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Moving funds from home country to US


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Looking for a bit of advice from those of you who have succesfully managed to set up in the US. I will be moving into my own apartment and will need to purchase big ticket items like furniture. I have sufficient funds in my home country, but obviously will transfer this over to an American bank account in due course. I was wondering how people managed initially - I obviously will not be able to get a credit card straight away, and am unable to open my  bank account until I'm in the country. 

My father will be coming with me for a week, and has offered to purchase things like bed and sofa on his credit card, then I pay him in my home currency, and transfer the remaining funds to my US bank account. He has international transfers set up with his business account which should avoid huge fees. Has anyone done something like this? Or is there a more streamlined way to make my big purchases without being established in the US credit system/bank account recently set up? I don't want to be bringing $20,000 in cash!!!! 

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From my experience in moving money down for other reasons (note, I only moved $10,000 previously, larger amounts should generally follow the same rules though,) there's a few options.

Some banks have international divisions that you can open an account with in your home country, put money in it, and access it from abroad.  I've seen TD banks both here (Canada) where they started, and in various cities in the states.  Bank of America is similar.  I'm sure there's a UK bank that does this as well, just make sure there is a branch in the city you're moving to.  Alternatively, a good old wire transfer can still be used to move large amounts of currency, and it's probably safer than approaches like travelers cheques or cashiers cheques, however do have a slightly larger cost associated with them.

Remember there are limits on the amount of cash you can bring across borders without declaring it if you DO decide to go that direction!  (Don't, that really does sound like a terrible idea)

I'll be taking the same approach as you with the big items (have someone with a bunch of US funds/good US credit readily available,) however you likely won't raise many red flags moving that small amount of money into the US no matter your approach as it's low enough that currency export laws shouldn't kick in.  You should check to see if export limits apply, however.

Edited by Happington
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(UK-specific advice) I brought over a Post Office Travel Money card. You can load it with a certain amount of dollars, it acts like a debit card, and you can re-load it online directly from a UK bank account (so no international transfer fees). Currently the limit is $7.5K. I found it really useful.   

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1 hour ago, St Andrews Lynx said:

(UK-specific advice) I brought over a Post Office Travel Money card. You can load it with a certain amount of dollars, it acts like a debit card, and you can re-load it online directly from a UK bank account (so no international transfer fees). Currently the limit is $7.5K. I found it really useful.   

Oh that could be worth investigating - thank you for the pointer! 

@Happington thank you for outlining your experiences. I will be able to get the money over through my dads business, it's just a case of figuring out the best way to pay for those big ticket items. 

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I've had some good success using transferwise.com to send money over to the US from the UK. It's cheaper than doing bank transfers and pretty quick and simple. Worth looking into maybe.

p.s. if anyone wants to use an invite code to make your first transfer even cheaper let me know.

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Why would you transfer funds? That's expensive. Besides, you'll need a SSN to open a bank account (at least I remember needing to do that before going to the bank).

I had an international credit card and used it as much as I could and paid for it with my funds back home. I also brought as much cash as I could (not easy getting dollars) and also used them. 

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1. You don't need a SSN to open a bank account. I opened my bank account in the US well before getting my SSN. You just need a US address and proof of that address (e.g. your signed lease).

2. There is no legal limit on the amount of cash you can take into the US. However, if you are bringing more than $10,000 total in monetary instruments (i.e. includes cash, money orders etc.) then you must declare this to US customs/border control when you enter the US. They won't stop you from entering with that much money, they just want to know about it. So, it might be simpler if you bring less than this amount.

3. US banks are very inefficient. There are huge delays when you try to cash a cheque from another country in the US. It could take up to 4 weeks and they will charge you a bad exchange rate. What I did (from Canada) was open a US dollar bank account in my Canadian bank and then moved my Canadian money into that US dollar bank account. When I was ready to move, I withdrew money from the US dollar bank account as a money order (each money order is limited to $2500 but you can take as many money orders as you need). These money orders are drawn from a US bank (the address on the money order is a US location that my Canadian bank has access to) and my Canadian bank did not charge any fees for this service. When I got to the US, I deposited these money orders and they were treated as if I had a cheque from any other US bank so for a new customer like me, the delay in getting access to most of the funds was 3-4 days (they made a small portion of it available right away).

If you are from a country without ability to create US dollar bank accounts, you could still see if they will issue US money orders for you---the thing you're looking for is that the funds are drawn from a US bank.

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1 hour ago, TakeruK said:

1. You don't need a SSN to open a bank account. I opened my bank account in the US well before getting my SSN. You just need a US address and proof of that address (e.g. your signed lease).

2. There is no legal limit on the amount of cash you can take into the US. However, if you are bringing more than $10,000 total in monetary instruments (i.e. includes cash, money orders etc.) then you must declare this to US customs/border control when you enter the US. They won't stop you from entering with that much money, they just want to know about it. So, it might be simpler if you bring less than this amount.

This. I was about to write the exact same thing. 

I brought cash and my parents wired me some money once I had set up my account (without a SSN I might add*), and that was enough to pay for those early big expenses. I also chose to wait until after I got my first paycheck (= at the end of the first month of my program, and about a month and a half after I moved) with everything that wasn't strictly necessary, under the thinking that I should settle down a bit and develop a routine before I can really know what I need as opposed to what I only think I need. It was a good decision for me. I don't know if it saved me money, but it definitely led to somewhat different choices than I would have made if I had purchased everything immediately after moving. 

* I was also able to get a credit card with a somewhat low limit immediately after opening my account. You might be able to do the same, or get a secured card.

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57 minutes ago, fuzzylogician said:

This. I was about to write the exact same thing. 

I brought cash and my parents wired me some money once I had set up my account (without a SSN I might add*), and that was enough to pay for those early big expenses. I also chose to wait until after I got my first paycheck (= at the end of the first month of my program, and about a month and a half after I moved) with everything that wasn't strictly necessary, under the thinking that I should settle down a bit and develop a routine before I can really know what I need as opposed to what I only think I need. It was a good decision for me. I don't know if it saved me money, but it definitely led to somewhat different choices than I would have made if I had purchased everything immediately after moving. 

* I was also able to get a credit card with a somewhat low limit immediately after opening my account. You might be able to do the same, or get a secured card.

That's my plan. I already have a SSN from when I worked at camp so hopefully I shouldn't have to wait too long for the credit card. I am basically looking at buying a bed, associated bedding, a towel and some stuff to cook with - the rest can come later. I have set up 2 apartments in the US before so it's not like I'm unfamiliar with that process, I just need to figure out the most effective way of purchasing things. Unfortunately I am pushed on time with how long I'll have a car to run around and make purchases/try things out, and only have ~ 5 days between arriving and starting full time (including 3 induction days) to do things like opening banks and sorting out phones and all that boring stuff. 

Thank you all for your comments - definitely helped shed a bit of light on the matter. As always, grad cafe has been excellent :D 

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