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Author Topic: Transferring money from a European to US bank account  (Read 47565 times)
scampster
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« on: April 11, 2012, 6:06:49 AM »

Okay, I'm stymied and looking for suggestions.

I have a bank account at a major European bank where my current paycheck is deposited. I also have some debt in the US (a credit card) that I am slowly but surely paying off by $300/month. I couldn't figure out how to pay an American credit card from a European bank, so instead I just transferred money to my American credit union account and paid it through there. My European bank charges a piddling $5 to do this. But I found out today that my American credit union lopped $30 off of that. I'm new to this so I didn't realize that the bank receiving the money might also charge a fee (as that doesn't seem logical to me, but whatever). So I'm set for this month, but I'm trying to figure out a long term solution that doesn't require paying 10% to the bank each month.

Some questions to those more experienced:

1. Is there actually a way to pay an American credit card directly from a European bank account?

2. Are there any tricks to avoiding this big fee on the other end? Like can I transfer the money to Paypal and then to my bank account?

3. Is this fee usually a flat fee or is it a percentage? Or does that depend on my bank? It would feel less icky if I say transferred three months worth of payments at once and still only paid $30.

My credit card company was very unhelpful when I asked them directly about how I might be able to pay them electronically from a European bank account. It seems like this should be possible though, but I'm confused by the whole system.
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zyzzx
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« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2012, 7:00:22 AM »

I do the same, transferring money from my overseas account to my US account to pay my credit card bill (because foreigners can't get credit cards here). The only way around paying for this sort of thing seems to be actually carrying cash with you from one country to another. If someone has another suggestion, I'd also love to hear it. Paypal does take a percentage, and you don't seem to be able to link accounts between different countries anyway. I think the only way to do Paypal would be to set up two different accounts, one in each country, and send payments to yourself.

The fee should be a flat fee, and that amount sounds about right - intermediate banks may also be taking a cut, and to have it be $35 between all the banks is actually not too bad. You should check to make sure though.

I minimize the amount of fees I pay by doing infrequent transfers of a lot of money. It helps that I've saved up enough here that I have no cash flow problems, so I can send thousands at a time. I would never transfer less than, say, $1000 at a time unless I really really couldn't help it. With the amounts I send, the fees end up being less than 1%, which isn't bad. I also do tend to bring a lot of cash with me when I visit the US. It's kind of fun walking into the bank and depositing $1000 in cash.
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scampster
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« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2012, 7:11:40 AM »

Thanks. I kind of figured I was stuck with this fee. I have a couple of reimbursement checks coming that I can deposit directly into the US account that should last me for probably 6 months worth of payments, so in the meantime maybe I will just save up a big chunk here to transfer all at once in 6 months. I'm only here 18 months, so I only need some kind of patch. I can get a credit card here, but have to wait 6 months, and at that point I might as well just use my debit card.
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voxprincipalis
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« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2012, 7:24:58 AM »

I think the only way to do Paypal would be to set up two different accounts, one in each country, and send payments to yourself.

Paypal doesn't let you do this. I know someone who tried exactly that and it doesn't work. Not only that, but they will flag you for these activities as being potentially fraudulent.

Sometimes the fees differ depending on which side of the transaction each bank is on. Credit Union's fee for initiating the transfer might be different from their fee for accepting the transfer, so you might look into whether it would be cheaper to have Credit Union initiate it on their side, and European Bank agree to release the funds.

VP
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wegie
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« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2012, 8:03:09 AM »

It should, in theory, be possible to set up a direct debit from your EU account to the US credit card as long as the US credit card company participates in SWIFT.

In practice, as you've found out, things are rather different :-(

The only other relatively easy possibility would be if EU bank has a US arm that would allow you to open a dollar account and the bank doesn't charge too much for moving stuff between the two accounts.
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zyzzx
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« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2012, 8:03:58 AM »

I think the only way to do Paypal would be to set up two different accounts, one in each country, and send payments to yourself.

Paypal doesn't let you do this. I know someone who tried exactly that and it doesn't work. Not only that, but they will flag you for these activities as being potentially fraudulent.


This doesn't surprise me, but it's good to know. I wonder if making payments to a trusted family member or friend would work, or if the regular transfer of money would get flagged as well.

Also interesting about initiating the transfer from the other side - I didn't know that you could do that. Although my bank here doesn't even accept incoming international transfers (except for those from big brother country next door), so they probably wouldn't go for this.

Scampster, transferring in 6 month chunks sounds like a good plan. If you're there for 18 months, you could end up with just two more transfers, so a total of ~$100 in fees for your entire time there, which isn't that bad.
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figureeight
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« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2012, 9:06:16 AM »

I had this exact situation recently, where I needed to pay a US credit card while in the UK.

Exact procedures will depend on the bank you use, but through Natwest, it was easy to set up a transfer online to my US debit account (BoA) and then directly pay the credit card through the BoA website. For a lot of UK banks, however, you do need to order a VPN reader to be able to do this. Your bank can send you one that will arrive within the week. I went with the "economical" transfer option, which came to an additional fee of 6.10 to transfer 300. However, they advertise that the "economical" option takes 5-7 business days. In reality, it took me 8, so if your credit card payment is due immediately, you might have to use one of the more expensive options. The fastest one (next day) would have cost me about 27.50 to transfer 300, so there is a real difference.

