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Banking Overseas
Old 10-07-2007, 09:28 PM   #1
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Banking Overseas

What is the best way to transfer/hold a sizeable (say $9K, so we are below the radar of gov'ment, not because anything illegal is going on... but because I try to avoid any unnecessary hassles) amount of money while we are living in a foreign country (like Taiwan, for instance) for about 5 months. I am trying to avoid any exchange expenses.
1) a) Specifically, is it economical to establish an account at a bank within the country and wire transfer $9K at a time to the account?
b) Would I get hit with exchange expenses if it went from US $s to Taiwan $s?
c) Do they have US $ accounts in other countries? hence no exchange expense until you need to use it.

Anyone with eperience in this? Thanks.
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Old 10-07-2007, 11:14 PM   #2
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You can use an american ATM card overseas. There are ATMs all over the place, most places you would travel. You could take some american express traveller's checks, and keep them in separate places, in case your ATM card was stolen. In this day and age there's no need to open up a foreign bank account.
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Old 10-08-2007, 05:55 AM   #3
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5 months' expenses having to come out in dribs and drabs will have a certain cost. At, say $5 per transaction (what Fleet was charging me for an overseas ATM wd) to get, say, $300; that's almost 2% right off the bat on top of whatever exch. rate you are getting. You'll also run into daily limits so you'll have to plan the logistics of paying for big-ticket things like rent. In my experience the bank did not give me the best exchange rate, either. Since we are here long term we do wire transfers to a foreign acc't.

There is no way to "avoid" exchange expenses. You can only try to mitigate them.
Yes, foreign banks do offer USD-denominated accounts. I know of ex-pats here in Italy who hold them, and keep an eye on the exch. rate before asking for a conversion/withdrawal (for what good it has done!).

HSBC is one of the big international banks that will do this.
Personal Banking

though here someone complains of fees:
Slightly OT: Opening a bank account in Singapore as an American - FlyerTalk Forums

another is Deutsche Bank
Welcome to Deutsche Bank!

Also, Citibank:
Citibank Taiwan

A site that I learned a lot from is here:
OANDA, The Currency Site: Foreign Exchange Services and Trading

Make sure to ask any bank you are interested in what is their exchange rate "spread" (i.e., what's the amount they charge for the exchange over and above the interbank rate). The interbank rate already guarantees something is "lost" in the process, and you just want to see what more they will skim off the top. Many regular banks are as high as 4%, CCs 3%, etc.

If you are really budgeting $9k.. you can just use your CCs and ATMs and figure you are going to be paying $400-$550 over that period (4%-6% of $9k) just as a "cost of doing business" or convenience factor. Or you can figure that the hassle of opening and closing a foreign account MAY save you a couple percent (that is, a couple hundred bucks...).

Sorry there's no "good" solution, but make sure to check closely with your current bank to see if they are offering reasonable foreign exchange and foreign ATM fees or if they are higher than the norm before deciding. Maybe you can negotiate with them in order that they keep your business?
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Old 10-08-2007, 07:26 AM   #4
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In Japan, about the only US accounts you can access with your ATM would be Citibank. I live here, and have zero access to my US cash accounts. I suggest liberal use of credit cards where possible and a citbank account. If you don't have Citi, make sure to check with your bank before you go...

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Old 10-08-2007, 12:08 PM   #5
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An easy way to reduce costs is to use a low cost ATM card and credit card. This wiki is a great source of info.

Oliver

Credit/Debit/ATM Cards and Foreign Exchange - FlyerGuide Wiki
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Old 10-08-2007, 01:12 PM   #6
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try this HSBC site,


offshore.hsbc.com A lot of the expats in Dubai use them as their global footprint for Atm's is pretty big. Also, you can have an account in Dollars and most major currencies.


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Old 10-08-2007, 04:19 PM   #7
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Some info from the wiki about ATMs, I linked to in a previous post. In addition, at least one credit card issuer absorbs the 1% Visa fee on transactions in foreign currency.

