Currency exchange perks aplenty at banks

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Currency exchange perks aplenty at banks

As the summer vacation season kicks in and many people plan to travel abroad, financial institutions are offering foreign currency exchange benefits such as discounts on fees and gifts through mid-September.

From June through September last year, roughly $5 billion was converted. The industry expects the number of people traveling abroad to increase because of the appreciation of the Korean won against the U.S. dollar. According to the Korea Tourism Organization, 1.22 million people traveled abroad in May, a year-on-year increase of 3 percent.

Woori offers discounts of up to 70 percent on foreign exchange commission charges. A 60 percent discount is offered on won exchanges for U.S. dollars, euros and yen worth $500 or more. A 40 percent discount will be offered on currency from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Canada and Australia. Others will be discounted 30 percent.

Customers who have made a foreign exchange at any Woori Bank branch in the last two years get an additional 10 percent discount.

The benefits of converting Korean won to other foreign currencies don’t stop there.

Woori Bank also offers a discount coupon book for Shilla Duty Free shops and customers who exchange at least $500 worth in foreign currencies will receive 500 million won in travel insurance.

Korea Exchange Bank, the market leader in currency exchange, and Hana Bank will hold a “Cool Summer” exchange promotion through August.

The two banks will be offering maximum 70 percent discounts on foreign exchange fees for currencies including the U.S. dollar, euro and Japanese yen.

KEB and Hana also offer drawings for gifts, including Sony mirrorless digital cameras, travel coupons and 10,000 won ($9.71) worth of bank points that can be used as cash.

Shinhan Bank offers coupons for discounts on airport rail and airport limo bus service for those who convert more than $500 worth of foreign currencies. The bank also will randomly select customers to receive gifts, including a one-night stay in a hotel suite. The promotion continues through Sept. 13.

KB Kookmin Bank through Sept. 12 will provide KB gift cards and restaurant and cultural experience gift coupons to 100 customers who make exchanges of $1,000 or more. Additionally, those who make conversions of more than $500 will receive 50,000 won in Lotte Duty Free discount coupons.

One of the best ways to save money on exchange fees is online banking, where transactions can be done anytime. Customers then collect the foreign currencies at the designated branch.

For those who prefer to exchange currency in person, the best place is the Industrial Bank of Korea and Woori Bank branches at Seoul Station, which are known to have the lowest service charges. In particular, IBK is known to offer discounts of up to 90 percent on service charges, but limits exchanges to 1 million won. The limit is 2 million won at Woori Bank’s Seoul Station branch.

Experts also say it is best to take U.S. dollars to Vietnam and Indonesia to exchange them for the local currencies and to avoid making last-minute conversions at the airport, where fees are much higher.


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