International Money Transfers
March 16, 2005 6:55 AM   Subscribe

MoneyFilter: I get paid in the US and I live and work pretty much everywhere (mainly Europe). I've had it trying to transfer chunks of cash between the US and abroad: it's slow, expensive and a pain-in-the-neck. Any electronic/web-based solutions to this that people have been happy with?

In the internet age there has to be a better way... lemme summarize the existing options so far, for Google:
  • International wire transfers: Expensive. Usually ~$80 from my US bank and another ~$50 or so from the destination bank. And potentially slow, depending on the amount (I realize I have to thank Homeland Security for this)
  • Withdrawal from a US-based account using an ATM card on a compatible ATM network: limited in the amounts you can do, esp. from the US side (typical maximum of $500/day). Add another $1-2 fee from the home bank and $2 or so from the ATM-owning bank, and the incovenience of cash and multiple transactions and there's little difference from that and using a wire transfer.
  • Cashing US checks: expensivish (cheaper than a wire though) but sloooow...

    I remember Citibank used to have a web subsidiary (C2it) that was supposed to revolutionize money transfers, but it's dead now. Paypal seems to position itself in the same niche, but I haven't tried it (yet). Any experiences? any other ideas?

    And please note that I am not trying to hide from the IRS or Homeland Security, just want to move money from country A to B as quickly and cheaply as possible...
  • posted by costas to Work & Money (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
     
    Xe.com? Never used it though.
    posted by grouse at 7:24 AM on March 16, 2005


    A Canadian friend of mine uses Xe.com a lot to transfer between CAD and USD. He seems to like it.
    posted by zsazsa at 7:26 AM on March 16, 2005


    I would recommend you not consider PayPal for anything like this. You can find several reasons both here and around the internet of people having their money held for unnecessary amounts of time, or even taken back out of their bank account after it was withdrawn from PayPal.

    I know this might not be as helpful as you want, but you should probably call one or both of your banks and schedule a time to sit down with one of their account manager people to discuss your options.
    posted by odinsdream at 7:35 AM on March 16, 2005


    i would recommend not using citibank. i still have $3.000 sitting in an account that is too much damn trouble to get out. we chose citibank thinking it would help (being the only bank to exist in both the uk and chile). in fact, transfers between different banks has been easier, just because they have better customer service.

    i don't have a magic solution. what we do is:
    - move money in as large a chunk as possible if we need to move it at all. and do so using banks.
    - use cash machines when in random countries.
    - do exchange via friends, if it helps. for example, if my parents come to visit chile and we want to move money to the uk, they don't bring any money, but instead spend ours. when they return to the uk, they "pay us back" in sterling.
    posted by andrew cooke at 7:44 AM on March 16, 2005


    if you have a US bank acount you can withdraw in europe using yoru ATM card. The charge is usually about $5 for this. Easiest way to get money.
    posted by cahlers at 7:50 AM on March 16, 2005


    See if moneybookers will do what you want.
    posted by adamrice at 7:51 AM on March 16, 2005


    Do you mind if I ask what kind of job you have?
    posted by borkingchikapa at 8:34 AM on March 16, 2005


    Neteller might be an option.
    posted by poodlemouthe at 8:43 AM on March 16, 2005


    We've used Citibank in the past without trouble, but we had accounts at both ends, with Citibank. It has gotten to be the biatch to move funds, except within the EU.

    You may want to try to set things up with someone like LloydsTSB-offshore World-Wide Services, Isle of Man. They are there to facilitate these sorts of problems. Not the easiest bank to deal with, but that's life in the 21st century! Maintain accounts on both sides of the pond and minimize the transfers. Also, do consider these transfers as an EXPENSE of business travel, and deduct them or charge your employer.
    posted by Goofyy at 9:11 AM on March 16, 2005


    borkingchikapa: I am a supply chain optimization consultant.

    Thanks everybody, so far xe.com looks like the closest fit; anybody used it for non-CA transfers (if you look at their FAQ, CA-US is a special case).
    posted by costas at 9:15 AM on March 16, 2005


    I have no idea if this works, but what if you use an online bank? Does this matter where you are at?

    Also, can you not just pay everything with credit/debit cards? Then you only need to cut a few checks a month (maybe from your online account, and if not, then it's from a US checking account to a US credit card company).

