International money transfer

What is remittance: Money across borders

Apr 05, 2024

In today's interconnected world, the flow of money across borders has become a pivotal aspect of global finance. One of the key components of this cross-border financial landscape is remittance.

There are many intricacies of remittance that a business must explore such as its meaning, significance, and evolving dynamics in the realm of international financial transactions to make sure that they are making the best financial decisions when it comes to paying or receiving money from abroad.

What is a remittance: Meaning explained

Remittance, in essence, refers to the transfer of money from one individual or entity to another across geographical boundaries. This financial practice serves as a lifeline for families and businesses, facilitating the movement of funds between countries.

Whether driven by familial support, business transactions, or financial investments, remittances play a crucial role in fostering economic ties on a global scale.

As we delve into the nuances of remittance, it's imperative to understand the diverse motivations behind such transactions. From migrant workers sending earnings back to their families in their home countries to businesses conducting cross-border trade, the spectrum of remittance purposes is broad and multifaceted.

Remittance can be performed through various methods including transfers through banks and other financial institutions. It can be done in person in a branch office or through online mediums. 

Apart from the dictionary definition of remittance, there is more to explore about this term including the mechanisms, challenges, and transformative impact of remittances on both individuals and the broader global economic landscape.

What are the benefits of remittances?

Remittance transfer of funds offers a myriad of advantages that significantly impact the global business landscape. In this section, we will delve into the key benefits of remittances from a business perspective, unraveling the intricate ways in which these financial transactions contribute to economic growth and stability.

Access to global markets

Remittances serve as a financial conduit, empowering businesses to transcend borders and access global markets. The infusion of funds allows enterprises to invest in market research, adapt to diverse consumer preferences, and strategically position themselves in international markets.

This financial flexibility is instrumental in navigating the complexities of cross-border commerce, fostering a dynamic business environment.

Global trade facilitation

Remittance is an enabler of international transactions. They play a crucial role in global trade facilitation. The seamless transfer of funds ensures that businesses can engage in cross-border trade with minimal friction.

This, in turn, promotes collaboration between businesses from different parts of the world, fostering a network of interconnected trade relationships. This helps companies develop and make further connections to expand their business.

Supply chain efficiency

The impact of remittances on supply chain efficiency is profound. Businesses, armed with a reliable source of financial support, can optimize their supply chain processes.

This optimization includes streamlining logistics, reducing lead times, and enhancing overall operational efficiency, ultimately contributing to a more agile and responsive supply chain.

Access to high-end products

Remittances empower businesses to access high-end products and services on a global scale. The financial influx opens doors for technological advancements, innovation, and the adoption of premium goods that might have been financially challenging without this support.

This not only elevates the quality of products but also positions businesses competitively in the global market.

Currency stability

From a business perspective, remittances play a crucial role in ensuring currency stability. The consistent inflow of funds provides a buffer against volatile exchange rates.

This stability not only reduces the risks associated with currency fluctuations but also facilitates more accurate prediction of transaction costs, easing the burden of financial planning and enhancing long-term strategic decision-making.

Cost-effective vendor sourcing

Remittances enable businesses to engage in cost-effective vendor sourcing. With a reliable source of funds, enterprises can negotiate favorable deals with suppliers, explore new partnerships, and implement efficient procurement strategies.

This financial advantage contributes to overall cost savings and enhances the competitiveness of businesses in the global marketplace.

Increase in spending power

Beyond the corporate realm, remittances empower individuals and businesses by increasing their spending power. The injection of funds into the economy stimulates consumption, driving economic growth.

This heightened spending power creates a positive ripple effect, benefiting businesses across various sectors as consumer demand surges.

Strengthened supplier relationships

Financial stability provided by remittances lays the foundation for stronger supplier relationships. Businesses, armed with a consistent flow of funds, can establish trust, reliability, and mutually beneficial partnerships with suppliers.

These strengthened relationships contribute to the overall resilience of the supply chain, ensuring a steady and dependable flow of goods and services.

Enhanced liquidity

Remittances inject much-needed liquidity into the business ecosystem. This financial infusion provides businesses with the necessary capital to navigate unforeseen challenges, seize emerging opportunities, and maintain a robust financial standing.

