Believe it or not, moving abroad involves a lot more than just hopping on an airplane. There are lots of steps involved both before and after the move to make sure everything runs smoothly and legally. Over the next few months, I’ll be posting my experiences with all the different steps involved in my move abroad. Hopefully it will be helpful for other future expats trying to figure out how to move abroad.
For me, the first step in my move to Spain was transferring money from my American bank account to a Spanish account. I mentioned before that as part of my job with BEDA, I’ll also be taking a class at Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid. BEDA pays our tuition, but we have to pay the enrollment fee of 175€. I think they do this mostly so that they can have some kind of guarantee that we are serious about the program and will actually show up in Spain in the fall. The email we received with our placements also had instructions and info on the account we were supposed to transfer the money to. Sounds simple enough…ha.
First, I called my bank and asked what I needed to do to transfer money to a foreign bank account. They told me I had to come in and they could do a foreign wire transfer, but there was a $45 wire fee. ($45!?) I was kind of annoyed that I would have to pay that on top of the 175€, but whatever, I just wanted to get it done. So I went to the bank, and told the woman that I needed to do a foreign currency wire transfer. I knew right then it was going to be an ordeal. She just blankly stared at me for a few minutes and then started mumbling and fidgeting around her desk. She clearly didn’t have much experience with this. Which I guess is understandable at my local West Texas bank that probably deals with oil and cotton a lot more than foreign currency.
So against my better judgment, I sat down and let this woman start taking my information. She seemed to be struggling with simply typing on a keyboard, so my faith that she would be successful at electronically wiring money to a foreign bank account was dwindling fast. But I sat there and painfully watched her try to enter in all the info. When she got to the recipients info, all she asked for was the 10 digit account number, no bank name, no recipient name, and she definitely didn’t know any thing about the long electronic European bank account number that is apparently necessary for transferring money in Europe. I had a really strong gut feeling that this wasn’t going to work, and that this woman was going to screw up everything. This was confirmed when she asked me how much money I wanted to transfer, and seemed like she had absolutely no idea that there was a difference between euros and dollars… So I trusted my gut, and made up some stupid excuse about being in a hurry, and told her I had to leave.
I left the bank super frustrated. Worst-case-scenario thoughts set in and I was convinced I would never be able to figure this out and BEDA would probably take my job back. After a few seconds of freaking out, I remembered my life mantra, Calm down Elli, people way dumber than you have done this before. If they figured it out, you can too. Surely I’m not the first person who’s ever had issues with a foreign currency transfer. I can figure this out. I got online and looked it up to see what I could find. I finally came across XE.com, an online foreign currency exchange and transfer service. They specialize in converting currency and transferring money to foreign bank accounts. Once I created an account with them, the process went really smoothly. I created an account, and then ordered the 175€. Then, they gave me an exchange rate for what that would cost me in USD. Once I sent them the money, they converted my money into euros for me and then sent the money on to BEDA. It was a really simple process, and the best part is, they don’t charge a fee for standard transactions. Since I was in a hurry and just ready to get the process over with, I went ahead and paid extra to have them wire the money on the same day.
Here’s a break down of the cost and timeline for transferring the money:
On April 17th I created an account with XE. They asked for two types of ID, (I used my passport and driver’s license numbers) to make sure you are who you say you are. Then, it takes about 24 hours for your account to be activated.
The next morning, (April 18th), I woke up to an email saying that my account was activated and I could order my transfer.
I then logged in to my account and ordered the money. It was really simple. I entered in the starting currency (USD) and ending currency (euro) and then told them the amount that I wanted to send. (175€). They gave me an exchange rate that I could either confirm or deny, and then asked me how I wanted the money sent. I chose the wire option, which is the fastest, but also charges a fee, ($22). After I confirmed my order. They gave me the info of the bank account that I needed to wire the initial USD payment to.
That same morning, I took this info to a different branch of my bank, (I was not going to try to deal with that same woman again) and they were a lot more helpful and seemed to have a much better idea of what they were doing when wiring the money to a domestic account. (They did charge a $15 fee for this, I think it varies depending on your bank.)
By that afternoon, the money had transferred out of my account and to the XE account.
The next morning, (April 19th), I got a confirmation email from XE that my transaction had been completed.
I forwarded the email to BEDA, and on April 21, they confirmed that they had received the payment.
So once I finally figured out what to do, it was super simple!
$242.45 – exchange rate offered by XE for the 175€
$22 – XE wire fee for transferring the money to the BEDA account
$15 – wire fee my bank charged for transferring the money to the XE account
So the grand total for transferring 175€ was $269.45
There are quite a few steps in the process, but once I found the XE website, it all went really smoothly.