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Expat Lite - Need Some Encouragement
Old 02-23-2015, 01:43 PM   #1
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Expat Lite - Need Some Encouragement

Probably going to be RE this summer. Will only be 52. Would like to buy a condo in Sun City but too young for that. Moved where I am now for the job and don't want to hang around once I am RE. Am considering spending time abroad between now and at least 55 and then reassess. Have visited many nice places and have decided upon 3 final candidates. I know all of the rules for long term visas and none of the three present any great difficulty. Where I get hung up on the whole expat thing is accessing my money from abroad. I don't even think about it here but should something happen (wallet stolen, a clean out burglary) it would be a bummer but easily straightened out. My big paranoia is being in Thailand, Mexico or Ecuador, with no local cash and not being able to access my funds. The last few years have been very bad for the relatives in my immediate family in terms of passing away and the few remaining friends and relatives I have would have difficulty putting their own hands on funds to wire me to help me out in an emergency. I feel like I am afraid for no good reason other than the unknown. Do any of you have experience living overseas with regard to moving money around and can you help put my mind at ease? Some of my fears involve not being able to log into accounts, not being able to get funds transferred into local banks, being told I need to come into the bank for certain things, etc.. What are some of the things I should start thinking about? Thanks for your help.

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Old 02-23-2015, 03:05 PM   #2
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Any reason you cannot use credit cards with no foreign transaction fee? You can then pay the bill with your checking account.

For cash, Charles Schwab offers free ATM withdrawls.

Not sure if that is what you were looking for but that will be my plan when we head overseas for a few years.

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Old 02-23-2015, 03:15 PM   #3
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That would certainly be a weapon in the arsenal but then I would be dependent on pieces of plastic and getting them replaced if necessary. Ideally I would go on a two or three month exploratory expedition and get comfortable moving money around, set up local accounts, etc... I am trying to anticipate any potential landmines in advance so they will be easy to side step. Now if I have a problem I just walk into the Bank of America around the corner from my house.
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Old 02-23-2015, 03:24 PM   #4
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Opening up bank accounts overseas as a US citizen has become more difficult. Many banks don't want to deal with the US regulations and reporting requirements. What I am suggesting would help alleviate this issue. Short of keeping large amounts of cash in local currency, which is too dangerous to me, is another option.
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Old 02-23-2015, 03:42 PM   #5
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We travel for long periods in foreign countries and while I don't have the answers to your concerns I'll share what we do.

There are 2 of us so we make sure we each carry different credit and debit cards. (use the Debit cards for cash from ATM's).

I have an account with for transferring money to other banks, useful for paying some companies, or landlords who either don't take credit cards or charge a large premium for credit cards. In Australia this year I transferred cash to my brother's bank account for him to then give it to me, as we stayed with him for the first month of our trip. Not sure how easy or possible it would be to open a bank account if you are only going to be in a country for a few weeks or even a few months.

I have a secure online vault where I keep copies of important documents such as credit cards, passports and the like.

In 2012 we did have a credit card cloned and didn't discover that until we were traveling in England and France, but although it was a big hassle we resolved it all electronically and via phone. The tricky bit is the affidavit but the CC company emailed a PDF to me, I found somewhere to print it out and sign it, then took photos of the signed affidavit and emailed it back.

I also have a credit card that never leaves the house, and that card is the one that all the automated payments go to.

Skype is great, set up to make phone calls, because while abroad you can use it to make toll free calls within the USA, as well as cheap international calls. Useful when I had lots of calls dealing with the credit card company from France.

One last thing - we always try and ensure that the places we stay have high speed internet since we are so reliant on it.
Retired in Jan, 2010 at 55, moved to England in May 2016
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Old 02-23-2015, 03:48 PM   #6
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Listen, it is just not that difficult. We have lived in San Miguel de Allende Mx full time for 7 years. When the US started making issues for the banks here, we used our capital one card for a month or so. There are no fees and we could take out 7000 pesos at a time and then just do it again. As,of two months ago, the banks found work around and you can cash US checks as long as they are at least 500 dollars. We have found the easiest way was to use Xoom. We can get 2999 US dollars for a fee of 4.99.that is at rhis time 42000 pesos which is more than enough for us for six weeks since we own our home. Once registered with Xoom, it takes five minutes to have the money transferred to one of their pick up sites. We use the bank azteca in Elektra and can do it 365 days a year from 9 to 9. Xooms exchange rate is always much better than any bank. We have the money taken out of our HSBC online bank account. We have our SS cheks and my pension direct deposited into that account.
Enjoy the excitement of trying a different culture!!
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Old 02-23-2015, 09:44 PM   #7
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This is not really that big of a problem. Before I retired and moved abroad, I opened several new bank accounts exclusively for the reason of getting more debit and ATM cards. This is not so easy to do once you become an expat. And two of these accounts are now zero fee plus foreign ATM fee reimbursement.

You can rarely open a bank account in a foreign country where you are not resident for awhile, and you probably don't want to anyway. I traveled around the world for over five years before opening a foreign bank account.

