When one settles in a new country for a new job/life, what are the possible methods to bring in enough money to start, and what is their relative cost? I think the same kind of problems appears no matter the country (bank facilities are relatively similar).

Indeed one faces generally a problem: one should pay one to several months of rent in advance, pay for insurance, possibly for a car, ...

And in terms of means of payment, it is usually tricky to get a bank account before arrival and bank cards may have a low ceiling.

So what are the options to bring in relatively large amount of money and what is the relative cost (it is more about knowing an order of magnitude of the cost, like is it adapted for small or large sums of money nothing precise)?


4 Answers 4


The answer might depend on the two countries you are changing, but usually you can do anything you'd do when traveling to an other country for longer terms.

The two main options I think are:

  • Cash: Just bring enough cash in the country. This is probably the most easiest way, but you have to be careful not to get them stolen. Also each country usually have a limit on the money you can bring into the country, that doesn't need to be declared, so bringing more might mean they can get taxed.
  • Debit / credit card of your home country: If you don't demolish all ties in your home country it is possible that you're still going to have a bank account and possibly also a debit / credit card in your home country's bank. Some banks allow your card to be used abroad, meaning you can simply just use it to pay some of your bills / living costs. Please note that you have to check the fees your bank might put on foreign transactions, as they might be substantially higher than what you used to, but there are exceptions, like using an EUR card inside an other country in the Eurozone. If your bank doesn't allow your card to be used abroad it might still be useful to check for a bank in your home country (as it's easier to open an account there) that has good conditions on using your card abroad. Also having access to your account via netbanking is useful.

First, a warning about bringing a lot of cash:

You must declare cash on your person in excess of a certain amount when entering a foreign country. Failure to do this, with subsequent discovery of the cash on your person is going to put you in a very uncomfortable light; possibly in a holding cell, and definitely miserable.

If you intend to bring a bunch of cash, find out what the limit before declaration is, if you need permission from the country's central bank if you want to meet or exceed it, and how to go about getting that. It's not just a matter of tax, it's also anti-trafficking, so find out for sure in advance.

This also counts if the cash is split up between currencies. That said ...

Total it up

You should allocate funds for your move at 125% of your total anticipated cost of living for the first 90 days of your residence, and you're going to need a bit of time to research and accurately calculate that number.

You've got:

  • First week's stay at a hotel while you look for other housing, or all necessary deposits needed to move in if you've arranged in advance.
  • Furniture, kitchen supplies, appliances that you'll need to purchase, generally easy to get on-line these days
  • Utilities (electric, water, internet, cellular service) look in the pre-paid rates for this initially as you may have to wait for all of your residency stuff to go through before you can do post-paid)
  • Clothing, if required beyond what you've brought
  • Meals (groceries, purchased meals)
  • Travel once there, figure out the taxi fare, bus fare, etc needed to complete your daily activities.
  • Medical - You're probably going to get something in the first 90 days in a new country, and it might be bacterial, which usually means a doctor's visit and some medicine. Find out what this is going to cost you out of pocket even if there's a delay in processing any benefits you're expecting
  • Entertainment / misc

Now, you have to see about options.

Cash - Despite the convenience of not having to deal with moving money around continents, remember that this stuff is easy to lose and not easily replaced. Traveler's checks are safer, but can be difficult to cash in some places. Bring enough to get you through comfortably until you get something else set up.

Banks - Believe it or not, you might be able to open a savings account, just not a checking account before you've got your residency all squared away. Do some checking, because this is the simplest way to go. Just wire yourself money as you need it and withdraw. See also Trusted Friend.

Credit Cards - Make sure you let them know you're going to be out of the country for a while, and likely to make some major purchases. Even if you do, they still delight in blocking you from buying a fridge while happily letting a thief somewhere else buy $600 worth of sushi with your card (because that happened). Also, some places will insist on local cards, ask ahead of time.

