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I am going to start a year's study in the US, transferring from the UK. I will be staying in San Diego, CA.

In the UK, I currently have a student account with Santander and a general account with HSBC. Ideally, I'd like to use my student account while abroad but fear that I will run into too many costs, such as transfer fees and conversion costs etc.

Would opening a bank account in the US and transferring my money in bulk be beneficial, or would I be better off using my English bank accounts?

I have also heard of an international debit card service that companies like the Post Office run but since seeing the failure that is the Travel Money card, I'm sceptical. Any thoughts on this?


Note that this is a post migration from this post on Travel SE, which was put on hold due to irrelevancy to that site.

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    Did you try asking HSBC what they'd charge you for a USD account based in the UK? – Gagravarr Sep 1 '15 at 11:55
  • You could probably get away with a dollar account outside the US but it would be much more convenient to have a US account. – Karlson Sep 1 '15 at 13:43
  • @Karlson If the OP isn't receiving any money in the USA, just transfering over their UK funds, what would a USA-based USD account offer them over a London-based USD account? (Other than significantly weaker consumer protection....) – Gagravarr Sep 1 '15 at 16:00
  • @Gagravarr ease of paying bills and which consumer protection would they lose? – Karlson Sep 1 '15 at 16:01
  • @Karlson In the UK, it's almost impossible to withdraw money from someone's account with just the account details, and if you sign up to a Direct Debit to take a bill and they make a mistake, the money is returned to you instantly by your bank. I gather it's much easier for other people/companies to withdraw money from your account in the USA, and if they withdraw the wrong amount it isn't your bank that normally fixes it for you – Gagravarr Sep 1 '15 at 16:43
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There are odd benefits to having a bank account and a US address - especially if you are, say, purchasing computer parts from newegg.com, buying music from itunes - what you can buy or rent depends on the licensing agreements for each country and believe me when I tell you that the US offerings are very different (Better) than what Canadians can buy on itunes or even netflix. Same thing when using Amazon.

Each company has its rules for transactions, and some do not like it when your billing address is in a different country than your shipping address.

As an American married to a Canadian, and one who spends A LOT of time in Canada each year, I like the ability having a US bank card (debit) so that I can continue using Netflix (with a VPN) while in Canada.

FWIW, I have found Charles Schwab bank (even though it's primarily an investment company) to offer the best services from any other bank. They don't charge for debit card use ever and will refund you the fees each ATM machine charges. Plus their currency conversion rates much higher than US banks. But this last point might be moot since you'd be converting into USD.

  • That makes a lot of sense. How does it work when you transfer money into the USD account from your CAD account? Are there additional fees like conversion fees? – Harry Smith Sep 7 '15 at 8:03

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