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I am moving overseas due to work. As part of the move I need a bank account in the country I am going to live in, and then I will need to transfer the money that I have in my U.S. account(s) to the new account.

However, right away I am very surprised at the costs involved. It appears that it could cost several hundred or even over a thousand dollars just to move money between my accounts. This is using one of those search tools that is searching for the best deals. (And in case it matters, this is mostly money from the sale of a previous home that we are saving and planning to use largely in buying and furnishing a new home in the destination location, so it is a rather large amount!) If I was moving money within the United States I would ACH and it would not cost me anything and it would be done within 3 days. If I was in a hurry I would wire the money and it would cost me $30 regardless of the size of my account. So I am looking for the best way to move money that does not charge a percentage on the amount the be moved, but charges a fixed rate.

There is also the matter of the exchange rate. Many years ago when I visited a friend in Canada they advised me to avoid the "money exchange" sites along the border and instead to exchange the money at a local bank which would give me a much better rate - I think it was only a few pips or the difference between the bid/ask spread on the currency exchange. But now when I look at the possibility of opening an account that will automatically convert incoming wires like this, I read that banks are now somehow the most expensive charging up to 5% (!) above the mid-market rate. To me this just seems like robbery!

Another idea I had was to buy a cash settled FX future and hold it until delivery. Then I get the ask price and pay the pips over the bid price and only pay a buck or two to my broker for each contract. But I am not at all clear on the terms, and it appears that cash settled may actually mean that I would get an amount back in dollars based on the change in price until expiration, and I may be confused or having wishful thinking in comparing FX with commodities that you can take physical delivery on. Even if it delivery the destination currency, I am not sure how I would actually take delivery (the broker doesn't seem to offer foreign currency amounts any more) or get it to a new account.

What is the cheapest way that I can transfer my funds overseas to my new account so that I don't immediately take a large loss just in fees and conversion rates? The money does not need to be moved particularly fast, and can open an account with whoever I need to in order to facilitate this.

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    Product advice is off topic generally. money.stackexchange.com/q/156943/109107 is the latest that was closed but still has plenty of answers. If you just search international money transfer you will find lots of questions and answers here.
    – AKdemy
    Jun 18 at 22:44
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    @AKdemy Thanks, I did not see that one. I saw where the recommendation was to use Bitcoin (!) which I considered borderline scam and a couple others regarding Latin American currencies which didn't seem relevant here. I wasn't necessarily wanting advice on a particular bank or product, but something to point me in the right direction. I'll review the linked post.
    – Andy
    Jun 18 at 23:30
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    This is not answerable without knowing the country involved, and even then - as mentioned, service recommendations are off-topic as these frequently change and don't age well. Just shop around between the various financial institutions available to you in your home country. On the US side the price of a wire transfer is usually fixed, as you've mentioned.
    – littleadv
    Jun 19 at 0:13

2 Answers 2

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Depending on the country you want to transfer to, you can consider a "multi-currency account". See for example https://www.forbes.com/advisor/banking/multi-currency-account/

I personally use wise.com (no product pitch intended, just an example) to transfer between my accounts in the US and in Europe. The path is "US checking account" via ACH to "Wise US$ account" via internal Wise transfer to "Wise Euro account" via IBAN to "any account in Europe or IBAN territory".

The ACH transfer in the US is typically the slowest, the rest is super quick. Exchange fees are very low (in the order of 0.5%) and it works well even for larger sums.

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  • Thanks! I am starting to realize that I am apparently quite a cheapskate, because 0.5% still winds up being a lot more money than I am willing to spend. I mean, we are talking about enough money that I could buy a new laptop instead.
    – Andy
    Jun 20 at 16:43
  • Since I was also transferring a good bit of money, I researched this fairly carefully and found that to be the cheapest way. When we did an international move 28 years ago we used Traveler Checks but this was still 1% . Keep in mind that currencies do fluctuate so timing likely make more of a difference than 0.5%. It's A LOT less than a regular bank will charge you.
    – Hilmar
    Jun 21 at 12:33
  • That's true. I'm already tearing my hair out that the EUR rose over 2% against the dollar in just a couple days. Although, that was after it fell close to the same amount but it's already up again today and if it continues I don't know what I'll do...
    – Andy
    Jun 21 at 17:39
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    Let it go: it's outside of your control and the best you can do is to pick a time that works otherwise and pull the trigger. Getting upset about doesn't help: there is nothing you can do.
    – Hilmar
    Jun 22 at 15:32
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    Never let the search for a perfect solution stop you from taking one that really is good enough.... Getting upset doesn't get you better answers and may distract you from considering workable alternatives. This is just another of the many things to work out and factor in before accepting an international assignment or relocation.
    – keshlam
    Jul 19 at 23:35
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This is speculation, not a reliable answer:I'm still wondering whether, for a large amount, it would make more sense to keep it in equities, transfer those equities from a brokerage in the first country to a brokerage in the second company, and sell them incrementally/as needed from there. Haven't checked what the fees involved would be or if this would really avoid currency exchange surcharges.

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