Third-party wires - My least favorite, but often the most reliable. Factor in the fees when you do your budget. Some like Xoom are more reasonably priced than Western Union, but make sure they're available in your destination country and that you bring the requisite number of valid identification documents that the dispensing agent will want - generally two.

ATM Withdraw - Tell your bank that you're going to be using your ATM card a lot out of the country for the next few months at least. Watch out for charges, $100 can cost you up to $10, ceilings range anywhere from $100 per transaction up to $400 a day, to $800 per transaction / $800 per day. If you have casinos in your destination country, withdraw there as they typically have much higher ceilings with reduced international fees. Additionally, ATMs near government offices where people are expected to pay fees for things generally have high ceilings, or has been in my experience in a few different countries.

Trusted Friend - Find out if banks will let you open a joint account with a legal resident of your target country. They very well may. If you've got someone there you trust, that can be an option for you. With your name on the account, you just need the SWIFT / etc, and you've got a low-overhead conduit in place. You could also, in a pinch, ask a trusted friend to receive some funds for you and even offer them a small percentage for their time. It's up to you to know who you trust, I'm just stating it as a possibility.

Digital Currencies - If you've already located someone that is willing to buy crypto currency, and you have every reason to find them reputable with a fair offering price - great. I wouldn't invest my well-being fund in a volatile currency.

This was one of the hardest things for me my first few years abroad, and I don't even want to think about how much I paid in exorbitant fees just to fuel my pocket. It's almost tantamount to extortion, which leads me to my last point:

Be Frugal

The less you spend, the less you need to replace so soon.

  • I especially like the last paragraph. When I moved in the first months I spend so less money, that I simply got used to actually spending less, and saving more. I was so afraid I'm going out of budget that I actually started proper budgeting, which I'm still doing.
    – SztupY
    Mar 13, 2014 at 14:47
  • In many parts of Asia, you can buy a sachet of shampoo instead of a whole bottle (good for 2 - 3 washes, very cheap). So I did that with everything I could, and wow - it not only saved me money, but made me examine just how wasteful and over-consuming I was being.
    – user100
    Mar 13, 2014 at 15:16

The cheapest option is to bring the money in moneybag with you, but it's the most risky one (you can get robbed). There are also limitations how much money you can bring in cash, but it's the case when you travel with really big sums.

The only cost in that case is the money exchange cost (if apply). For example, when exchanging PLN to EUR in Poland by Kantor, the split is usually about 2-2,5%.

Another option is to leave your bank account in your country of origin and pay it out in ATM. The exchange rates are then usually on your disadvantage, and you pay ATM fee. In my case it was about 5% of money value.

Western Union and similar, as far as I known, charge also about 5%.

Probably the cheapest safe option would be to transfer money via systems like PayPal to trusted person in the destination country, because they charge about 1,5% for taking off money, and don't charge for transfer.

Theoretically (within EU) SEPA transfers should be the cheapest options, but it's not fully implemented yet, and a year ago I was charged 8 Euro for transfering 10 Euro...


I recently spent 6 months in another country. Because of a snafu with my bank I ended up not being able any money with me other than a few hundred dollars. I was in Argentina so using the official exchange rate that you would get at a bank meant that I was loosing almost 50% of the money that I would have gotten if I exchanged money at an illegal exchange house on the street!!!

What I ended up doing was sending money to myself using a service called Xoom. I hooked it up to my accounts in the states, I'd make a money transfer and I could usually go pick up my cash from a designated exchange place within about 1-2 hours. Plus, they gave me a rate that was closer to what I would have gotten on the street instead of the bank. Most of the countries that Xoom operates in are located in South America with a few countries scattered through Europe and Asia, but I'm sure you can find similar services for the country that you're going to be staying in.

Also, a lot of countries place a limit on the amount of cash that you can bring with you. If you try to go through security with a duffel bag that has $40K you're going to have to answer some questions.

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