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April 18, 2007


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Have you thought about using paypal?

Or she could open an account over here and you could put money into it.

How about opening a joint account in the US. Then open an online account like ING Direct. You should be able to transfer $ back and forth between your ING account and your joint US account via an ACH Tranfer. Normally this takes a 1-3 days for your funds to be available. I do this all the time domestically ... not sure if there would be any issues internationally but I don't see why.

HSBC has banks in both the States and the UK. You can set up an account and transfer money electronically (for free) and she can use an atm card to withdraw it here. (You can do either a savings account or a checking account).
With PayPal you can only receive $500/month without fees.

"my fiancée...Or is it better to use the Western Union and continue to wire forever"

You do plan to get married and like... live together sometime right?

Tim: as a non-resident non-citizen he will not be able to open a US bank account, or a US ING Direct account -- I'm a permanent resident and was unable to open any bank accounts until my SSN came through. And even so, he'd still face the problem of how to get funds from his UK account to his US account. The international issues are the whole nub of the problem.

Fees matter, but so does the exchange rate -- watch both, it's easy to be swayed by low fees but end up getting a bad rate.

I would imagine pretty much *anything* is going to be cheaper than Western Union.

When I was in this situation (and yes, hejustlaughs, we did marry and live together) I found wiring from my UK bank to the US was expensive and surprisingly slow. A cheaper solution was to have my UK bank issue me a foreign draft in US$ and mail it to the US myself.

These days I use XEtrade for moving money from the UK to the US -- excellent rates, and if you use EFT rather than wire into the destination account, no fees. This may not be as well suited for frequent small transfers though.

"Do I give her a Visa card and try to pay it, hoping she is not going to max it?"

Banks would frown on it, but I've heard it done. It seems to me a debit card would be better, and pick a UK bank which doesn't add a load to foreign transactions. Typically Visa or Mastercard add 1% to the transaction; the issuing bank adds up to another 3% load on top of that. (You won't see these charges explicitly, they're hidden in the exchange rate.) Nationwide were best for this when I left the UK -- no extra charges over the Visa/Mastercard cut -- but I don't know if this is still the case now.

Elizabeth's HSBC idea sounds like a legitimate version of "send her an ATM card" -- well worth looking into. Citibank also have US and UK operations. (I found Citibank's UK operation pretty inept, but that's just my experience.)

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