Two years ago, when I started toying with the idea of coming to Korea to teach English, my main concern was managing my finances back home. Like so many recent college graduates, I had student loans that would require monthly payments, a car lease, and a credit cards to pay down. Since I had never lived in another country, or been out of the country for that matter, I had no idea how efficient and simple Korean banking and managing your overseas accounts can be. So, if you're like me and you want the scoop on money matters before you head to Korea, read on for quick tips and tricks to help you save money, transfer large sums, and even pay your taxes.
Tip #1: Be prepared! Before you leave your country, make sure that you notify your bank, credit cards, student loan lenders, cellphone company, auto loan lenders, etc. Essentially, if you owe money to anyone or you have money saved in any account, make those institutions aware that you will be traveling for a year or more. Most importantly, bring a record of ALL of your banking information: routing numbers, account numbers, and your SWIFT CODE. What's a Swift Code? It's a bank-specific number that allows a foreign bank to easily locate and transfer funds to your domestic accounts. This number, along with your other account information, is essential for seamless transactions and can be obtained simply by contacting your bank and requesting their current Swift Code.
Tip #2: On-line Banking: Now-a-days I do the majority of my banking, shopping, and paying bills online. Most banking networks give you access to your funds and statements in an on-line account, so make sure that you set one up before you leave the country. You can also pay your student loans, credit cards, and most other bills online. Furthermore, this is an excellent way to track your savings and be notified of any transfer fees (most banks assess a $15-$20 fee for wire transfers).
Tip #3: Enlist Friends and Family: It may also be a wise decision to give your banking, credit card, and loan information to a close friend or family member who can monitor your accounts and serve as a go-between should your finances need attention while you're out of the country. It should be noted that during my entire stay in Korea, I never encountered any situation in which I could not manage my finances or money on my own, but it was good to know that I had my father and a close friend on the other end to help if anything went wrong.
Tip #4: Death and Taxes: I'm sure that many of you have heard that an added perk of living overseas for a year is that you don't have to pay taxes. This is true, however, you still have to claim your foreign earned income. For United States Citizens there is a specific form called the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion that allows you to exclude up to $92,900 of your income (if you are teaching, you won't be making over this figure). There are two forms that can be used, the 2555 Foreign Income Exclusion or the 2555-EZ. If you're stateside, visit the IRS website to learn more.
Tip #5: ATMs and Banking Assistants: One of the most surprising and helpful things about Korea is that it is English-friendly. Nearly every ATM has an "English Option" and most bank tellers will speak at least some English (enough to converse with you about making deposits, transfers, or other basic banking operations). Once you arrive at your school in Korea, the school's Korean staff will most likely set you up with a bank account and bank card. As such, access to your Korean funds will be simple and immediate.
To wrap it up, Korea has an efficient and English-friendly banking system that allows you to be comfortable and confident while managing your finances abroad. Just follow the above tips so that they can show you the money! Cheers!
After receiving her degree in Secondary English Education from Indiana University, Hope Gately wanted to experience Korea's famous educational system, which is currently ranked #2 worldwide. She began teaching at the Pohang-Namgu branch of ChungDahm Learning in Korea last year, after being recruited by Aclipse. Since Hope is an avid hiker, foodie, and fashion enthusiast, she loves living in Korea and enjoys the mountains, cuisine, and "Kill-Heels." Questions about teaching in Korea? Follow Hope on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AclipseHope and email her at Aclipsehope@gmail.com!