All right, I need your help on this one. What is the best way to transfer money internationally?
Traveler's cheques are dead, in my mind -- too much hassle, too few places accepting them as cash anymore, so you run around trying to cash them at banks. If I'm gone a long time, maybe I'll stash some for extra security, but I frankly haven't used them in years.
When I lived in the UK, I had a UK bank account (tip: Lloyd's TSB only requires a passport and address if you are an American opening an account -- though for other nationalities they may require much more). My mother still had a UK bank account, so we could do domestic transfers and save a lot of money.
Usually, I get cash beforehand or as soon as I land from an ATM (tell your bank you're traveling, and keep that cash separated!!!), and keep $200-300 USD as a backup. Then, I use ATMs around the country -- yes, paying a fee, but trying to withdraw ample amounts to keep the fees low.
I used to have a Bank of America account, which was helpful in the UK because they partner with Barclay's, so I paid no ATM fees. The madre was linked to my US account, so if I was in a jam, she could do a domestic instant transfer into my BoA account and I could pick it up instantly at Barclay's (paying a small conversion fee).
I don't have BoA anymore (best decision ever), and I no longer want to link family members to my bank accounts (though it is not a bad strategy, served me well for many years as a backup). So what do you all do when your cash is running low and you need someone from home to give you some help?
For the record, a backup strategy is just good sense -- no, you should not rely on it. But when Lloyd's froze my account for fraud*, I was REALLY grateful that I had a system with BoA and Barclay's!
And I've never used Western Union or anything like that -- have you? Was it secure, fast, cheap? I'm trying to advise a friend who is doing some long-term travel, and I want to give good advice, so please leave your comments below!
*It was actually just me making a cash point deposit before I went home for a month -- their deposits take 5 business days to process, which both sucks and left me stuck at least 3 times. And no, they never notified me. So yes, I returned from Christmas hols to get my chip and pin eaten by the machine at Heathrow. Sure, they're an easy bank to open an account with, but I will never bank with Lloyd's again.
(image via under Creative Commons)