Enhanced liquidity serves as a buffer, enabling businesses to weather economic uncertainties and adapt to dynamic market conditions.

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What are the types of remittances with examples?

Remittances come in various forms, each serving distinct purposes in the global financial landscape.

Let's explore two primary types:

Inward remittances

Inward remittances encompass the transfer of funds into a specific country. These transactions are often driven by personal or familial obligations, with individuals sending money to support family members residing in their home country.

For example, a migrant worker in Singapore wiring a portion of their earnings back to their family in the Philippines demonstrates the essence of inward remittances. Similarly, international businesses receiving payments from their clients located abroad also fall under this category.

In a broader context, inward remittances contribute significantly to the recipient country's economy by bolstering household income, supporting local businesses, and sometimes even serving as a crucial source of foreign exchange reserves.

Outward remittances

On the flip side, outward remittances involve the movement of funds from one country to another. This type of remittance is often associated with business transactions, investments, or the movement of profits across borders.

For instance, a Singaporean business making payments to an overseas supplier for raw materials or finished goods engages in outward remittances. Similarly, an individual based in Singapore investing in foreign stocks or real estate constitutes an outward remittance.

Multinational corporations also partake in outward remittances when repatriating profits earned by their overseas subsidiaries back to the company's headquarters. This process helps consolidate financial resources, facilitate international business operations, and optimize the allocation of funds within a global corporate structure.

What is the importance of remittances in the global economy?

Money remittances stand as a linchpin in the fabric of the global economy, influencing various facets of economic dynamics.

This section explores the multifaceted importance of remittances, shedding light on how these financial transactions contribute to economic growth, support the global workforce, fuel investments, foster interdependence, fortify trade relations, and embody corporate social responsibility.

Economic growth and development

Remittances play a pivotal role in driving economic growth and development, particularly in recipient countries. The infusion of funds into local economies bolsters household incomes, enabling families to invest in education, healthcare, and small businesses.

This, in turn, creates a positive ripple effect, contributing to overall economic prosperity and uplifting communities.

Global workforce support

For many families, especially in developing nations, remittances serve as a crucial lifeline. Migrant workers, dispersed across the globe, send money back to their home countries, supporting their families financially.

This support not only addresses immediate financial needs but also contributes to the overall well-being and stability of the global workforce.

Investment and capital

Remittances act as a source of investment and capital for both individuals and businesses. Families receiving remittances may channel these funds into savings, real estate, or entrepreneurial ventures.

On a broader scale, businesses utilize remittances for investment purposes, driving innovation, expansion, and overall economic resilience.

Global economic interdependence

The interconnectivity of economies is heightened by the role of remittances. As individuals and businesses engage in cross-border financial transactions, a web of economic interdependence is woven.

This interdependence fosters collaboration, shared interests, and a sense of global economic unity, transcending geographical boundaries.

Global trade relations

Remittances contribute significantly to fostering and strengthening global trade relations. The financial connectivity established through remittance transactions facilitates international trade, enabling businesses to engage in cross-border transactions with greater ease.

This, in turn, promotes economic cooperation, diversification of markets, and the creation of a more resilient global trade network.

Corporate social responsibility

Businesses engaging in remittance transactions often demonstrate corporate social responsibility (CSR). Whether through supporting the financial well-being of their international workforce or contributing to community development in recipient countries, companies play a role in social and economic sustainability.

This form of CSR goes beyond profit-making, embodying a commitment to the well-being of the global community.

What does Singapore’s remittance market look like?

The remittance market in Singapore reflects the city-state's dynamic and globally connected financial landscape. Renowned for its robust financial sector, Singapore serves as a hub for international transactions, including remittances.

Here's an exploration of key metrics of Singapore's remittance market by allied market research:

The remittance market in Singapore, with a volume of $8,056.63 million in 2022, is anticipated to attain a projected value of $13,348.60 million by 2032. This represents a growth at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 5.2% from 2023 to 2032.

Additionally, the market's initial value of $528.04 million in 2022 is expected to ascend to $836.76 million by 2032, demonstrating a CAGR of 3.7% during the same period.

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What are the limitations of remittances?