Oliver
Quote:
If you want to use your ATM card overseas, first you have to make sure it has a Visa, Mastercard, Cirrus, or Plus logo on it. Most other ATM networks (NYCE, Star, MAC, Shazam, etc.) are regional and will not work across the globe. For a complete list of interbank networks, visit Interbank network - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  • Note that the ATM card doesn't need to be a Visa/MC debit card. You may find Visa/MC debit cards more widely accepted at ATMs than Cirrus/Plus, but you may be more likely to avoid the US Visa/MC 1% racket by using a Cirrus/Plus card without a Visa/MC logo.
Quote:
When using an overseas ATM with a US-issued card, you will likely get hit with a fee by your OWN bank if it's a big national bank. Citi, Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Wachovia, etc. all typically charge their customers $1-10 for each non-affiliated foreign ATM transaction (in addition to any Visa/MC 1% conversion fee). Some premium customers might be exempted from those fees, but check with your bank. Many smaller regional and internet-based banks do not charge anything for foreign ATM withdrawals. See the List below for examples.
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Old 10-08-2007, 04:59 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rambler View Post
In Japan, about the only US accounts you can access with your ATM would be Citibank. I live here, and have zero access to my US cash accounts. I suggest liberal use of credit cards where possible and a citbank account. If you don't have Citi, make sure to check with your bank before you go...

Rambler
Hi Rambler,

Before you mentioned it, I had not realized access to funds is a major problem in Japan. In looking into the problem I found some partial solutions.
Quote:
The big exceptions are the ATMs found at the over 20,000 post offices and over 10,000 7-Eleven convenience stores across the country. These ATMs allow you to withdraw cash by credit and debit cards issued outside of Japan, including Visa, Plus, Mastercard, Maestro, Cirrus, American Express and JCB cards and provide an English user menu.
Quote:
In addition to the ATMs at post offices and 7-Eleven convenience stores, international ATMs can be found at international airports, in major department stores and in Citibank and Shinsei Bank branches.
I would be very interested in knowing if the ATMs at the post office, 7-eleven and Shinsei Bank actually work.

Oliver

PS Info from Japan: ATM's in Japan
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Old 10-08-2007, 10:13 PM   #9
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Open up a Fidelity mySmart Cash account and they reimburse all ATM charges except of course the 1% foreign exchange fee.
Their account currently pays 3.5% apy.

A small disclaimer, I just got it to have for my upcoming trip back to SEA so haven't used it yet.

MJ
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Old 10-09-2007, 09:55 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rambler View Post
In Japan, about the only US accounts you can access with your ATM would be Citibank. I live here, and have zero access to my US cash accounts. I suggest liberal use of credit cards where possible and a citbank account. If you don't have Citi, make sure to check with your bank before you go...
Rambler
Is this a recent change?
We visited Japan few years ago and had no problems taking money out of ATM from Wachovia, NetBank and BoA checking accounts (but stayed mostly in tourist places, like Kyoto, Nara, Himeji, Moto Hakone ).
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Old 10-10-2007, 09:10 AM   #11
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Just get an account with Citibank.

I do all my banking with them and I've never been to a country where I couldn't find a branch.
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Old 10-10-2007, 09:32 AM   #12
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I would look into opening a USA account with Citibank or HSBC and then using a local branch for your needs.
Overseas banks tend to hit you up for various fees.
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Old 10-10-2007, 10:45 AM   #13
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I always keep the equivalent of about $9500 in a European bank and I can access the money anytime, anywhere in the world, using a VISA debit card. There is no way I know of to completely avoid exchange expenses. But you can try to minimize bank-to-bank transfer fees. One of the cheapest ways to do this is to take the money with you on the airplane (you don't have to declare anything to customs if you carry less than $10,000 or equivalent with you) and deposit it to your new account on arrival. The other cost effective way to transfer money has been in my experience to use my Visa debit card at local ATMs. My debit card gives me a competitive exchange rate with no bank to bank transfer fees.
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Old 10-10-2007, 07:50 PM   #14
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Just get an account with Citibank.

I do all my banking with them and I've never been to a country where I couldn't find a branch.
Somewhat over simplified statement. Maybe this is true in Western Europe but in all of Thailand, Citi has only one location in Bangkok as does HSBC (your local international bank ).

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Old 10-12-2007, 12:06 PM   #15
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If you want to take cash:

Generally speaking, you can take up to $10,000 Euros into any EU country, and up to $10,000 USD into any Asian country without declaration. However when you exit the country, there may be additional restrictions on local currency. For example in Taiwan:

Taiwan Headlines
"The Foreign Exchange Control Act states that inbound and outbound passengers must declare sums of money in excess of NT$60,000, foreign currency in excess of US$10,000, or Chinese currency in excess of 20,000 yuan when entering or leaving Taiwan."

If you didn't declare and they find excess $, they'd confiscate it. In the article above, a guy brought $40 million yen with him and forgot to declare it, so they confiscated $38.8 million yen. He was not a happy camper.


When I travel to Asia, I usually bring USD in cash. I'd exchange $100 at the airport, and the rest at local money changers. If I need more $, I'd simply use my ATM or credit card at local ATM. This works in Taiwan, HK, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, China, etc.

