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Exchanging a large amount of dollars to eruos?

I am going to graduate school in Leuven, Belgium starting in spring. I would like advice on the best way of exchanging a large amount of dollars ($5k to $10k) to euros. I want to do this while the euro is still down. I am a complete novice to banking so I apologize for my lack of knowledge.

I do plan on opening a bank amount while I am there. I do not feel like carrying that large of amount of money on me during my flight over (I do believe a person is aloud to travel with a maximum of $10k). If there a way to wire my dollars to a European brand bank and just have them exchange it to euros? And what is the best suggestion for getting the best rates for my exchange (a 1-2% fee is expected)?

Any help or suggestions is much appreciated!

Posted by
1168 posts

Talk to the bank you have your account in and see what they offer. Also if they don't offer selling you euros then open an account with the Bank of America. Bank of America does sell euros, so does HSBC. I have seen HSBC in other countries, see if they have a branch where you will be. I don't know where you live, but start calling banks and see you sells euros and who has branches in Leuven or would be able to wire money into your new bank. See if they have a branch in Leuven and if so then you could bank there and ask them how to transfer the funds into the beligium account. You need to ask the banks your questions. Ask them how to do all this so that you don't have to carry such large amounts of cash with you. May be able to wire transfer the funds once you get to Leuven and open and account and then they could wire the funds into your account. Even if your bank does not have a branch there, they should be able to wire the funds into your new bank account with a different bank. Questions that you need to ask. All the questions you have need to be addressed with the banks you are dealing with. Again, each bank has different rules for fees, but for Bank of America, if you buy I think at least $1,000.00 and I have an account with them, they don't charge a fee. For HSBC all I need to have is an account and I can buy any amount and again no fee. You need an account with the bank you are buying euro from in order to have not fees. I hope this helps get you started.

Posted by
12040 posts

You would do best to open an account in Belgium first then wire transfer yourself the money to the new account to get the best rate. The difference in the euro and dollar probably won't change enough in the short-term to justify the hefty surcharge you'll get if you exchange a large amount of cash. Trust me on this, I spent four years transfering money from a US to a European account.

You will have to physically speak to a bank representative on the phone everytime you want to wire funds from the US to Europe, but within Europe, you can do it all electronically. This is actually the way you will pay for most of your bills- written cheques have generally disappeared in the euro currency zone.

As soon as you have a physical mailing address, you can open an account in Belgium, although due to recent changes in US law, you have to go through a little more paperwork than previously.

I am very familiar with Leuven and the surrounding area, so shoot me some questions if there's more you want to know.

Posted by
8889 posts

I agree with Tom, one of the things you need to do ASAP after you get to Belgium is open a bank account, with a bank card, then you can send money into the account, and get it out when you want it from an ATM in Euros. The Belgian Bank Account will be in Euros and any money sent to it will be automatically converted. The exchange rate for sending from one bank account to another will be a lot better than changing cash.

To open a bank account you need ID (passport) and proof of address. You will have lots of other bureauocracy to do (register with the local authorities, register for Health Insurance, register for tax, ....).

If you take more than €10,000 (or equivalent) into or out of the EU you have to declare it. But, it is better to get a Belgian Bank account.

Posted by
4481 posts

European banks are now extremely reluctant to open accounts for USA citizens, because of such far-reaching legislation in particular FATCA which places onerous reporting requirements on them.

Your best options will probably be either arranged through your current bank, or through a more international bank. HSBC don't operate in Belgium for personal clients though, and Citbank sold its Belgium operations to Crédit Mutuel Nord Europe.

Posted by
2080 posts

Any reason you can't open an account here at the likes of banks such as CapitalOne or Schwab, or at one of of many credit unions, have it adequately funded, and then withdraw cash from ATMs (with no service charge) as you need it?

Posted by
12040 posts

"Any reason you can't open an account here at the likes of banks such as CapitalOne or Schwab, or at one of of many credit unions, have it adequately funded, and then withdraw cash from ATMs (with no service charge) as you need it?"

Yes. Moser will need to pay bills to all kinds of services that casual travelers do not encounter and that usually require direct electronic payment. This is extremely cumbersome and difficult to arrange if not done through a European-based bank account.

Posted by
2080 posts

In which case, given the advice already posted regarding the difficulties in foreigners opening a bank account, perhaps the first place that Moser should speak to should be the school. One would think he is not the first person to come through there with this kind of need, and they hopefully will know how to help him make the necessary arrangements.

Posted by
8906 posts

You will have to physically speak to a bank representative on the
phone everytime you want to wire funds from the US to Europe

I wire money across the pond a couple of times a year using my bank's web banking site...no problem.

Posted by
12040 posts

Really? Maybe I should get a new bank. It's a pain in the @ss having to call and go through the same 10 minute spiel every month.

I couldn't say whether or not a Belgian bank will except new US customers, but because I had a pre-existing relationship with BNP-Fortis when the legislation passed, I was able to keep my account. But I had to provide a lot more documentation so they could prove to the friendly US government that I wasn't trying to avoid taxes.

Posted by
8906 posts

Actually come to think of it..... if I were living in Europe I probably wouldn't be able to do it. The site requires telephone verification from your home phone (a robo call from the bank with a pin number which you then renenter into the site). So never mind.

Posted by
135 posts

Hi

why not consider wiring yourself the money you want, using Western Union? You would be able to pick it up at Western Union agents in Belgium - handily, their main agent in the country is the Belgian Post Office, bpost.

Posted by
10325 posts

Looks like the OP has not returned, 3 weeks after posting.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you all for you thought and responses! I have been contacting my school directly to see what they suggested (they strongly suggest for all international students to open a bank account while in Leuven and they did not seem like it would be to hard of a thing to do?). And if nothing else I may consider one of the best credit cards chase has which has no international fees and first year charge of this card is waived.