While remittances serve as a vital financial lifeline, certain limitations accompany these cross-border transactions.

This section delves into the challenges that individuals and businesses may encounter, ranging from regulatory compliance hurdles to technological integration challenges, shedding light on the complexities inherent in the remittance landscape.

Regulatory compliance

Remittance service providers grapple with a complex regulatory landscape, navigating varying compliance standards across different jurisdictions. Meeting stringent anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) requirements demands significant resources, impacting operational efficiency.

The intricacies of compliance may also result in delays and increased costs, affecting the overall effectiveness of remittance services. These compliances are mandatory and cannot be bypassed. So remittance service providers must figure out ways to make this process as efficient as possible so that the end customer is not affected by it.

Fraud and security concerns

As money traverses international channels, the risk of fraud and security breaches looms large. From cyber threats to unauthorized access, remittance transactions face ongoing challenges in safeguarding the integrity of financial systems.

The need for robust cybersecurity measures and fraud prevention mechanisms becomes paramount to instill confidence among both service providers and users. Sometimes even with the most secure and robust systems, fraudulent activities might still occur.

This is why customers using remittance services must choose their service providers carefully by judging their reputation and seeing market reviews.

Technological integration challenges

While technological advancements offer opportunities for efficiency, the integration of these innovations into remittance services presents challenges. Ensuring seamless connectivity, addressing interoperability issues, and safeguarding data privacy require ongoing efforts.

The pace of technological adoption may vary, leading to a fragmented landscape that hinders the widespread implementation of advanced solutions.

Transaction processing time

Remittance transactions often grapple with extended processing times, impacting the timely transfer of funds. Intermediary banks, differing time zones, and varying processing speeds contribute to delays.

The prolonged duration of transactions affects the immediate financial support that remittance recipients rely on, emphasizing the need for streamlined and expedited processing mechanisms.

Risk of currency fluctuations

The volatility of exchange rates introduces an inherent risk to remittance transactions. Currency fluctuations between the initiation and completion of a transaction can result in significant variations in the value of transferred funds.

This poses challenges for both senders and recipients, impacting the predictability and stability of cross-border financial dealings.

High transaction costs

Remittance services entail transaction costs, including fees charged by service providers and potential currency conversion expenses. High transaction costs can significantly reduce the amount received by recipients, undermining the intended financial impact of remittances.

Striking a balance between service fees and affordability remains a critical consideration for both providers and users.

Limited accessibility

Despite strides in enhancing financial inclusion, accessibility to remittance services remains constrained in certain regions. Remote areas may lack the necessary infrastructure, and regulatory barriers may impede the seamless flow of funds.

Addressing these accessibility challenges is pivotal to ensuring that the economic benefits of remittances reach even the most underserved communities.

How does the money travel during a remittance fund transfer?

Understanding the journey of money during a remittance fund transfer unveils the intricate process that ensures the seamless flow of funds across borders. From initiation to confirmation, each step involves a series of transactions and validations to guarantee the secure and efficient transfer of funds.

1. Payment initiated by the sender/remitter

The remittance journey begins with the sender or remitter initiating the payment. This typically involves the remitter providing essential details such as the recipient's name, contact information, and the intended amount to be transferred.

This information is submitted to the chosen remittance service provider, which could be a bank, a money transfer operator, or a fintech platform.

2. Remittance advice is generated

Once the payment initiation is complete, a remittance advice is generated. This document serves as a comprehensive record of the transaction, containing crucial details such as transaction reference numbers, fees associated with the transfer, and any specific instructions provided by the sender.

The remittance advice acts as a point of reference for both the sender and the service provider throughout the transfer process.

3. Remittance is processed by the sender agent

The sender agent, often a bank or a dedicated remittance service provider, takes charge of processing the remittance.

This involves thorough verification of the sender's details, compliance checks to ensure adherence to regulatory requirements, and the facilitation of the transfer to the next stage in the remittance journey.

4. The amount is transferred to the intermediary bank

In many international remittance transactions, funds pass through an intermediary bank.

The sender agent transfers the specified amount to this intermediary financial institution, which acts as a conduit between the sender's and the recipient's banks. This step is crucial for facilitating the smooth transfer of funds across borders.

