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Banking in USA

Travel Forums General Talk Banking in USA

1. Posted by JD202 (Budding Member 2 posts) 8y

Hello, sorry to make my first post a bit of a complicated one but I'm hoping someone can help me with a few questions I have.

My partner and I are planning to travel to America in January for 6 months to 1 year (depending on whether we can get an extended visa). We have around £20,000 to take with us - so at the current exchange rate around $34000.

What we want to know is what is the best way of taking this money. Should we leave it in a UK bank account and spend what we need when we need it, meaning we could end up with less money if the exchange rate changes against us? Or is there some way we could change the money over to dollars before we leave so we have a fixed amount to rely on while we're there?

I really wouldn't know how to go about the second option, I'm assuming we would need to transfer the money into an American bank account (I don't know whether this is possible or not) or somehow take the money over, in dollars, obviously not in cash

Any ideas anyone?

2. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 1993 posts) 8y

We're talking high finance here! First of all, my advice is from a total amateur, and I would advise you to talk to your banker at home, and not take the advise of a total stranger! I would imagine that the last thing you would want to do is to take the money in check form on the plane! If you want to open accounts in the USA (you don't say where you will be?) that can be done with a wire transfer. There's no reason why you couldn't just use ATM's here drawing on your accounts back home. There is no one bank for all 50 states (I know Bank of America sounds nationwide, but it only has branches in specific regions). Yes, you can withdraw funds on just about any ATM here from any bank, but extra fees will be added if that ATM is not at your local bank. With that amount of money, you want to do it with the great care - talk to your local banker, and if he is unable to help, go to another bank! (I also advise to get a second opinion on this.) You might also want to put this question to one of the expat websites and ask other Brits how they handle this.

[ Edit: Edited on Oct 21, 2008, at 9:45 AM by Daawgon ]

3. Posted by samsara_ (Travel Guru 5353 posts) 8y

Hi JD,

I can't see how you can arrange it so that you incur no fees at all. I live here in the US, and I would advise against opening a bank account here just for that purpose. When I transfer money from my Irish accounts into my US account, I pay a flat €12.00 fee on the Irish side and a $15.00 fee on the US side every time. It's a killer. I'm not sure what the case would be if you are transferring such a large amount....and, as Daagwon says, US banks dont seem to be nationwide. I notice here that there are charges from transferring from bank to bank, which we dont have at home.

When I was travelling, I found the most effective way was to put most of my travel warchest into my credit cards (keeping them +++€€€ all the time. That way, when I withdrew money, I was only hit with an ATM fee (usually 2-3USD wherever I was in the world) and no fee on my credit cards. I took out a few hundred whenever I went to an ATM, tried to make that last as long as possible, and used my credit cards wherever I could to pay for goods, services etc.

Carrying cash is definitely not the way to go. Travellers cheques are a pain in the ass I think (just a personal opinion), and I think credit cards (have a minimum of 2 - one VISA, one Mastercard for example to cover all eventualities) are the best option.

Hope that helps! That;s a fantastic sum of money to be hitting the road with

4. Posted by Hien (Moderator 3906 posts) 8y

If you want to avoid the overseas ATM withdrawal fees charged by your bank, get yourself a Nationwide bank account (if you don't already have one) and use their ATM card. Nationwide do not charge their customers for overseas withdrawals. However, some ATMs may charge you a withdrawal fee (like those kiosk ATMs in the UK), which shouldn't be much.

If you decided to use Nationwide, you don't have to close your existing account (again, assuming that you are with a different bank now). You can always use internet banking to transfer funds from your main account to your "travel account".

Last but not least, remember to inform your bank(s) and credit card issuer(s) that you're travelling for a long period of time. Many banks have a default block on overseas withdrawals/transactions, so it is important to let them know before you leave or you might find yourself making overseas phone calls to your banks asking them why you couldn't use your card.

5. Posted by JD202 (Budding Member 2 posts) 8y

Brilliant, thanks for the replies everyone!

Daawgon - we're heading to California (LA) first and hoping to spend a while there before we move on.

Hien - hadn't thought about informing the bank about travelling overseas, that's a very good point we'll remember to do that.

Sounds like the best way to go is to keep a UK bank account, have heard good things about the nationwide flex account before so we'll probably get that one sorted out. Hopefully the exchange rate will turn further in our favour while we're there!

Thanks again, very helpful replies.

6. Posted by loubylou (Travel Guru 664 posts) 8y

Quoting Hien

However, some ATMs may charge you a withdrawal fee (like those kiosk ATMs in the UK), which shouldn't be much.

Nationwide has absorbed these costs when we have been charged by banks for a withdrawal fee. In two years we have never had a single charge show on our account. There was also a mix up in China when a machine didn't give money out and Nationwide reimbursed us straight away, with no problems. They were meant to tell us if they got the money back but just decided to absorb this one too. Nationwide is a great bank to be with!