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In the U.S, whenever I want to move money between my U.S bank accounts, I simply link them once using their respective routing and account numbers, and then initiate ACH transactions between them whenever I need to move money. This system is pretty reliable and generally free of charge.

How would this work with foreign bank accounts?

I may be moving to Switzerland soon and would like to know if there's a similar system to move money between a Swiss bank account and a U.S bank account. I'm assuming I can't simply link them up using routing and account numbers since Swiss banks probably use a different system than the Automated Clearing House system the U.S uses.

What system would I use to transfer the money between the accounts, that is also generally free of charge, and that takes care of the currency conversion in a way that is pretty faithful to the real conversion rate at the time of the transaction?

  • Search this site for questions and answers that contain the word SWIFT. – Dilip Sarwate Dec 20 '16 at 23:44
  • There are many such services, XETrade and Moneybookers being just two. There will always be a fee, but you will see it as a difference in the exchange rate, between 2 & 3%. – Jim Garrison Dec 21 '16 at 2:57
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I have taken to using the service TransferWise. I have found them to be faster and cheaper and easier than using SWIFT, given the US Banking's... antiquated system of doing things.

I've made dozens of transfers between my international accounts with TransferWise over the past 18 months. Some of them very large and some of them tiny, and even when there's been an issue (I once wrote an offensive joke in my narration for the transfer and they noticed) they have handled it respectfully and quickly.

Prior to transferring money to US accounts, I used the SWIFT system - but SWIFT has a pretty spotty record in the US. Some banks you can do it all online but other banks, as Dheer mentioned, you have to go into the bank and sometimes find a senior staff member before you can find someone who even knows what SWIFT is.

  • How is Transferwise different from, say, Paypal? – Joe Dec 21 '16 at 18:41
  • @Joe I tried to investigate PayPal for this, but I didn't get very far. I found their system confusing, and more importantly, quite expensive. It also meant having multiple accounts, which made things complicated. You also then had to "withdraw" your money back into your account, and IIRC there was payment limits that were below what I needed. Also, TransferWise I could send it to any of my multiple accounts in either country, which would be a hassle with PayPal. I also use TransferWise for sending money to my sister, who doesn't have PayPal. – Mark Henderson Dec 21 '16 at 18:44
  • Are there any services similar to TransferWise but that do not charge a flat fee, even if they give less competitive exchange rates? TransferWise looks good for large amounts of money, but for smaller amounts, the kind of service I describe might make more sense. – AxiomaticNexus Dec 21 '16 at 23:40
  • @AxiomaticNexus I've no idea. But the charge for sending US$100 to CHF is US$3 - not sure if it gets any cheaper than that. Transferwise is not a flat fee. The fee to send 10x as much money is only 3x higher. – Mark Henderson Dec 21 '16 at 23:50
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I may be moving to Switzerland soon and would like to know if there's a similar system to move money between a Swiss bank account and a U.S bank account.

There is no easy way. The most common method is International Wire or SWIFT. These kinds of transfer are generally charged in the range of USD 20 to USD 50 per transfer. It generally takes 2 to 5 days to move the money. Some Banks have not yet given the facility to initiate a International Wire from Internet banking platforms. One has to physically walk-in. So if this is going to be frequent, make sure both your banks offer this.

As the volume between US and Switzerland is less, there may not be any dedicated remittance service providers [these are generally low cost].

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Some brokerages will let you withdraw/deposit in multiple jurisdictions. e.g. I used to use Interactive Brokers. I could deposit/withdraw to US and UK bank accounts, in the appropriate currencies. It helps to have a brokerage that provides good rates on forex exchange also, and they were very good on the bid/ask spread. It was possible to get interbank rates plus a very low commission.

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