Hands down the BEST way to transfer money home from Korea

Originally posted on my first blog. This post is slightly modified and updated.

Want to transfer money home?

So, you want to transfer money home do you? You’ve really only got 3 options:

  1. Go to your “home” bank (set up by your school), fill out the paperwork (every time) and transfer money home.
  2. Set up online banking with your “home” bank, and transfer money online.
  3. Open a new account: Korea Exchange Bank (KEB)’s “easy-one”.

Problems:

  1. The problem with option 1 (in-person bank transfers) is that you’ll probably need to take a Korean friend with you every time to help translate.
  2. The problem with option 2 (online transfers) is that you’ll probably need help with the Korean language site AND you’ll be forced to use Internet Explorer every time.
  3. The problem with option 3 (KEB’s “easy-one”) is… well… nothing (beyond the initial account setup).

What is the “easy-one”?

KEB’s “easy-one” is “easy-one 외화송금전용통장” or “easy-one Foreign Currency Remittance Service” and it is specifically foreigner-friendly and targeted toward making bank transfers home a piece of cake. Here’s how it works:

  1. Setup the account.
  2. Step over to the ATM.
  3. Do an “Account Transfer” into this account.
  4. Step away from the ATM.
  5. Receive a text message saying “KEB has transferred XXX Won equaling XXX Dollars to your bank in America” a few minutes later.
  6. Receive an email message with the same message at the same time.

Simple.

Make an “Easy-One”

1. Locate the KEB

First of all, you need to locate the KEB 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 Dunkin Donuts). Or do a Daum Maps search for “외환은행”.

2. Investigate KEB’s services

KEB is specifically targeted toward foreigners and as such has many things that are very useful for non-Korean speakers including:

  1. The “easy-one Foreign Currency Remittance Service
  2. Specific accounts for expat banking
  3. GOOD English use (here’s the homepage)
  4. English Internet banking (here’s the guide for PC)
  5. A MAC specific application (you’ll need Java 1.5+)
  6. Android apps for mobile banking (many to choose from)
  7. iPhone apps for mobile banking (the same as Android)

3. Prepare your materials

In order to apply for a KEB account, you’ll need to gather the following materials and information:

  1. Your Foreigner Registration Card
  2. Your passport
  3. (Know) your address and phone number in Korea
  4. Transferring bank information (in your home country). This includes:
  5. –> Bank Account #
  6. –> Routing # and SWIFT Code (or BIC Code)
  7. –> Address of your bank in your home country
  8. –> 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 KEB reps speak passable English. 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

Go to KEB and ask for 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. Keep your first bank account, too

Of course, you’re going to want to keep the first bank account. Use that one for receiving your paycheck because ANYTHING that is transferred into this new KEB account gets automatically, instantly transferred to your bank abroad.

7. But, you’ll no longer be able to transfer money from that first account

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 (in any town) at a moment’s notice and transfer money home instantly.

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 by using my first bank’s ATM – and that bank was close by 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?

I did also stumble upon this “Expat Banking Guide” PDF from KEB that talks about all their services including things like credit cards. Check it out if you have the desire.