Help for Migrant Domestic workers from the team at Enrich HK!
PHOTO COURTESY OF Enrich HK
For domestic workers, the experience of sending money home (remittance) is well known. Many of you probably provide for at least four to five family members, regularly sending a large part of your salary home to support them. Your remittance is also a huge contributor to your country’s economy – for example in 2020, Filipinos in Hong Kong sent home a staggering US$821 million.
June 16 is International Domestic Workers Day, and it’s also the International Day of Family Remittances, so it seems appropriate for us to dig a little deeper into remittances this month.
REMITTANCE CENTRES VERSUS ONLINE APPS
It can be confusing to pick a remittance company if you’re not sure what to look for, but the good news is that there are many options in Hong Kong, whether physical or online. Before we look at what to consider when you choose a company, let’s quickly explore the pros and cons of remittance centres versus online apps. Banks or remittance centres have the benefit of being established and reliable. They may have a wide presence in your home country (making it easier for your family to access a branch) and you might feel some security in the physical process. However, they might also charge high fees or demand additional charges, and the remittance might take a few days to arrive. Additionally, you might have to make the transfer in person, using cash, which might be inconvenient.
Money transfer apps are appealing because they can make the remittance process much quicker. Some apps also offer better exchange rates and fees. On the downside, the convenience of an app can make it tempting for you to remit money too often – whenever it’s requested – even if doing so takes you over budget. Be careful to stay disciplined! Many established remittance centres also have online transfer services these days, so in the end, how can you choose the best one for you? Here are some things to consider. Shop around for the best exchange rate you can get for your hard-earned money. Note that sometimes, a company which previously gave you the best rate might not necessarily do so in the future, so explore your options regularly. Secondly, look out for the lowest cable charge per remittance and, if possible, remit only once a month to save on this cost. Remember to check that companies with these low charges are also legal and reliable.
Check how much it will cost you to remit money to your hometown, as the price might differ from area to area. If your family needs to travel to pick up the remittance, take into account the transportation expenses.
Lastly, always remit money through legitimate and secure channels to avoid losing it. Only remit money through reputable/ credible companies and never through individuals. Always request an official receipt on the spot when handing over the money for remittance. If you are using an app, keep a screenshot or record of the transaction.
CAN A COMPANY LOSE YOUR REMITTANCE?
This doesn’t often happen but there may be times when your remittance doesn’t reach your family when you expect it to. What do you do?
If the money isn’t received by the transfer time you’ve been promised (likely three to five days), contact the company to find out what the issue might be immediately (e.g. on the sixth day). It might be that the recipient’s name or bank details were input incorrectly. It could also be that a weekend/ public holiday has delayed the process or there are extra security checks in place. If you aren’t satisfied with the company’s response, you could try to cancel your transfer (easier with an online process), though that might not be possible if the transfer is almost complete, and you might be charged a cancellation fee (even if you get a full refund of your remittance amount). You could also try lodging a formal complaint with the company.
If the company refuses to return your money within the time they’ve promised, you can file a complaint to the Customs and Excise Department in Hong Kong which manages all money service operators (like remittance/ money transfer companies). Call the 24-hour hotline 2543 4942 or email [email protected]. You could also seek free legal assistance from our friends at HELP for Domestic Workers or Mission for Migrant Workers.
Most importantly, keep good records of your transactions, so you can protect yourself in these situations.
Enrich HK is an award winning Hong Kong charity providing financial and empowerment education to migrant domestic workers. For a free, confidential oneto- one financial counselling session and to learn about the courses on offer, visit www.enrichhk.org. If you have a question you would like to have answered on this page, email [email protected]