Receiving money overseas in Malaysia - what are your options?

Hannes Ausmees

Need to get paid by someone overseas? This guide is for you. We’ll cover all the ways you could receive money from abroad in Malaysia, including SWIFT transfers, getting cash sent through a specialist provider, and how to get your money faster with the lowest fees.

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How to receive money from overseas in Malaysia?

If you need to receive money from overseas in Malaysia you’ve got 2 basic options - use your regular MYR bank account to receive a SWIFT transfer, or choose a specialist alternative provider.

Relying on your normal bank might seem like the obvious choice but it’s often slower and more expensive to get paid through SWIFT compared to alternative providers. Specialist services may be cheaper and more flexible, with a better range of pay out options, lower overall costs and a better exchange rate.

Let’s have a look in a little more detail now.

A cheaper option to get money abroad without a bank account - Wise

If you need to send or receive an international payment you’ll love Wise and the Wise multi-currency account.

Open a Wise account for free online or in-app, and you don’t need to use your bank at all to receive payments from overseas. Accounts come with local bank details for over 10 currencies including MYR, SGD, USD, and more. Have the person sending you money use the right account details for their home currency and they can make a local transfer to you - that’s usually free for them, and there are no fees for you to worry about either.

Once you’ve received your payment from overseas, you can convert it to MYR using the real exchange rate and transfer it to your bank or hold it in your Wise account (money can be held in over 50 currencies).

There isn't a way to receive payments directly in cash but the Wise account does come with a linked debit card which allows you to withdraw money from any ATMs in Malaysia that accept Visa.


For cash pickups - Western Union

If you need your money instantly and don’t mind a higher fee, having your payment sent for cash collection might work well for you. Western Union is a reliable provider with a huge agent network. If your sender arranges a payment through their Money in Minutes service you can often collect it straight away, in MYR cash, at an agent location near to you.

It’s worth knowing that fees for receiving money through a cash collection service like Western Union are relatively high. Exchange rates also vary depending on the way the sender arranges the payment, and will include a markup on the mid-market rate - an extra fee.

Learn more about how to receive money through Western Union Malaysia here.

Receiving money with PayPal

PayPal is one of the world’s most popular digital wallets, and another option if you need to receive a payment from overseas. Assuming you already have a PayPal account set up, your sender can transfer money either in their home currency or in MYR, and it’ll be delivered to your account in just a few seconds.

There are a couple of important costs you’ll want to know about when you use PayPal for international payments, though.

Firstly your sender is likely to pay a fee - this varies depending on where their PayPal account is based, and how they fund the transfer. And secondly at the point that your money is converted from one currency to another, there will be a second charge in the form of a currency conversion fee.

If you choose to convert the currency via your Malaysian PayPal account you’ll pay 3% - 4.5% of the total amount being converted, depending on the specifics of the currencies involved¹. Your sender is likely to be charged a similar amount if they take care of the currency conversion.

Get the full guide to getting paid with your PayPal account here.

Receive SWIFT payments directly to your bank account

A final popular choice is to receive your international payment directly into your Malaysian bank account. Most big Malaysian banks will let you receive a payment from overseas, which usually means it’ll arrive as an international wire transfer, commonly referred to as SWIFT transfer.

SWIFT payments usually take 3 - 5 working days to arrive, and can involve several different fees. You sender will pay a charge when they arrange the payment, and your own bank might also have a receiving fee which is deducted before the money is deposited. Intermediary banks - also called agents or correspondent banks - can deduct fees as they work to process the payment through the SWIFT network.

And finally, the exchange rate used to convert the payment to MYR is likely to involve a markup - a fee in the region of about 3% of the transfer value.

To receive your payment safely you’ll need to give the sender some information, including:

  • Your full name as shown on your bank account
  • Your bank’s name and address
  • Your bank account number
  • Your bank’s SWIFT/BIC code

Depending on where the payment is being sent from you may also need a few other details like your home address or contact details. Your sender will be able to confirm this before they arrange the transfer.

How to receive money in foreign currencies

In most cases, if you’re sent a bank transfer from overseas it’ll be converted to MYR before it’s deposited into your bank account. This will be done by the sender’s bank, your own bank, or one of the intermediaries involved in the process, using the exchange rate they offer at the time of the transaction.

If you’d rather receive your international payment in a foreign currency you’ll need to open a foreign currency account from a Malaysian bank, or a multi-currency account from a specialist provider like Wise. Receiving your payment in a foreign currency can be a smart move as it leaves you free to hold your foreign currency balance, or convert it when you choose to, rather than being forced to make the switch immediately, even if the rates aren’t great.

Read more about multi-currency accounts from Malaysian banks, here.

How long does it take to receive money from overseas?

The length of time it takes you to get your money from overseas will depend a lot on the way it’s sent:

  • SWIFT payments often take 3 - 5 business days to arrive
  • Payments to the Wise multi-currency account can arrive instantly but largely depend on the currency you're receiving
  • Transfers to a digital wallet like PayPal are usually instant, although there may then be a delay if you decide to withdraw your money to your regular bank account
  • Cash collection payments can be available in minutes depending on the service selected


The good news is that there are several different ways to receive money overseas in Malaysia. You might choose to have the person sending you money arrange an international money transfer with their bank. This is a safe and familiar option, but it’s not necessarily the fastest or cheapest.

Before you decide how to get your payment, check out a few alternatives to SWIFT transfers with your normal bank. Services like the Wise multi-currency account have been built specifically for people who need to send and receive international payments often, and can mean you save 3x compared to using your normal bank.

Get a Wise account for free 🚀


  1. PayPal User Agreement

Sources checked on 31.02.2022

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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