Anyway, when you are actually living in a place for awhile, the ultimate back up is to have actual local friends (who are probably also fellow expats). Where I live, any number of friends would spot me cash in an emergency. An extra set of keys and an ATM card (not a debit card) are kept at a friend's nearby house. I gave him a "package" to keep which also included one pair of contact lenses and an old pair of glasses. That is the only thing I use that savings account for (it is HSBC online account).

I also second Xoom, although it does not work in many countries, it is nice to have. If you get cleaned out completely, you probably can't even receive money if you have no ID. But you can send it to a friend or even a hotel employee. After you use it once or twice, Xoom lets you send straight from your bank account instead of using a credit card.

There was a young careless person at my hotel in Mexico (I won't mention nationality or background). He had just one debit card and lost it in a drunken stupor and totally lacked any skill in taking care of these sorts of things and his family was dirt poor. Anyway, I helped him with the details and I spotted him some cash for a week along with one other guy, it was no big deal.

Also, I have told my relatives (mom and sister) that they should not send me money in an emergency until they really know it's me, as this is a common scam. I told them I will tell them something that only we would know.
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Old 02-23-2015, 09:50 PM   #8
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Oh yeah, and make sure you have a funded Skype account. I have helped other travelers a number of times who were pretty clueless about how to call their home country. I pay $60 per year for unlimited calling to USA and Canada plus I have a Skype In phone number (latter is useful for financial accounts, most of which require a phone number). Once it's set up, it's so easy.

I was at my regular poker game last week, and my friend was trying to use Magic Jack on the host's computer to call his son in America and was having all sorts of problems. I just pulled out my smartphone with Skype running, and he was talking to his son in 15 seconds.

When I was based in Latin America (less time difference), I even forwarded my Skype phone number to my Latin America number. So when my brokerage or credit card called that number, my local cell phone would ring. The only issue is that if you don't answer, it goes to Spanish voice mail.

I use a mail forwarding service for mail. I get an email of a picture of the letter the same day I receive the mail. I can get anything scanned or forwarded.
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Old 02-23-2015, 10:27 PM   #9
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Also have done a trial 3 month stay out of the U.S. One thing I found useful was getting a free Google Voice U.S. phone number and an Obi100 (learned about little device from this forum). I can park myself in S.E. Asia and still have a local U.S. phone number working 24 hours a day at my residence. Google Voice even records messages when I am out. Just have to have a fast enough internet connection, and most of us would want that anyway. I bought a good quality cordless phone so I can walk around the house, and can have long talks with friends and family back in the states, and as far as I can tell there is basically no difference in sound quality. It is great if you have to call back for handling some business or account maintenance where you are put on hold a long time. Also have a no fee ATM to get cash, and online banking in the U.S. so we handle payments that way. I don't see any reason for needing a local bank account so far. We also have multiple ATM and credit cards, and don't carry all with us. I always monitor online the accounts we use to make sure all of the expenses are correct. While the first month might seem a little difficult, by the third month you are so into the rhythm of life in your new locale you are starting to wonder why you are going to return to the U.S so soon. Next time it will be longer than 3 months! My advice: Board that plane! Enjoy!
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Old 02-23-2015, 10:43 PM   #10
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Only issue I have had is my bank would want me to come in to sign something. Since they are used to folks just coming in, sometimes it is hard for them to understand I'm not in the country for the next X months...

Normally, they then just mail me stuff, and I mail it back. I'd also give a little gift like a bottle of booze to the banker once a year when I was in town.
It really helped them remember me, which made arranging stuff easier.

I also use skype with phone OUT numbers, so I can call a number and it rings in the other country and I can call from any phone. I pay $30 for skype.

I'll check into that Skype IN number as that sounds useful to me.
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Old 02-24-2015, 02:57 PM   #11
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You are probably over-thinking this to some degree. You'll be in a groove in no time. I was a working expat in Asia (2 different countries) for 3 years and never had a local bank account. Megacorp's US subsidiary deposited my paycheck into my US bank as usual. Locally, I operated solely with US credit cards and a US debit card for obtaining cash at ATMs. I never paid an ATM fee and got really good exchange rates. In Asia, you can use cash for almost everything, in fact it's preferred. I paid rent, utilities, food, nearly everything, with cash. I only carried what I needed (equivalent of USD $100-150) and made a special ATM run to pay larger items like utilities. I used credit cards mainly for travel expenses, like airfare, hotels, restaurants.

At that time, I communicated mainly with a Megacorp-issued US Blackberry, which literally worked anywhere on the planet. Megacorp paid the bill but it was very expensive. I had a local cell which was dirt cheap, and also used Google Voice on my laptop for free international calling with a private US VPN service. If you have reliable broadband anywhere in the world (which is NOT a given BTW), you'll be able to call the US, and probably for free if you get creative.

Unless you are proficient in the local language and dialects, it's always advisable to have at least 1 or 2 English-speaking local friends to help out with difficult language situations (bank, post office, local government offices, pharmacist, etc).

Good luck. I've looked at both Thailand and Ecuador, but DW and I are leaning toward Costa Rica if we decide to go that route.

Retired at 52 in July 2013. On to better things...
AA: 55% stock, 15% real estate, 27% bonds, 3% cash
WR: 2.0% SI: 2 pensions, some rental income, SS later
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