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Singapore spends S$2b in hidden FX fees yearly: TransferWise study

OUT of S$2.8 billion in foreign exchange (FX) fees paid by Singapore annually, 71 per cent or S$2 billion is hidden in exchange rate mark-ups, a new study commissioned by TransferWise has found.

The study also found that individual consumers pay on average, 15 times what companies pay in FX fees per dollar remitted, TransferWise said. This is despite individuals making up only 5 per cent or S$46 billion of total volume of money flow. Companies meanwhile, make up around S$880 billion or 95 per cent of estimated total FX volume.

In terms of estimated total FX fees on how much is paid to send money to and from Singapore, the study found that companies pay S$1.6 billion or 56.8 per cent in fees, while individuals spend about S$1.2 billion, or 43.2 per cent in fees.

By conversion type, individuals spend the most in remittances to Singapore, paying an estimated 6.68 per cent in fees out of the volume of money sent. Remittance from Singapore saw individuals pay an estimated 5.65 per cent in FX fees, while consumers spending abroad paid around 1.51 per cent in FX fees.

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In contrast, companies paid about 0.16 per cent in fees out of the volume of money sent for trade in goods and services, and around 2.11 per cent fees for investment earnings abroad that were moved back to Singapore.

The study was completed in November 2018 and did not estimate fees for trading activity by FX dealers. Data was drawn from datasets or studies by Statistics Singapore, World Bank, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, United Nations, International Monetary Fund, commercial banks in Singapore, Refinitiv (formerly Thomson Reuters), KPMG, academic studies and surveys commissioned by TransferWise.