Is there any risk in switching my bank accounts to a freight forwarding address?
February 29, 2012 6:22 AM   Subscribe

I don't technically live in the US anymore; I've sold my house, dropped my auto insurance, etc, and I need to figure out how to deal with my US bank accounts.

I have recently moved from the US to an EU country (I have dual citizenship). I have several accounts - an Amex, a Visa and a checking account - in the US. I am going to begin using a freight forwarding service for what little US post I receive and to forward online orders (e.g., from Amazon) to the my address in the EU.

These services let you use them as your main postal address for bank accounts and credit cards.

Can I expect any sort of negative reaction from my bank and CC companies to switching addresses to a freight forwarder? Is there any reason I should let them know (especially the CC I use in the EU) that I am actually domiciled in the EU? Most importantly, are there any dangers I should anticipate?
posted by digitalprimate to Work & Money (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Some credit card companies monitor your purchases, and if they see a transaction that is outside of your normal purchasing patterns, they will not allow the transaction to go through, and temporarily inactivate your card until you call and set things straight. Transactions outside the country where they think you live could be one of those triggers. I've had this happen to me (not for international travel, but for buying gas in another state), and it was quite inconvenient. (Although it's good in the long run for them to flag suspicious transactions to mitigate credit card fraud.)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:32 AM on February 29, 2012

Best answer: I've lived outside the States for several years, but still have a checking account and a credit card there. Before I moved, I notified both that I would be living elsewhere, for the reason that SuperSquirrel described. I haven't had a problem since. My US address isn't a freight forwarder, but it's obviously not where I live, since I explicitly said I don't live in the US. My bank and credit card provider didn't seem to care about it.
posted by neushoorn at 6:36 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I guess this is more an inconvenience than a danger, but if you want to close an account in the future, you may not be able to do so from overseas. I had to be physically present in a US branch of my bank to close my savings account after I moved. Not sure about credit cards.
posted by neushoorn at 6:38 AM on February 29, 2012

Best answer: I dont think your US bank cares what you set your address to. I say this because I've changed it a few times to both US and non-US addresses. I now have a US address (my parents) even though I live in the UK.

The biggest risk is that your transaction may be denied at sites for two reasons:

1) You are making the transaction using a non-US IP address while trying to us a US card. I have actually had a transaction denied for this reason. Steam, for example, wont allow it.

2) Freight forwarding addresses themselves are considered high-risk (scroll down) and you will be denied for this reason.
posted by vacapinta at 6:50 AM on February 29, 2012

FWIW, I live in an apartment, but every company and governmental entity I deal with thinks I live at the UPS store. No problems.

Credit/debit use overseas might be an issue, but let them know and carry cash until you've been able to use them without issue.

Region locking for media might be an issue, but that's what VPNs were made for. Ask yourself do you plan on coming back and if so, maintain a state-side VPN.
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:01 AM on February 29, 2012

Credit/debit use overseas might be an issue, but let them know and carry cash until you've been able to use them without issue.

My parents have lived overseas for years, and maintain debit and credit card accounts at the US bank at which my mother is an executive. Every so often, their cards get blocked for suspicious activity, even though they have repeatedly notified the bank that they are living overseas. It particularly happens when they try and travel around Europe, and the bank says that they do what they can to try and model their regular usage (and they travel around Europe a fair bit), but suspicious activity is suspicious activity, and they need to be prepared for occasional blocks on their account. They have opened a local account for just this reason, and it seems to be much less prone to blockage, though they use it much less often.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:04 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I live outside the US. My US address is an EarthClassMail address that looks like a street address but has a long "suite" number.

My phone number is a Skype online number with a US area code.

My US banks and credit cards didn't blink at all when I changed my address and phone. My debit and credit cards occasionally get a block on them, but I call and remind them that I'm in the country where the cards were "suspiciously" used and I'm immediately back on track.

The bigger hassle for me has been the foreign exchange and out-of-network fees I pay when I use a local ATM to withdraw money from my US bank. I'd save money if I set up an account with a local bank that has a lot of ATMs and then used to transfer money in batches from my US bank to the local bank. I'd get a better foreign exchange rate and avoid out-of-network fees.
posted by ceiba at 8:19 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is getting a little off track, but maybe it will be of use to the Asker or future info seekers as well. The Global ATM Alliance is a good way to avoid foreign ATM fees if you are a Bank of America customer (or can set up a BOA account to occasionally transfer some money into). You still have to pay the international transaction fees, but you can get that down to 1% if you have certain kinds of accounts.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:26 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Rock Steady, your derail is definitely appreciated, sort of like getting a free bonus ask me this week :)

And thanks for the tip of EarthClasMail, ceiba
posted by digitalprimate at 9:25 AM on February 29, 2012

We used a mail forwarding service for nearly EVERYTHING (Netflix, bills, bank statements, etc.) for the three years we were in Korea. The service was provided by my husband's company (not, like Mailboxes Etc), the address was a stateside P.O. Box, forwarded once a week. No problems at all.
posted by Brittanie at 2:43 PM on February 29, 2012

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