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the_walrus
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« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2012, 9:25:24 AM »

I have the same issue and found a solution that has worked marvellously (and cheaply) for the last few years.  It's here:

http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php/topic,30133.msg658256.html#msg658256

(They allow many other currencies as well; not sure what you're paid in, but assuming citibank exists in the country you work in, you'll be sorted.)
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scampster
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« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2012, 9:33:07 AM »

I had this exact situation recently, where I needed to pay a US credit card while in the UK.

Exact procedures will depend on the bank you use, but through Natwest, it was easy to set up a transfer online to my US debit account (BoA) and then directly pay the credit card through the BoA website. For a lot of UK banks, however, you do need to order a VPN reader to be able to do this. Your bank can send you one that will arrive within the week. I went with the "economical" transfer option, which came to an additional fee of 6.10 to transfer 300. However, they advertise that the "economical" option takes 5-7 business days. In reality, it took me 8, so if your credit card payment is due immediately, you might have to use one of the more expensive options. The fastest one (next day) would have cost me about 27.50 to transfer 300, so there is a real difference.


I don't know what half of that means (VPN reader?), but I'll look into it and see if it is an option here! I fortunately get paid on the last day of the month and my bill is due on the 17th, so I generally have at least ten business days to deal with transfers.

On preview: Thanks Walrus. I haven't seen a Citibank here, but that doesn't mean there isn't one (I've only been here a month).
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zyzzx
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« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2012, 10:32:44 AM »

I have the same issue and found a solution that has worked marvellously (and cheaply) for the last few years.  It's here:

http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php/topic,30133.msg658256.html#msg658256

(They allow many other currencies as well; not sure what you're paid in, but assuming citibank exists in the country you work in, you'll be sorted.)

This definitely differs country to country. For example, Citibank exists in my current country, but it's not connected to Citibank in the US. They actually make it difficult to open an account and only seem to want super rich people and businesses (with things like $50k minimum balances). The international transfer and credit card thing are a perennial topic of conversation among expats over here, and solutions have proved elusive. But apparently my current country is sadly backwards in the international banking department. Hopefully Scampster's is more civilized.
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scampster
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« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2012, 5:13:47 PM »

The plot thickens! Neither of my banks will own up to taking the $30. My credit union said they do not charge fees on incoming wire transfers. And my bank here said the fee shown before submitting is the only fee there is. The only thing I can figure is that since my credit union technically can't accept international transfers and instead it goes through an intermediary bank (which one is unknown to me), that the intermediary bank is taking a cut. This sounds standard but now I am concerned because:

(a) Someone somewhere should be able to tell me what happened to this $30, rather than me speculating.
(b) I'd like to know that the fee will stay the same if I transfer $1000 next time.

Mysteriously disappearing money is not cool! The other alternative is that my current currency lost 10% with respect to the dollar over the weekend, which I'm pretty sure I would have heard about on the news. (In all seriousness, I thought about the exchange rate issue, but the amount I received was so exact ($270.00) that it would be weird if it was a currency thing.)
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chaosbydesign
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« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2012, 6:02:46 PM »

I think the only way to do Paypal would be to set up two different accounts, one in each country, and send payments to yourself.

Paypal doesn't let you do this. I know someone who tried exactly that and it doesn't work. Not only that, but they will flag you for these activities as being potentially fraudulent.

Yeah, don't do this. Actually it did work for me, but PayPal did send me nasty emails. I think if I had been transferring more money than I did, they wouldn't have let it go through.
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pigou
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« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2012, 9:07:37 PM »

Open a bank with Ally Bank (www.ally.com) - they don't charge an incoming wire free, even for international wires. Also no monthly fees, minimum balances, no need for automatic deposit, etc. So if all you do with the account is receive $300 a month and use that to pay your card, you'll still do fine.

On top of that, they don't charge you for making an international ATM withdrawal, but they won't reimburse fees charged by that bank. However, that's still cheaper than many major banks (which charge their fee on top of what the bank charges) and many European banks don't have ATM withdrawal fees. So that makes it easy to access the money from your account even when you're abroad.

You might also benefit from the 24/7 customer support, so you don't have to worry about the time difference either.

I don't know, however, how easy it is to open the account from abroad. I believe you can do just about everything online, but you might still need a US mailing address just for the approval process.
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figureeight
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« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2012, 3:27:59 AM »

I don't know what half of that means (VPN reader?), but I'll look into it and see if it is an option here! I fortunately get paid on the last day of the month and my bill is due on the 17th, so I generally have at least ten business days to deal with transfers.

On preview: Thanks Walrus. I haven't seen a Citibank here, but that doesn't mean there isn't one (I've only been here a month).

The VPN reader is just a little device that looks vaguely like a calculator but with a slot for your debit card. When you access online banking to transfer money, the computer will prompt you to put in your card and enter your pin. Then it will give you another number that you have to enter into your computer screen before it will transfer funds.
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scampster
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« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2012, 8:28:25 AM »

Well, I found out JP Morgan Chase (the intermediary bank) are the culprit in my missing $30.

I'll look into the other suggestions as well, like Ally bank.

So how about this as an option? My bank here will cut a check in US dollars for me for a small fee ($5 or so). Can't I just deposit that into my US bank account? My credit union is pretty fab and has a smart phone app that I merely have to take a photo of the endorsed check and then they deposit it almost immediately. There must be a flaw in this plan though.
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When you are a scientist your opinions and prejudices become facts. Science is like magic that way!
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