TRAVEL with pat and lew

* transferring funds from the US to France … inventing a better way

Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 19, 2007


Periodically, I have to transfer funds from our Key West account to our Collioure account. I have done this, until now, by writing a check on the KW account and depositing it to the Collioure account.

So I write a check on June 26 and take it to the bank. They’re used to me now, and understand how to deposit a check in dollars, converting it to euros and sending it off.

But where does it go? Not until July 9 does it finally does clear my Key West account, but by July 19 (23 days from the deposit), I am not seeing the money in my Collioure account.

“Ou est le euros?” I ask.

“Non arrive,” answers the bank clerk.

Soon, if the money doesn’t hit my account, I’m going to be out of funds, with automatic billings from the electric company, the internet company, and the syndic quarterly charge about to appear.

I write an email to my bank in Key West, asking if there is any way to speed up this process.

Their answer is a classic excuse for a really ridiculous delay in this age of the instantaneous internet…

“Thank you for contacting us.  When a check from the US is deposited in an account overseas it has to clear foreign collections before any credit is given to the account.  This generally takes about three weeks. The fastest way to transfer money from country to country would be through a wire transfer. While this method would be quicker than depositing a check there is a $50.00 international wire fee and it can take up to five business days for the transfer to be complete. Have a great afternoon.”

I think about the “instantaneous internet” and it comes to me there’s a better way.

I walk up to the ATM machine in my Collioure bank, withdraw 300 euros against my Key West account, turn around and immediately deposit the 300 euros cash into my French account, where it is of course instantly available.

Total expired time … less than 90 seconds (versus 3 1/2 weeks and counting).

Total cost … $1.50 charge against my Key West account for the use of a “foreign” ATM machine, which would apply to any ATM in the U.S. or elsewhere that is not my bank.

Of course this approach won’t work for large sums of money, but I email my Key West bank to increase my daily ATM limit to a number that will work for my needs.


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