5. Currency is converted at predetermined rates

If the sender and recipient deal in different currencies, the intermediary bank or the remittance service provider converts the currency at predetermined exchange rates.

This ensures that the recipient receives the equivalent value in their local currency, taking into account the current exchange rates and any applicable fees associated with the currency conversion.

6. Remittance delivered to the receiver

Post currency conversion, the remittance is delivered to the receiver's bank or the designated financial institution.

The funds become accessible to the recipient, marking the successful completion of the remittance process. The recipient can then access the transferred amount through their bank account or other agreed-upon channels.

7. Confirmation sent to sender and receiver

To provide transparency and assurance to both parties, confirmations are sent. These communications detail the successful transfer, including the amount received by the recipient, any applicable fees deducted during the process, and other pertinent information.

The confirmations serve as a means to keep both the sender and the receiver informed about the status of the transaction, ensuring clarity and building trust in the remittance process.

What are the payment methods for the transfer of remittance money?

The transfer of remittance money involves a variety of payment methods catering to the diverse preferences and needs of senders and recipients. From electronic funds transfers to traditional instruments like money orders and cheques, each method offers a distinct set of features.

Let's explore the primary payment methods facilitating the global movement of remittance funds.

1. Electronic funds transfers(EFT)

Electronic funds transfers (EFT) refer to the electronic movement of money from one bank account to another. This method of financial transaction utilizes computer-based systems and technology to facilitate the transfer of funds, eliminating the need for physical currency or paper documents.

EFTs encompass various electronic payment methods, including wire transfers, ACH, credit cards, and prepaid cards.

 Wire transfers

Wire transfers stand as a cornerstone of international remittances, involving the direct electronic transfer of funds from one bank to another. This method ensures swift and secure transactions, making it a preferred choice for individuals and businesses engaged in cross-border financial dealings.

Wire transfers provide an efficient means of moving significant amounts of money, with funds typically reaching the recipient promptly.

 Automated clearing house (ACH)

Automated clearing house (ACH) system facilitates the electronic transfer of funds between banks within a specific country. While commonly used for domestic remittances, ACH offers a cost-effective and automated solution for transferring money.

This method is characterized by its efficiency and reliability, contributing to the seamless movement of funds in regional or national contexts.

 Credit cards

Credit cards offer a convenient and widely accepted option for remittance transfers. Users can initiate transactions online or in person, leveraging the credit card network for seamless and instantaneous fund transfers.

Credit card payments are particularly useful for smaller remittance amounts, although users should be aware of associated fees and potential interest rates.

 Prepaid cards

Prepaid cards have gained popularity as a flexible and secure means of remittance. Users load funds onto a prepaid card, which can then be used for transactions. This method is especially beneficial for individuals without traditional banking access, providing them with a tool for financial inclusion and convenient money management.

2. Money orders

Money orders serve as a traditional and widely accepted method for remittance. Issued by financial institutions or postal services, money orders offer a tangible form of payment.

Recipients can cash or deposit the amount specified on the document, providing a reliable and traceable way of transferring funds.

3. Cheques

While less common in the digital age, cheques continue to be utilized for remittances. Senders write a cheque payable to the recipient, who can then deposit or cash it at their bank.

However, the processing time and potential fees associated with cheques make them less preferred, especially for international remittances where faster and more efficient alternatives are often available.

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How is a remittance transfer different from a bank transfer?

Distinguishing between a remittance transfer and a bank transfer involves understanding key nuances that impact the sender and recipient.

From their meanings to transfer speed, transaction fees, and the mode of deposit, each method serves unique purposes in the realm of financial transactions.


A remittance transfer refers specifically to the movement of funds across borders, often centered around individuals sending money to family members or loved ones in another country. It carries a personal and often familial context, emphasizing the support provided by individuals working abroad to their families back home.

On the other hand, a bank transfer encompasses a broader spectrum of financial transactions. It includes domestic transfers between accounts, wire transfers, bill payments, and various banking services beyond the cross-border context.

Transfer speed

Remittance transfers are engineered for prompt fund delivery, particularly crucial when supporting families or meeting immediate financial needs. The design of remittance services prioritizes efficiency and speed, ensuring that funds reach the recipient swiftly.

