International personal finance
August 30, 2006 2:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm leaving in a week and I still can't figure out a good solution to managing my US finances from the UK.

I'm keeping my Bank of America account open, but the only activity that I'm going to use it for is to pay off my credit card (Citibank). From what I understand, the only way for me to pay my monthly bill for the cc is via an american account. But for me to fund this account on a regular basis, it seems that my only option is to wire money from my UK account (NatWest) to my BofA account and eat the nasty wiring fee, which will definitely add up!

It's not possible to transfer the Citibank balance to a UK card is it? From my understanding I'll probably have a hard time getting approved since I'm new.

Or is there a credit card company that accepts international payments that I can transfer the balance to?

Or is there a bank that works on both sides of the pond so that I can have a US account and UK account and transfer funds between the two easily (online would be awesome)?

Basically, are there any other alternatives I didn't think of? Surely I'm not the first person to move to another country that has to pay off their domestic loans. Thanks!

(For those who helped me out with the last question, I decided not to live in London for now, the train is too expensive! I'll update when I settle down.)
posted by like_neon to Work & Money (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
HSBC offers credit cards in the States. If you do end up having to transfer your balance (though I can't believe there isn't an easier solution), that might be one to try.
posted by occhiblu at 2:20 PM on August 30, 2006

Another thought: What about setting up an ING account and linking both your US and UK banks to it? You could transfer money from your UK account into ING, and then transfer from ING into your US account.

Each transfer would take a couple days, so it's cumbersome, though you can automate them, which would help. And I'm not positive about being able to link banks from different countries onto the same ING account, but they are an international bank.
posted by occhiblu at 2:26 PM on August 30, 2006

Response by poster: I just called ING and I can't hook up both US and UK account to one ING account. They have country specific services so if I had a US ING account, I could only link it to my US bank account. Thanks for trying!
posted by like_neon at 2:39 PM on August 30, 2006

Citibank in London have "US dollar" accounts for expatriates. When I worked there I had one along with my normal British account. You get plain old cheques (or checks, rather) for paying American bills, and you can easily transfer money between the two accounts. You could even have American checks deposited in it, so that might be a way for you to put money in it from your existing American account.

Unfortunately Citibank's international arms don't really talk to each other. When I left London for Australia, I was assuming they could simply "transfer" my account to the London branch. No go; they're completely separate. So I'm guessing you'd have to open whole new accounts even though you're already with them.
posted by web-goddess at 2:47 PM on August 30, 2006

Should say: '"transfer" my account to the SYDNEY branch.' Otherwise it makes no sense.
posted by web-goddess at 2:48 PM on August 30, 2006

Even banks like HSBC, Barclays and ING that do business in the US and the UK will treat accounts separately since they are different subsidiaries and subject to each countries' banking rules.

I keep thinking Paypal might be an intermediary. You fund it with your Pounds Sterling but I can't figure out the next step. Unless you involve a third party like a friend or family member. They get the $ from you in paypal and write a check on their account. That sucks if the person flakes or you don't want them knowing your business. Or you Paypal to yourself and have the funds sent to your BofA account. Then you write a check on the BofA account and hope Royal Mail/USPS doesn't lose it.
posted by birdherder at 3:00 PM on August 30, 2006

Response by poster: I just called HSBC and they do not accept payments from anything other than US dollars, so that's a no-go too.

Web-goddess: Do you you mean that you were able transfer money from your British account to your Citibank account pretty easily? And then used the Citibank account to pay American bills? Sorry to re-iterate, but if you are saying what I think you are saying, this may be the perfect solution.
posted by like_neon at 3:01 PM on August 30, 2006

Best answer: Well, if you open an HSBC International Personal Current Account in the UK (£3 monthly fee) you can write USD checks for £1 each. Which is a lot cheaper. Other banks may offer similar products.
posted by grouse at 3:02 PM on August 30, 2006

On posting: note that HSBC UK, HSBC USA, and HSBC USA's credit card division should be considered totally separate. I have an HSBC USA account as well and I have no doubt that they would be able to negotiate a foreign currency check. But for a hefty fee.
posted by grouse at 3:04 PM on August 30, 2006

I do not know if this would work but I do it the other way round, paying my European-based daughter from my US Bank account. What I do is send a draft (not a wire) to her every month, which costs me USD9 each time. You have to allow more time but it might be cheaper than a wire. NatWest seems to charge GBP8 for less than GBP100 and GBP18 for more (see
posted by TheRaven at 3:10 PM on August 30, 2006

Response by poster: Grouse, that sounds excellent,

I just noticed that my work has also sent me a brochure for International Personal Banking from NatWest, but their descriptions are not as clear as HSBC's (and it looks like it has the high rates as any other bank).

