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Thread: What's the best way to manage short term finance in the States?

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    Senior Member zoossh's Avatar
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    Default What's the best way to manage short term finance in the States?

    a friend is going to the states for 6 months and helping her to check out how to do the above. she was wondering if she can avoid bringing so much cash with her. she will be going to an off town place at tacoma (chances is rare, but maybe someone has been there before), which is something like 50km from seattle.

    i have got the following options, and wonder if anyone have much advices. i'm also checking out as much details on my own as well.

    1. exchange currency in sg for better rates (S$ to US$), bring over US$ and cash into a local bank there

    2. exchange S$ to money order (one time charge?) in different values

    3. set up a local citibank bank account, withdraw from citibank atm over there

    4. exchange S$ to travellor's cheque (charge by amount changed?)

    5. use existing POSB bank account and withdraw from atm with cirrus network (something like 2% of total amount, with at least $20 per withdraw)

    thanks in advance.

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    Default Re: What's the best way to manage short term finance in the States?

    I suppose you are talking about money for day-to-day expenses. Consider using a credit card for most expenses and cary just enough cash for small items. Visa and Master is accepted almost every where. About 75% of merchants, based on my experience, accept AMEX. The rates may not be super, but I think it is not much worse than drawing cash from local ATMs.

    I spend less than $20 in cash a month over here, of course without exchange rate concerns. You only need cash for really small things like eating at a shopping mall food court (in fact a good portion of them accept credit cards). You can even use credit cards at McDonalds and other fast food restaurants. People pay for $2.75 cup of coffee at Starbucks with credit card.

    Using cash is a pain because most of the time you end up with a lot of loose change in your pocket. Also, the coins are in 25, 10, 5 and 1 cent values. Needs getting used to when trying to do mental calcuation of what combination of coins to use or receive in a transaction. Furthermore the 5 cent coin is larger then the 10 cent coin, as if it is not confusing enough. To top it up, you have to remember names like quarter (25c), dime (10c), nickle (5c) and penny (1c).

    If your friend is not qualified for a credit card then she should try getting a sub card from a parent, sibling or spouse.

    Once she has a credit card (sorry if I am making wrong assumptins here), she can then carry a few hundred US dollars in cash as a backup.

    Hope this helps.
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    Senior Member zoossh's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's the best way to manage short term finance in the States?

    got to check with her whether she has a supplementary credit card.

    am i right that the difference about local credit card used overseas, is mainly that credit card currency conversion rate is not as good as exchange of cash at money changers in sg? however that difference rate is probably just about the same as the service charges of using cirrus or plus network ATMs in the states to withdraw from our local POSB account?

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    Default Re: What's the best way to manage short term finance in the States?

    Quote Originally Posted by zoossh View Post
    got to check with her whether she has a supplementary credit card.

    am i right that the difference about local credit card used overseas, is mainly that credit card currency conversion rate is not as good as exchange of cash at money changers in sg? however that difference rate is probably just about the same as the service charges of using cirrus or plus network ATMs in the states to withdraw from our local POSB account?
    That's just my guess. You should ask your friend to check with credit card company in SG. You can expect ATM surcharge to be pretty high. Some banks in US charge US$1.50 fee just for cash withdrawal from another bank's account in US through their ATMs.

    If she get a credit card with rewards system and no annual fees, then that will also help to offset the exchange rate disadvantage.

    She should also make a plan/estimate on how much she will be spending in the 6 months, so that will help maintain a more accurate perspective about the impact of exchange rate. My guess is for a 6-month stay the difference may not be significant, taking into consideration the convenience and security a credit card provides. If she lose her cash it is lost for good most likely, but if she lose her credit card her liability is more controllable.

    Does she have to pay for accommodation? How much is she planning to spend on shopping? Will she be renting a car or taking public transport? Consider all these to come up with a budget plan, then ask herself if she is OK with a possible 2% increase due to exchange rate.
    Last edited by roygoh; 13th September 2007 at 12:43 AM.
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    Default Re: What's the best way to manage short term finance in the States?

    its a beautiful place... tacoma

    1. unless you are changing more than 50 000 sgd, the difference is very small. probably about 1-2 meals in the states

    not all local banks here change singapore dollars. singapore dollars is not a major currency.
    you have to look for bank headquarters to do that (few locations in cities spread far and wide)
    even so, most of the time, you have to be a member of the bank to change any money
    normally, people change currency at the airports. then again, their rates are not the best.

