3 hidden costs Singaporean parents often forget about when sending the kids overseas for school

By Peter Lin

When I was a kid, there were only two reasons you went overseas to study. Either you were a high-flyer who had obtained an all-expenses paid scholarship to a prestigious college, or you were on the other end of the spectrum.

That is, your grades weren't good enough to go to university in Singapore, but thankfully, your parents could afford to send you overseas to get your degree.

Nowadays, parents are not only able to but more than willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for their children to get that overseas education and all the perks that come with it.

But did you know that overseas education often comes with hidden costs that you and your child may not have planned for?

We look at 3 unexpected situations which could result in you having to send large sums of money over to your child.

1. Medical fees - to cover illnesses and emergencies

Yes, international students all over the world ideally should have a sufficient amount of medical coverage even before they get on the plane.

However, while say a surgery required by a nasty accident may be sufficiently covered by the insurance, there are many medical situations which may not have been covered by the insurance, such as the physiotherapy sessions required after that same accident.

And what if your medical insurance doesn't sufficiently cover the cost of such illnesses or surgeries?

Don't forget that medical services may not be subsidised for international students, and that the cost of such services are often much higher than what Singaporeans are used to paying.

Medical insurance also probably won't cover things like new eyeglasses or contact lenses, or any dental procedure your child might suddenly require, like the extraction of an impacted wisdom tooth.

If any of these medical situations occurred in the middle of the school term, they are essentially emergencies, since they require immediate medical attention and cannot wait till your child is home for the holidays.

If any of these situations happens to your child, they may require you to send over money to pay for their medical bills.

2. Accommodation - what happens if you can't stay on campus?

Most of the time, students should be able to find accommodation on the university grounds.

Sometimes, for various reasons, your child may find it necessary to find private accommodation close to campus.

These alternative housing options may end up costing more than you budgeted for.

Not only will the rent be higher than university accommodation, but if there are any disputes or worse, if the unrealistically cheap private housing your child has paid for turns out to be a scam, you may find yourself having to transfer more money than budgeted, and possibly more regularly.

If your child is truly unlucky and ends up having to live some distance away from campus, and if there is no decent public transport to get to school each day, you may end up having to send them enough money to buy or lease a car for their transportation requirements.

3. Overseas money transfers - don't get caught by fees and other charges

Ironically, the first two hidden costs are the cause of this hidden cost.

When you are trying to send money to your child in order to pay for a medical emergency or for unexpected accommodation costs, you might not be too concerned with the fees that such an overseas money transfer can include.

Not only do banks charge at least $30 per transaction, depending on the amount you're transferring, it will also often use an exchange rate that is not beneficial to the customer.

This is because, if you're desperate to send money over, you'll presumably not care about the poor exchange rate.

However, a personalised money transfer service like World First not only waives any cable fees and handling commissions, but they are also able to offer a better exchange rate than most banks.

Can we trust World First? I've never heard of them before.

World First may not have been around since you were a kid unlike our local banks, but they've been around since 2004, with over 111,000 customers all over the world, and they process over 1,500 transactions daily.

In Singapore, they are regulated by MAS and are required to hold a minimum paid up capital of S$1,000,000 to safeguard customers.

So needless to say, they're pretty safe.

In addition, World First uses a website called FeeFo that links actual transactions to customer feedback.

As of today they have a 98 per cent Customer approval rating, the highest of any companies in their sector.

In fact, they pride themselves on their customer service and will answer the phone in 3 rings!

Anyone who has had to suffer through the inane automated answering machine many banks use will know this isn't a small matter.

Once you are registered with them, you'll then be assigned a dedicated dealer to help you out with whatever you need, instead of going through the regular merry-go-round with banks.

This article was first published over at MoneySmart blog on 21 May 2017. It is reproduced with permission.

About The Author (Peter Lin)

I am the poster boy for reinventing one's self. I've been a broadcast journalist, a technical writer, a banking customer service officer and a Catholic friar. My life experiences have made me the most cynical idealist you'll ever meet, which is why I'm also the co-founder of a local pop culture website. I believe ignorance is not bliss, and that money is the root of all evil only if you allow it to be.


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