How do expats manage their money?

Ever since we decided to move forward with this Korea thing, I’ve been fantasizing about a future of full-time employment and the money that comes along with it. These fantasies usually include hi-tech Korean gadgetry and unhealthy amounts of exotic liquors, but reality has a way of encroaching on my utopian visions.

To wit: I have debts to finish paying and would like to bolster my savings account. If I can accomplish both, there might still be something left over for a fancy new smartphone and a tall jar of sake infused with snake venom. My dilemma stems from the fact that I am completely ignorant of banking policies when it comes to international currencies and money transfers.

If you’ve ever spent some time living outside the US, how did you set up your banking? Were there fees for foreign-currency calculation or international transfers? Were there tricks for getting around these fees? How did you pay outstanding bills back in the US?  Are my questions even relevant in the Internet age?

-Daniel Daugherty



Filed under Please Advise

10 responses to “How do expats manage their money?

  1. chris

    If you have a visa for Korea you will be able to open a bank account in Korea, and the bank should be happy about it because, if I remember correctly, you will get paid in dollars and their currency is weaker so it makes their bank look good to have dollars go into it.

    This should eliminate internat’l transfers. However, if you open up an account with HSBC Korea, they have a deal with most national banks of all countries so there should not be any fee if you want to transfer. For example, if you open an HSBC US account before you go, you can transfer it all to an HSBC Korea account for nothing, but also! if you open a Bank of America account before you go, then open an HSBC Korea account, you can transfer for free too. Something like this is probably the best option for you.

    You can always bring a couple hundred in cash to get you started, then write yourself a check from your US bank and use that check to open a Korean account. You will need a few hundred in cash because it may take a few weeks for the check to clear.

    If you open a korean account with your work visa and then move away, dont close the account, leave it open so you can deposit large sums there later in life and not pay tax.

    hope this helps. Look up HSBC and check out their branches, they have a branch in most countries, including many third world countries.

    peace out

    • Daniel Daugherty

      Wow, that all sounds very simple — indeed, advantageous! Still, is there no fee for currency calculation if I pay my bills from a Korean bank account? I’m pretty sure I won’t be getting paid in dollars. Either way, I guess I’d better check in with HSBC.

      I was hoping I’d get some input from Mom & Dad, or some random reader already faced with the same situation.

  2. Don says....

    You will probably be offered the chance to be paid directly into a U.S. bank, and can do your banking on-line for free.

    Find a U.S. bank that charges a minimum transfer fee into the U.S.A. I pay Mercantile, $20.00 each month in a fee to accept my money.

    Most all money in the world transferred overseas, is handled by chase, and so Mercantile has to give them a piece of the action.

    If you use you American debit card overseas, you will get all kinds of handling fees. It is best to open an international bank account that you can transfer your money through to the states. They will hit you for a few dollars out bound fee too.

    It is good to have an overseas debit card. I use the bank of Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia. My pay goes into that account. I figure out what I need to send to the states each month to cover all my bills… plus the fees too.

    What is left is for food and expenses and shopping here.

    If possible, get a credit card that earns airline miles with every purchase. Pay it off each month or the interest will kill you… and earn some free travel tickets.

    Lastly, do not depend on a cash advance from a credit card. They charge 35 to 40 percent interest on an advance, and only apply payment towards the advance after all the other balances are paid off..!!!


  3. Mom

    Good questions! I think Chris had some good points. But your dad and I banked on the airbase when we lived in Germany. When we lived in SA, we still had our banking in USA. Certainly we did not bank with the Saudis. Your dad would remember more about that. Even now with him in SA currently.
    Happy to see that you are thinking about those things now. Just in case, you may want me to have POA on your account and the same with Jen. Either her mom or me. Keeping your account here will still allow you to pay your bills with a check. Or even like you said, with the internet, don’t you already pay through online banking?
    Also, ask the company you wwill be working with if they have direct deposit? Maybe they can deposit into your USA account, and then open your HSBC account and deposit into that account from you USA account.
    HOpe you can understand this ramblings!? I seem to have just rambled on according to my thoughts. Anything I can do to help, let me know.


  4. Mom

    Isaw notify options below and I wanted to check them. I had to type a comment. So here it is.

  5. Jen

    If you read the packets AT sent us you will find the answer… we will have to wire money to our American accounts.

    • cindy

      Oh! Did you receive packets from AT? I am sure alot of your questions will be answered, and a lot of anxiety will be relieved. Don’t forget that you might want to do a POA(power of attorney) with your mom or me. In case of problems we can go to your bank and ask questions concerning your account.

  6. Pingback: Money management in Korea | TEFL Or Bust

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