One of the most important things I researched before coming to Korea was how I was going to pay my student loans every month from abroad. I found the solution… though slightly complicated. It didn’t work out the way I wanted it to at first, but eventually it all got sorted out.
Thanks to another EPIK teacher’s blog (sorry I don’t remember specifically so I can’t link it), I found out that when using Citi Bank both in Korea and the US there is no wire transfer fee.
1. Open a US Citi Bank Account before leaving the US
I did not have a Citi Bank account, so I needed to set one up before I left the country. I went to a local bank and a really nice man helped me set up the best account for my needs.
We settled on an Access Checking Account. As long as I do one of the following each month, I do not have to pay the $10 monthly maintenance fees:
1) Pay 1 bill (this includes my student loan payments)
2) Maintain $1,500 in the account
3) 1 direct deposit
2. Open a bank account in Korea
Your school will probably suggest a bank for you to open an account with. In Busan it’s Busan Bank. I chose not to go with Busan Bank (because it’s TERRIBLE) and picked a different one recommended by other foreigners online.
KEB Hana has a good reputation for its extensive English services and perks for foreigners. Korean banks charge service fees for things like using ATMs after hours (even their own!) and transfers. KEB’s ‘EasyOne for Foreigners’ does not charge any service fees for withdrawing cash after hours, using other ATMs, or transferring money to accounts with other banks. I have been charged for using another bank’s ATM to make a transfer though. Additionally, ATMS not connected to banks (like at the train station, for example) will charge you. My Korean coteachers were amazed that I don’t need to pay any fees like them.
There’s one negative aspect for not going with your school’s bank: Because I didn’t go with Busan Bank, my school isn’t able to automatically take out the fees for my school lunch from my paycheck. Therefore, each month after I receive my paycheck I have to transfer the lunch fee for that month back to my school. This really isn’t a big deal though. It is very easy to transfer them the money either at an ATM or internet banking.
Make sure that with whatever bank you choose, you set up internet banking. It’s a HUGE pain to do, but it will save a lot of time to be able to bank from you school computer rather than going to the actual bank.
3. Try to Open a Korean Citi Bank Account…If They Let You
As of 2016, US Citi Bank and Korea Citi Bank are not directly connected. According to the man I spoke with at the US Citi Bank branch, they are hoping to have all international Citi Banks connected within the next 5 years. That way, you will only need one account and can handle all banking needs in any country. That will be amazing if they do it!
Until then, you need the second Citi Bank account in Korea.
What you need:
-Your American Citi Bank account number
-Money you want to transfer
My managing coteacher and I made two separate trips to Citi Bank. The first time I was told that I needed to have the money I was going to transfer with me because I needed to do the first transfer at the bank at the same time as opening the account. Because I hadn’t been paid yet, this wasn’t possible.
So, we returned a couple weeks later after I got my first paycheck. Initially, no problems. Then they realized that I had only been in Korea for 1 month. This is when they told me that I cannot open a Citi Bank Korea account until I had been in the country for 6 months.
Meanwhile, another EPIK teacher friend in Busan had no problems setting up the Citi Bank account at a different branch. Because I didn’t want to bother my coteacher anymore with this craziness of driving all over the city, we opted for a different option.
**If you succeeded in opening a Citi Bank account, skip the next 2 steps.
4. Open a KEB Hana Remittance Account (or the bank your school makes you choose)
Since I aleady had a KEB account, I decided to use them for the first 6 months. KEB Hana has something called a Remittance Account. This is a second account connects directly to an overseas account for easy money wiring. Basically, whatever you transfer into this account automatically gets dumped into the connected American account.
The downside….the fee is ₩15,000 each time. Additionally, Citi Bank charged me another $15 to accept the wire transfer. It sucked! To tried to save a few bucks each month by only transferring money home once every two months.
What you need:
-American bank account number, address, swift code, and ABA code
-Money you want to transfer
5. Open a Citi Bank Korea Account (for real)
Once I hit the 6 month mark at the end of February, I went back to Citi Bank to try and open the account. (If I planned on staying for only 1 year I probably wouldn’t have bothered with this). We were there for almost 4 hours, but I finally got the account! They did the first transfer for me right there at the bank.
6. Send Money to American Account
Once you have both Citi accounts set up, you can link them on the Korea Citi Bank website and transfer money between them at no extra cost.
The extra step is that you first need to transfer the money from your main Korean bank account (where your school deposits your money) to the Citi account.