversea bank account via your bank’s online banking. Most banks do not need you to go to the bank counter to do these transactions anymore.

Pros:

  • Money credited straight to the bank account overseas and the person need not go to collect the funds.
  • Can send bigger amount, but usually it is capped to RM10k per day.

Cons:

  • Funds are not credited immediately. In past it used to take 4 or 5days. However processing has been more efficient as I have heard funds took as quickly as one day to be credited to recipient account (for accounts in Singapore and Thailand)
  • Fees and charges are higher. When funds are sent overseas, it goes through agent banks if the sender or recipient banks does not act as agent banks. This means charges are deducted up to 4 times due to: i) Charges by your bank for sending you the funds, ii) Charges by agent bank where your bank need to route the funds to be wired overseas, iii) Charges by the receiving oversea agent bank AND iv) Charges by the receiving bank before they credit the funds into recipient accounts. Everyone gets a cut of out of the amount. That explains why by the time the recipient receives the funds, the amount is very much reduced.

Information you would need for remitting the funds overseas:

  • Name of recipient as per bank account
  • Recipient bank account number
  • Name of the bank
  • Branch code
  • Address of the branch
  • SWIFT Code (for transfer to Europe, then IBAN and ABA routing code)
  • Contact number of recipient
  • Reason for transfer

Some banks may require additional information such as:

  • Recipient’s passport number or ID number (recipient need to follow the passport number as per their bank records)
  • Recipient’s permanent address in that country
  • Your relationship with the recipient

3. Western Union (WU) *recommended within Asia*

You can utilize the facility of Western Union to send money to overseas. If you have a Maybank2u online banking access (most Malaysians I know have a Maybank account), you can even send via Western Union anytime at your convenience without requiring to go to the bank or a WU agent. I recommend using this method to send if Western Union services are available in the recipient’s country.

Note: If you are sending from Malaysia, I was told the charges are reasonable if recipient is in South East Asia however it would be expensive if the recipient is in Europe or US. Please check and confirm the charges before sending.

This method was shared by a friend of mine whose sister was stranded in Myanmar due to the covid19 pandemic and unable to return.  My friend, who was also overseas that time, logged into her Malaysian Maybank2u online banking and did a Western Union transfer via online. The transfer was immediate and her sister was able to collect the funds on the spot. Her sister is still in Myanmar and now did the WU on her own (she also have a Maybank2u account) and she would collect the money from Myanmar directly.

I have a friend who was in Thailand and unable to return. Her friend also initiated Western Union to her via Maybank2u. WU is largely available in Thailand- she was able to collect the money from Bangkok Bank outlets as well as any local post office in Thailand.

Do note the maximum amount allowed is RM10k per day inclusive of charges. That means you cannot send RM10k exactly- you need to send slightly lesser so that after adding the charges, the total comes out to less than RM10k.

Pros:

  • Funds are available almost immediately (not more than 10 to 15 minutes)
  • WU agents are available extensively worldwide (however please get the recipient to check first)
  • With Maybank2u, you are able to determine the amount the recipient would get. That means if you are sending USD1000, the recipient will get the exact amount (unlike wire transfer which charges would be usually deducted from the funds). Service charges can be deducted separately.
  • If you are using Maybank2u, you can check the status of collection online (so you would know if recipient has received the funds)

Cons:

  • Recipient need to be physically present to fill up the forms and produce the correct information specified by the sender before they are able to receive the funds.
  • Information need to be filled up correctly. If not, the recipient will not be able to collect the funds (same for wire transfer)
  • Need to go during operating hours of the WU agent (if the agent is a bank, recipient may try going to the bank located in shopping complexes as they may be opened on weekends as well)

Information required (for Maybank2u online):

  • Name of recipient as per Malaysian passport
  • Address of recipient in that country
  • Birthday of recipient
  • Relationship with the recipient
  • Reason of sending the money

These usual information may be required as well (even though my friend said it was not being asked):

  • Passport number (recipient will be collecting money with his/her passport and not with NRIC because passport is the accepted identification document worldwide)

After the transfer is successful, the sender would be provided with the MTCN number. The sender needs to provide the following information to the recipient. The receiving agent would usually require the following information to be provided when filling the form:

  • The MTCN number
  • The amount (either in the sender’s currency or the receiving currency)
  • Name of sender
  • Address of the sender
  • Contact number of the sender
  • Reason for receiving the funds (ie pay for medical bills, for living expenses)
  • Relationship with the sender (eg friends, family member, employee)
  • Preferable to get sender to send over the recipient of the transfer in case the agent ask for it

The recipient can then need to go to the WU agent, fill up the standard WU Receive Money form (to include the information above) and present the passport for identification.

Final tip:

Sometimes you can also get useful information if you are friends with foreign workers especially if you are sending funds to their destination country. For example, my friend had wanted to remit funds to his maid’s family in Indonesia. He actually asked around and the foreign workers recommended that he goes to money changers located in Sg Way (we stay in Petaling Jaya) who are agents for common receiving agents in that country where the charges are lower. He paid about RM8 for the service charge and the funds were transferred immediately. In Kuala Lumpur, there are a lot of similar shops located along Chow Kit (Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman) and Petaling Street (KL Chinatown) where foreign workers used to remit funds back to their countries like Nepal, Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar and India. But then….if you are going to commute to that area with cash (these areas are impossible to find parking), you need to think about safety, time and effort.

Conclusion:

The information above is also useful for Malaysians to plan if they wish to relocate overseas either on temporary or permanent basis.

Due to the current travel restrictions, sending and receiving money worldwide has been made more convenient and hassle free. Hopefully the information above would be helpful as either me or/and my friends have experience using these methods of transfer.

 

 

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