However keep in mind that ATM access may be limited in certain areas. I was at Boracay in PH earlier this year and had to walk all the way to the D-Mall to use an ATM.
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Old 10-28-2007, 07:22 AM   #16
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I live in Japan. You can only open up a bank account here if you have a Registered Alien card. I was able to get an account at Citibank prior to this new rule. I wire money in monthly ($15 from Fideity) into my Citibank account. It goes into a USD denominated account. I transfer the money to Yen periodically at a rate that is 1 yen per USD less than the current mid-market rate.

For those that don't have accounts, just go to a Citibank, Post Office, or now 7-eleven. Citibank and Post Office charge you $5 plus 1% which is pretty darn good as long as you take out large amounts at a time. I had no problems getting money from either with my BofA ATM. I have never used ATM at 7-eleven.

I am not familiar with banking in Taiwan so I can't help the OP much. However, the last thing I would do is bring large amounts of USD in cash and convert; the rate is usually much worse than ATM rate (assuming large transfers). If you are on vacation spending a few hundred dollars; by all means, use a money changer. However, if you are talking about thousands, forget it. Citibank would charge me one more yen per USD if I brought in currency.

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Old 10-28-2007, 07:43 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by megacorp-firee View Post
What is the best way to transfer/hold a sizeable (say $9K, so we are below the radar of gov'ment, not because anything illegal is going on... but because I try to avoid any unnecessary hassles) amount of money while we are living in a foreign country (like Taiwan, for instance) for about 5 months. I am trying to avoid any exchange expenses.
1) a) Specifically, is it economical to establish an account at a bank within the country and wire transfer $9K at a time to the account?
b) Would I get hit with exchange expenses if it went from US $s to Taiwan $s?
c) Do they have US $ accounts in other countries? hence no exchange expense until you need to use it.

Anyone with eperience in this? Thanks.
I've used my ATM card (Netbank, now ING) in Asia, Africa and Europe and I've not paid any fees. I opened a savings account in Thailand for "back-up" incase I have problems or lose my US ATM card. I've made one wire transfer and paid US $25 in fees.

IMHO, ATM withdrawls is the way to go

Lance
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Old 10-28-2007, 08:54 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Oliver View Post
Hi Rambler,

Before you mentioned it, I had not realized access to funds is a major problem in Japan. In looking into the problem I found some partial solutions.I would be very interested in knowing if the ATMs at the post office, 7-eleven and Shinsei Bank actually work.

I haven't tried to withdraw cash from a US bank account in over 10 years, so my info is a bit dated. Back then the post office did not work, there were only a few sparse machines here and there that would work to get cash from a visa card or visa-branded debit card. Like maybe one machine per city, often hidden in some department store's ATM corner. (When passing through Tokyo, part of the ritual was to visit the magic machine in the back of the Yaesu underground mall Cash Corner.) Part of the problem being that most ATM cards in Japan have the magnetic strip on the front of the card, not the back, so most ATMs aren't designed to read cards with strips in the back. With Visa cash-advance machines, the problem was with licensing, I think. Perhaps that issue has since been resolved?

However, you could almost always get cash by going to a bank in person and doing a Visa cash advance (not MC). So try to carry Visa, at least a debit card. Amex also worked a time or two, at a travel agent's ATM as I recall. You had to sign up for some service to let Amex debit your checking account directly, as I recall (forget the name of the service).
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Old 10-28-2007, 01:36 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Lancelot View Post
I've used my ATM card (Netbank, now ING) in Asia, Africa and Europe and I've not paid any fees. I opened a savings account in Thailand for "back-up" incase I have problems or lose my US ATM card. I've made one wire transfer and paid US $25 in fees.

IMHO, ATM withdrawls is the way to go

Lance
Do local banks overseas accept checks on US accounts to fund the account?
If you deposit a check written on your local bank into the foreign account you should then be able to withdraw from the banks ATM without paying wire fees or ATM fees. (US or local currency)
I would think the check could take up to a month to clear just be sure to stay a month ahead.
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Old 10-29-2007, 11:47 PM   #20
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Do local banks overseas accept checks on US accounts to fund the account? If you deposit a check written on your local bank into the foreign account you should then be able to withdraw from the banks ATM without paying wire fees or ATM fees. (US or local currency)
I would think the check could take up to a month to clear just be sure to stay a month ahead.
I don't think most local banks will take US checks. Citibank will, but they charge a hefty fee to do so.
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