In contrast, bank transfers may vary in processing times. While some electronic transfers within the same bank can be instantaneous, others, especially international wire transfers, may take longer due to intermediary banks and additional processing steps.

Transaction fees

Remittance transfers may have distinct fee structures influenced by factors such as the remittance service provider, the destination country, and the amount transferred. These fees can vary widely, and some providers may offer competitive rates or even fee-free options for certain transactions.

On the other hand, bank transfers also involve fees, but the structures differ based on the type of transfer and the relationship between the sender and the bank. Account holders may experience varying fee structures compared to non-account holders.

Mode of deposit

In remittance transfers, the funds are typically deposited into the recipient's bank account, mobile wallet, or made available for cash pickup, depending on the service provider and recipient's preferences.

This flexibility caters to the diverse financial landscapes in recipient countries. In contrast, bank transfers encompass a broader spectrum of modes of deposit. They include direct account-to-account transfers within the same bank, wire transfers, and various electronic transactions within the banking system, providing versatility for different financial needs.

Are remittances taxed?

Remittances, in themselves, are not typically subject to taxation. They represent the transfer of funds from one individual to another, often for personal or familial support. However, it's crucial to distinguish between the act of remitting money and the potential tax implications that may arise from certain aspects of the transaction.

In many countries, remittances sent for personal purposes, such as supporting family members or friends, are generally not taxed. These transactions are viewed as private financial arrangements between individuals.

The focus of taxation typically shifts to the income or earnings of the sender, which may be subject to taxation based on the laws of the sender's home country.

In the context of Singapore, a global financial hub, remittances are generally not taxed. Singapore adopts a territorial tax system, which means that only income earned within the country's borders is subject to taxation. Therefore, funds sent internationally as remittances by individuals working in Singapore are typically not taxed by the Singaporean government.

However, it's crucial for individuals to be aware of the tax regulations in both the sending and receiving countries. Some countries may impose taxes on income earned abroad, and individuals should comply with the tax laws of their respective jurisdictions.

Additionally, considerations such as gift taxes or inheritance taxes may apply in certain situations, depending on the nature and purpose of the remittance.

In summary, while remittances themselves are generally not taxed, individuals should remain vigilant about potential tax obligations related to their overall financial situation and comply with the tax laws of both the sending and receiving countries. In the context of Singapore, the country's tax policies typically do not impose taxes on funds sent as remittances.

What are the fees involved in a remittance transaction?

Understanding the fees associated with a remittance transaction is crucial for individuals seeking to send money across borders. While various factors influence the overall cost, specific fees contribute to the total expense.

Exploring these fees provides clarity and empowers individuals to make informed decisions when choosing remittance services.

1. Transfer/handling fee

Remittance service providers commonly charge a transfer or handling fee, representing the cost of facilitating the movement of funds from the sender to the recipient. This fee accounts for the operational expenses incurred by the service provider in ensuring the secure and timely processing of the remittance transaction.

The amount of this fee can vary among different providers and is often influenced by factors such as the transfer amount, destination country, and the chosen delivery method.

2. Exchange rate margin

The exchange rate margin plays a crucial role in determining the cost of remittance. It refers to the difference between the interbank exchange rate (the rate at which banks exchange currencies) and the rate offered to customers by the remittance service provider.

Providers may incorporate a margin into the exchange rate, and this difference contributes to the overall cost borne by the sender. Being mindful of exchange rate margins is essential for understanding the true value of the remittance.

3. Recipient fees

In certain instances, the recipient of the remitted funds may incur fees upon receiving the money. These recipient fees can vary based on several factors, including the recipient's location, the chosen method of receiving the funds (such as bank deposit, cash pickup, or mobile wallet), and the policies of the receiving institution or service.

Recipients should be aware of these fees to accurately assess the amount they will ultimately receive.

4. Additional bank charges

Throughout the journey of the remittance, the funds may pass through intermediary banks or financial institutions. These intermediaries may impose additional charges, contributing to the overall cost of the transaction.

The exact nature and amount of these additional bank charges can vary, and they are typically deducted as the funds traverse various banking channels during the international transfer.

