Working Online Is Great. Until It’s Not.

Every time I have to deal with banks, or Paypal, or any financial institute, I am reminded of how frustrating it can be to work online, or be a “digital nomad”.

DBS Paypal
Current banes of my life.

Begin: Rant about current frustration.

Let’s start with the basic facts:

  1. I am a Singaporean. I basically don’t live in Singapore, but my registered address is my parents’ house in Singapore.
  2. My bank accounts are Singaporean – DBS and Citibank, because I can’t really open up a bank account anywhere else with proof of residency in that country, and besides, I move from country to country so often, what would be the point anyway.
  3. I work online, teaching English on a variety of platforms, and doing copywriting for a company that produces podcasts. I get paid for all of my work in USD, via Paypal.
  4. I’m constantly on the move, and am more often than not, in places where the currency used is USD, or I can withdraw USD from local ATMs to exchange into the local currency.

Here begins my problem.

Obviously, since I earn in USD, and spend in USD, it makes sense for me to keep my money in USD, right? Except… I can’t get money directly out of my Paypal account – I have to withdraw it to a bank account first.

The solution seems easy. Open a Multi-currency account with my Singaporean bank (which allows you to maintain balances in various currencies including USD), and withdraw directly from Paypal in USD to my bank account in USD. Simple, right? Wrong.

That’s exactly what I tried to do today. I opened a Multi Currency Account with DBS and set everything up. Then, I tried to withdraw from Paypal to this new account. Except on the Paypal withdrawal page, something seemed odd.

Withdrawal amount: 200 USD
Converted Amount: 265.78 SGD
Conversion Rate: 1 USD = 1.328925 SGD

Hang on a second. Why is there a currency conversion thing going on?? I’m withdrawing in USD to an account in USD. It can’t be that ridiculous that they’re converting my USD to SGD and then converting it back to USD again to deposit in my account, right? To be sure, I called Paypal.

After much back and forth, this is what I gathered.

Paypal only allows you to to withdraw from Paypal to your bank in the bank’s local currency. It doesn’t matter what currency your bank account is in. If you’re withdrawing to a bank that’s based in Singapore (whether it’s a local bank like DBS or a global bank like Citibank or HSBC), you have to withdraw in SGD.

So basically, to get access to any of the money I’ve earned, all of which is currently in USD, I always have to convert it first to SGD and then back to some other currency such as (usually, and most likely) USD.

Apparently quite a few people have complained about this, but Paypal can’t be arsed to do anything about it. Thanks a lot, Paypal.

Somebody is making money out of this, and it sure as hell isn’t me.

So frustrated. So now I have this stupid Multi-Currency Account which I have to maintain a 3000 SGD balance in, or pay a 7.50 SGD fee per month, which is waived as long as I am under 29. Except I apparently turn 29 on Jan 01, 2018 because they do the math according to birth year instead of birth date. So although I won’t be 29 for another 8 months in January, I’m still going to have to pay the 7.50 SGD fee per month to maintain this utterly useless account. Or pay SGD 30 as an early closure fee to close it.


Okay, rant over. For now. -_-

If any of you guys have any experience with this situation or have any advice on how I don’t have to go through the currency conversion process twice to get access to my money, please let me know.

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