How best to transfer American dollars for use in Glasgow during a year abroad?
August 30, 2007 8:33 PM   Subscribe

Is this [AskMe post] the best way to use American funds for living expenses in Glasgow? What other options are available?

I'm asking for a dear friend who deserves the peace of mind that closure to this question would give.
Hi, I am leaving the US to attend grad school in Scotland. I plan on opening a bank account in Glasgow with either RBS or BoS. There is no American bank with a branch in the city (there is one HSBC but I was told by an HSBC representative that it is treated as a separate bank in each country; in other words I couldn't access an American account in Scotland.) My question is, what is the best way for me to get my money from America to Scotland? From what I understand, an international wire transfer requires a trip to the consulate in Edinburgh for a stamp. Should I just take a whole mess o cash with me on the plane? Some combination of the two? You'd think internet transfers would be an option in this day and age but that suggestion has been rebuffed by the banks at every turn. Thanks for your help!
I will forward this post to a similar question to my friend. It seems like a good idea, but I don't think either of us have the experience to know if that's the best plan or if it will work in his situation, or if it's unrealistic to expect the same luck.

Will an ATM withdrawl (in Scotland) of American funds (in pounds) avoid punishing transfer fees? What other options are there?
posted by cowbellemoo to Work & Money (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
If your ATM card is visa or mastercard, just use that. As mentioned, if you get any fees they'll be per-transaction, so don't get little amounts out.

Other options are travellers cheques (expensive, and annoying), TT's (expensive and annoying) and cash (annoying).
posted by pompomtom at 8:43 PM on August 30, 2007


When I was a grad student in the UK, I did 2 things: 1. withdrew from my American bank, but I made sure that I didn't get a big fee - it was only $1 per transaction. BoA was 10% of the transaction! Check with your American bank first. Shop around and find the bank with the lowest rates. (Mine was a small local bank.)

And 2, once I got to school I found that my school had a deal with 1 or 2 UK banks and we had to use those as international students. Opening a bank in the UK (and Scotland, I assume) was a pain in the ass. I had to bring in a letter from school, copies of 2 utilities, the list goes on and on. But, I opened up an HSBC and it was a whole lot easier to pay my landlord, utilities, etc.

But, NEW IDEA for my next abroad year - I opened up an American HSBC (online! no walk in!) and they do free and easy transfers to your HSBC in other countries. Problem solved! Before I had to wait days/weeks for transfers! (Like my American financial aid that showed up in London, deposited into HSBC, waited 4 weeks for deposit to go through.)
posted by k8t at 8:54 PM on August 30, 2007


And, tell your friend, when I opened up my HSBC online it said "will you be transferring monies with our branches in other countries, if so please pick them from the drop down?" I put in UK and Armenia and it immediately linked into my existing UK account. Once I arrive in Armenia, I'll open up an account and (according to friends) it'll link up automatically.
posted by k8t at 8:56 PM on August 30, 2007


Xe should let you take care of this, with no fee.
posted by zsazsa at 10:03 PM on August 30, 2007


From what I understand, an international wire transfer requires a trip to the consulate in Edinburgh for a stamp.

That doesn't make any sense to me as long as one account supports sending a transfer and the other supports receiving it. I've sent money back and forth from the US and UK with several people in this fashion and there were no authorities involved. Is there some special set of restrictions for wiring money to yourself internationally?

An alternative would be to write yourself a check, although it would take a while to clear but is reasonably cheap. I accept US checks to my regular Natwest account here in the UK all the time and the commission is about a flat £5 or £10 (I forget).
posted by wackybrit at 1:40 AM on August 31, 2007


I have transfered money before using the cheque method. It's no hassle and relatively cheap if you transfer sizeable amounts. It's also useful to have an ATM and/or credit card that you can use as a backup. If you are getting a credit card, shop for one with low/zero foreign transaction costs, as this will be a big consideration, but is not always obvious from the headline 'card features'. Be careful about using visa or mastercard at the ATM, as these typically incur interest charges from the time of withdrawal until you make your regular repayment in addition to a transaction fee.

Do US banks issue ATM/debit cards with the Cirrus/Maestro symbol? These can be used as ATM cards in the UK drawing directly on your account (although there is usually a ~£2 transaction fee).

I hope you have a great time here in Scotland
posted by Jakey at 3:48 AM on August 31, 2007


Bank of America allows withdrawals from Barclay's ATMs for only a (I think) 1% conversion fee -- no transaction fees at all. You can also use other banks' ATMs, but you will be charged $5 plus whatever the ATM charges you. In addition, Bank of America credit cards can be used internationally for only 1 or 2% conversion fees.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:48 AM on August 31, 2007


Yeah, there's only about two Barclays branches in all of Scotland, though.
posted by genghis at 1:37 PM on August 31, 2007


Thanks everyone! I haven't spoken with my buddy in detail about his plans, but I'm positive now that he has many good options and can cease worrying on the subject.
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:36 AM on September 1, 2007


that doesn't make any sense to me as long as one account supports sending a transfer and the other supports receiving it. I've sent money back and forth from the US and UK with several people in this fashion and there were no authorities involved. Is there some special set of restrictions for wiring money to yourself internationally?

There is an international transfer fee of 20 quid per transaction. As far as I know there is no consulate requirement. I routinely transfer money from the UK to Canada. I avoid the fees by giving a trusted person in Canada signed checks and get them to fill in the amount and deposit them when I need to move money. Not so sure about the other direction.
posted by srboisvert at 4:19 AM on September 2, 2007


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