For a complete breakdown of international money transfer charges in Singapore, check out our guide: Guide to international money transfer charges in Singapore

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What is the role of fintech in remittance?

Fintech (Financial Technology) has revolutionized the landscape of remittance, enhancing the efficiency, accessibility, and affordability of cross-border money transfers.

Fintech platforms leverage digital innovations, including mobile apps, online platforms, and blockchain technology, streamlining the entire remittance process. By providing user-friendly interfaces, real-time tracking, and competitive exchange rates, fintech solutions have significantly reduced transaction costs and processing times. 

These platforms empower individuals to send and receive funds with unprecedented speed and convenience, promoting financial inclusion and enabling seamless cross-border transactions.

Fintech's disruptive influence in the remittance sector exemplifies its capacity to reshape traditional financial services, making international money transfers more accessible and customer-centric.

Who are the key fintech players in the remittance industry in Singapore?

Singapore, a hub of financial innovation, hosts several key fintech players reshaping the remittance industry.

These companies leverage cutting-edge technology to offer efficient and cost-effective cross-border money transfer solutions.

1. Volopay

Volopay provides businesses with comprehensive financial solutions, including streamlined remittance services. Its platform facilitates cross-border transactions with transparency and efficiency, catering to the financial needs of businesses operating internationally.

2. Aspire

Aspire focuses on empowering small businesses by offering seamless financial services, including international money transfers. Its user-friendly platform simplifies the remittance process, providing businesses with efficient and cost-effective solutions.

3. Airwallex

Airwallex specializes in cross-border payments and remittances for businesses. With its advanced technology, it offers businesses a platform to manage international transactions, ensuring speed, transparency, and competitive exchange rates.

4. Spenmo

Spenmo is known for its corporate expense management solutions and also extends its services to international payments, including remittances. The platform aims to simplify financial processes for businesses, enhancing efficiency in cross-border transactions.

5. Wise

Formerly known as TransferWise, Wise is a prominent player offering peer-to-peer international money transfers. It emphasizes transparency by providing real exchange rates, making it a popular choice for individuals and businesses looking for straightforward and cost-effective remittance solutions.

Ease the remittances process with Volopay!

Volopay stands as a dynamic fintech solution, dedicated to simplifying the remittance process for businesses. Designed with the needs of international operations in mind, Volopay provides a comprehensive financial platform that streamlines cross-border transactions. The platform ensures transparency and efficiency in remittances, offering businesses a seamless way to transfer funds globally.

Volopay's user-friendly interface facilitates quick and secure international money transfers, allowing businesses to navigate the complexities of cross-border transactions with ease. With features tailored to enhance financial management, Volopay empowers businesses to efficiently handle their remittance needs. 

By leveraging cutting-edge technology, Volopay aims to make the remittance process straightforward for businesses in Singapore, ensuring that they can focus on their core operations without the burden of intricate financial transactions. Volopay emerges as a valuable partner providing businesses with a reliable and efficient solution to navigate the global remittance landscape.

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FAQs on remittances

Is there a fee on Volopay’s remittance transfers?

Yes, Volopay charges a fee for its remittance services, which may vary based on factors such as the transfer amount, destination country, and the chosen transfer method.

What is the key difference between remittances and payments?

Remittances involve sending money, often for personal or familial support, while payments encompass a broader range of financial transactions, including bills, purchases, and business transactions.

Is it secure to send money internationally through Volopay?

Yes, Volopay ensures the security of international money transfers by implementing advanced encryption and security measures to protect users' financial information.

Can Volopay transfers be refunded?

Refund policies may vary, and it's recommended to check Volopay's specific terms and conditions regarding refunds for remittance transfers. You can also sign up for a product demo to get more information regarding the scenarios in which refunds may or may not be permitted.

Who issues a remittance?

A remittance is typically initiated by an individual or business looking to send money, facilitated through a remittance service provider such as Volopay.

Is remittance advice the same as a receipt?

While both serve documentation purposes, remittance advice provides details about a payment, while a receipt acknowledges the receipt of funds.

How many times can one transfer money in a month through Volopay?

The frequency of money transfers through Volopay may depend on the specific terms and conditions of the platform and the plan that you have chosen. Users should refer to Volopay's policies for this information.