Barclay's also has some sort of international banking solution but they are also quoting high prices for transactions(pdf).

This is going to be my game plan:

- Set up automatic bill pay from my BofA account to the cc for the next two months so I have a buffer that I don't have to worry about. Once I have a solution in place this account will be pretty dormant.
- Once I arrive in the UK, contact HSBC UK to get exact details of this service to make sure it fulfills my needs. (Can't make int'l calls right now).
- If it does I will open at least one bank account with HSBC (debating having another UK bank account)
- If I go with two accounts, I will split my paycheck for direct deposit so that a portion goes into the HSBC account that pays the cc bill.

monthly fee = £3
check (cheque!) fee = £1
postage = £1
total solution in USD=~$9.50
value of AskMefi = Priceless

Compared to a monthly wiring fee of at least $35, much better!! If I can pay the bill online and save on postage and the checking fee, even BETTERER!

Web-Goddess' answer also has potential but it is pending some more specific information before giving it a best answer mark.

Thanks to everyone who chipped in with advice!
posted by like_neon at 4:14 PM on August 30, 2006

Best answer: Ok here's UK Citibank's International banking solution, which sounds great except that it has a monthly charge of $20 if the account's balance average falls below £2000 (HSBC does not require a minimum balance). That's definitely not me (which is why I have a cc debt =P). This sounds great though because all the vital transactions are free of charge and fast.

I may have to analyse further and see if this solution is best for me after all, even weighing what seems to be $10 vs. $20 a month in fees.

Hope no one minds I mark myself for best answer, wouldn't have found it without you guys.
posted by like_neon at 4:30 PM on August 30, 2006

Having done the same thing, (only with Canada/USA) I can say that it's difficult if not impossible to do conveniently. The simplest way would probably be either:
1) Mail a bank draft to someone you trust, who will deposit in your account
2) Use MoneyGram or Western Union to do the same thing, but be aware that there are limits on how much you can send per month, and per 90 day period.
3) Look into wire transfers
4) Most banks allow deposit by mail... hint hint.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:37 PM on August 30, 2006

Sorry I didn't chime back in; I had to go to work! Yes, it's an actual US dollar account but it's from a bank in Britain. Transferring between my Citibank accounts is no different than transferring between my cheque and savings here in Australia. They actually give you cheques that look like American ones and that you can use to pay your bills.

Avoid the wire transfers, if you can. I have to do that to pay my student loans from Australia and it costs $20 every single time. It's a pain.
posted by web-goddess at 7:17 PM on August 30, 2006

If you need to move money from the UK to the US check the cost using the Post Office instead of a bank. They do a range of financial things that you wouldn't necessarily expect them to do, often for less than a bank would charge for the equivalent transaction.

On their web site I could only find an "instant" (10 minute) transfer which is pricey, but the last time my mother sent me some money she used something slower (I think five business days) which cost her £5, if memory serves me right.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 8:44 PM on August 30, 2006

I moved from Canada to Ireland, and wasn't able to find a suitable solution aside from wiring money. Luckily, my gf works for a bank here, so I transfer the money to her (free) and then we do an international wire transfer to my Canadian account (6 euro employee charge vs 20-25 euro). Pain in the ass, in that it takes about a week, but at least I'm only paying 1/3 the fee. Glad to find out you've got better options in the UK...
posted by antifuse at 1:33 AM on August 31, 2006

Meh. This is not difficult. I had a citibank account in the UK, a citibank account in the US. You can transfer cash between the two accounts very easily, then use electronic bill pay to take care of US expenses. Its not as easy as transfering from checking to savings - i.e. you'll need to input your account #'s and what not, but really not a huge deal. There was no fee other then the vig on the fx rate.

They also make you go through an extra validation step.
posted by JPD at 5:20 AM on August 31, 2006

You can use websites such as netteller, firepay, and citidel commerse to move your funds easily, with a couple day delay. You can do it immeadiately for a small fee.
posted by gte910h at 7:11 AM on August 31, 2006

I recently discovered that my bank will set up regular payments to the US for a one off charge. Call and ask. They might not advertize it but if this is all you need its no big thing.
posted by anglophiliated at 8:30 AM on August 31, 2006

I have NetBank, and they let you transfer money from another bank account to your NetBank account for free. I'm not sure if this would work internationally, though...
posted by myeviltwin at 2:49 PM on August 31, 2006

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