    2. its good to carry cashiers check as the money is to your name. its safer than carry thick wad of bills

    3. you cannot have a local singapore bank account and draw USD from an atm machine here. wont work.

    4. just pay the commission. its not much.

    5. there will be a heafty commission and exchange fee. not advisable (even if it works)
    Last edited by haagen_dazs; 13th September 2007 at 02:34 AM.
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    Senior Member zoossh's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's the best way to manage short term finance in the States?

    thanks for advising,

    Quote Originally Posted by haagen_dazs View Post
    its a beautiful place... tacoma
    not all local banks here change singapore dollars. singapore dollars is not a major currency.
    you have to look for bank headquarters to do that (few locations in cities spread far and wide)
    even so, most of the time, you have to be a member of the bank to change any money
    normally, people change currency at the airports. then again, their rates are not the best.
    actually not changing there. if changing currency in cash, likely in sg. bring over US$ and KIV start a local bank account. problem is got to open and close account, troublesome, not sure the criteria or procedures of opening account there.

    Quote Originally Posted by haagen_dazs View Post
    2. its good to carry cashiers check as the money is to your name. its safer than carry thick wad of bills
    do you know if cashiers check, bank drafts and money orders if they are basically the same thing? all can be either signed by her to merchants who accept these and/or changed into cash at banks there? (paid service charges here, without additional charges there?).

    Quote Originally Posted by haagen_dazs View Post
    3. you cannot have a local singapore bank account and draw USD from an atm machine here. wont work.
    i check with citibank and they said it can be done that way. no service charge if from citibank atms in states, but service charge by other banks if use on atms by other banks sharing plus network.
    Last edited by zoossh; 13th September 2007 at 03:13 AM.

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    Default Re: What's the best way to manage short term finance in the States?

    Quote Originally Posted by zoossh View Post
    actually not changing there. if changing currency in cash, likely in sg. bring over US$ and KIV start a local bank account. problem is got to open and close account, troublesome, not sure the criteria or procedures of opening account there.

    do you know if cashiers check, bank drafts and money orders if they are basically the same thing? all can be either signed by her to merchants who accept these and/or changed into cash at banks there (paid service charges here, without additional charges there?).

    i check with citibank and they said it can be done that way. no service charge if from citibank atms in states, but service charge by other banks if use on atms by other banks sharing plus network.
    I won't recommend drawing USD from an ATM linked to a SGD acct in Singapore
    The fees will screw you over.

    My recommendation is to
    bring some USD, and bring the rest in traveller's cheques. Most banks accept these cheques.
    Change them when you need them.

    Your friend might not be able to open a bank acct that easily if she isnt some form of a resident here (no ID, SSN etc etc). Opening and closing an account less than a define set of time may incur a penalty.

    If your friend is able to open a bank account, then just bring enough USD over to the USA, open an account and just TT the rest over.

    Alternatively, one could just bring a set lump sum for 6 months and learn to take care of the money properly.
    Regards, Mark Pang
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    Senior Member zoossh's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's the best way to manage short term finance in the States?

    yah, probably not with a bank there. i heard that if she is not getting a salary there, she is not likely to get a tax id for opening bank account there,

  9. #9

    Default Re: What's the best way to manage short term finance in the States?

    Yup, one of the advantages of Citibank account. I've drawn local cash from Citibank ATMs from USA, Japan, Hongkong etc without any charges; of course, exchange rate cannot fight with money changer, but as mentioned before, the convenience and security is what you pay for.
    In fact, amazingly, think they had some tie-up with Bank of China in China, I've drawn RMB in BOC ATM without paying any charges as well! This was a lifesaver as I was travelling in China for more than a month then....
    Anyway, if she knows where she's staying in tacoma, then goto Citibank's website to check where the Citibank ATMs are, to see if its convenient. There seems to be quite a few..... If the ATMs are convenient, then I would think its the best bet

    Quote Originally Posted by zoossh View Post
    .....

    i check with citibank and they said it can be done that way. no service charge if from citibank atms in states, but service charge by other banks if use on atms by other banks sharing plus network.

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