    This should be interesting.
    posted by eas98 at 9:18 AM on March 16, 2005


    I have a similar problem - I'll look into xe.com as well. If I may piggyback, my situation is that I'm paid in USD and make quarterly payments on a student loan in NOK. I'd love to avoid paying exorbitant wire and/or transfer fees, but haven't found a way around it. Paying it off in full is not an option for a few years. Any other suggestions?
    posted by widdershins at 9:36 AM on March 16, 2005


    eas98: certain parts of the world (Southern and Eastern Europe especially but also Asia) are still mainly cash-based, if not cash-only. Even in the rest of the world, a lot of places shirk from credit card transactions because of Visa/MC commissions, higher costs etc. So, in the end you need cash...
    posted by costas at 9:37 AM on March 16, 2005


    If I can also piggyback, my wife and I both work internationally, her mostly in China, and I in Mexico and China. We live and bank in the states. Yes, China is a cash society so she uses bank machines for cash against our account and when she can, credit cards. I do the same. I just got notice from Citibank that they will start charging a 3% fee on foreign currency charges (I assume in response to the ever falling dollar). While Citibank is not one of the main cards we use I would have to assume the others will follow suit. Any ideas how to get around that when it happens?
    posted by mss at 9:55 AM on March 16, 2005


    "Online Banks" have to be based *somewhere* physically and they will have to abide by those rules. NetBank, for example, is a Nationally chartered Thrift in the USA, and has to abide by Georiga law because it is incorporated in Georiga. (For example, GA requires you to notarize just about everything. Hence, notarization for NB forms for disputes, etc.) Also, being online means that they will clamp down on you in a millisecond if you look like you're perpetrating fraud and they have some evidence to support it. An internet bank has to be about 12 million times more vigilent and careful than a regular old run of the mill bank. International wire transfers are very carefully scrutinized. So, in short, an internet bank will not necessarily solve the problem. One of the only ways I can think of to make wires cheaper is to go with a bank such as HSBC or some other institution that has a US routing number as well as branches/options near to where you live. Because they're not dealing with a random intermediary, like Bank of New York, the bank's fees will theoretcially be slightly lower.
    posted by Medieval Maven at 10:06 AM on March 16, 2005


    I was surprised by how well this worked. I use a credit union instead of a bank, and the difference is like night and day. When overseas I used my credit card as an experiment. There were no fees, and the exchange rate I got seemed as good, or better, than I would get elsewhere. The credit union has extensive online banking and phenomenally fast and effecient email service (ie whenever I've wanted to make changes to an account, or open a new one, I've done it by email, and usually seem to get a response within 3 hours, and that response is usually to the effect of "everything you asked for is done" :-) There are no fees for shuffling money between accounts (be they my accounts, or from mine to someone else's at the same credit union), so there are no credit card fees either - at the end of the week, it takes seconds to move the necessary funds into the CC account.

    Since the day I started there, I have never needed to visit a branch in person (though I tend to average about a visit per year, as sometimes I'm in the area and have a cheque in my pocket, and it's less hassle to go in than to mail it) - everything can be done overseas via their website.

    Using banks I got hit with fees for everything, and had to butt a brick wall to get anything done, and then it usually got botched, with me expected to pay more fees to get their mistakes fixed. This place it seems like you'd have to scour the fine-print to try to find some way to achieve a fee, and everything gets done when and how you want it, without hassle. Night and day.
    posted by -harlequin- at 12:59 PM on March 16, 2005


    Man, those are huge fees for wire transfers. I pay my student loans in the US (I live in Australia) via international telegraphic transfer and it costs me a grand total of $AU 22 each time. I can even do them via internet banking, so the whole process takes less than a minute. Maybe you could find a cheaper fee for it somewhere else?
    posted by web-goddess at 1:10 PM on March 16, 2005


    I would like to know the answer to this as well, for future reference.

    The first time I tried to wire money across the sea, I was shocked, simply SHOCKED to find exorbitant fees everywhere! Didn't think it would be such a pain with it being what I imagined to be a fairly common transaction. Why is international money transfer so expensive, anyway?
    posted by Lush at 2:20 PM on March 16, 2005


    I did this a while back using Paypal, sending money to myself from the US to the UK (I have Paypal accounts linked to US and UK bank accounts respectively) - it was instantaneous and I just had to select in the a drop-down menu that it was for "non-auction goods."

    Don't do it any more though because with the exchange rate, who wants to send money to Europe?
    posted by forallmankind at 9:06 PM on March 16, 2005


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