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This question has several parts, but the underlying story is the following: I currently live in the US, I am moving to Europe (specifically, France) in a couple of months, for at least two years. I may or may not come back to the US (I work in the academia), I have some savings in the US in a regular bank account. I am not a US citizen, my visa expires in three months, and I am trying to maximize the benefit/minimize the costs of either moving or spending the money that I have here over there.

Now: I do not want to move the money in cash since I have to go first to my country of origin for visa issues, the amount has to be declared, and the taxes/cost of transfers over there make this an unwise option.

Now the questions:

  1. On average, are the bank's currency exchanges in the US competitive compared to the rates that I could get in, in this case, France? My bank is PNC (for what it might help), and I am considering to just spend my US money via withdrawals over there. The bank's fee seems pretty low but I am afraid that they might hit me with a bad currency exchange. For some reason the representatives that I talk to are not capable to inform me where to find the exchange rate they use, so I can't compare with local sources (in France). What would you say? (if you have some experience, not speculation please).
  2. Can my condition of alien create a problem? As I told before, I am an alien and my visa expires in three months. Can there be legal problems in the future if I keep money/use debit cards overseas while not being legally subject to US taxation? Or am I actually so, even with a expired visa and living overseas?
  3. What about the credit card option? I have been considering to apply for a credit card (I do not have one, though PNC's debit card works as a Visa for all the practical purposes that I know of) to make purchases over there and make the payments with my US money. Again, I wonder about the currency exchange. Is it better than withdrawals, is it comparable to local exchange of currency?

  4. And moving money directly between bank accounts?...Although somewhat difficult, I can try to open a bank account in France before traveling over there, and then move my money via a direct transfer. Are these kind of transactions at least comparable in cost to cashing dollars for euros over there? (ignoring the transaction fee). Do you know where can I find out?

I think this is it, but above all, I would really appreciate any advice from people that have been in my situation: what did you do? did you find any unsuspected surprise? what should I not do? etc.

Thanks for your attention!

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I regularly transfer money from the US to Europe, and have found a simple US check a pretty useful way (if you are not in a hurry): you write a US dollar based check to yourself, and deposit it to a bank in your new location (which implies you open an account in France, yes).

It takes some days (somedays 7 days), and then the money will be deposited. The local bank will convert it (so you can walk around and pick a bank that has a rate concept that pleases you, before you open the account), and there will be no fees on the US side (which means you can get every last dollar out of the account). Also, you have the control over how much you pull when - you can write yourself as many checks as you like (assuming you took your checkbook).

This was the best rate I could get, considering that wire transfers cost significant fees. There are probably other options.

If you are talking serious money (like 100 k$ or more), there will better ways, but most banks will be eager to help you with that.

Note that as long as you make interest income in the US, you are required to file taxes in the US; your visa status and location don't matter.

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