Transferring money back home
Quite a while back, I mentioned that I was looking for an effective way to save money for retirement since French savings account only offer peanuts in interest and getting a French assurance vie policy equals mega headaches for US tax declarations. (If you're looking for more information on why you shouldn't get ever sign up for an assurance vie, this article does a great job of explaining it here. As a side note, this also applies to investing any mutual fonds/stocks offered by your local bank).
So that doesn't leave a whole lot of options for Americans in France, and I started to look back to investing in the US. I came across a group of Financial Advisors called Thun Financial, who are dedicated to helping expats abroad, and I have since watched several of their webinars. While I have not hired them since the amount of money I have isn't nearly enough to be of interest to them, I have been able to get some good advice from their website and frequent free webinars (which is basically invest in the US in both US & World funds).
That means however figuring out how to conveniently and regularly get money back to the US in a cost-efficient manner. Going through my bank means paying a wire transfer fee here, a wire reception fee there, plus getting a sometimes questionable exchange rate, so I definitely didn't want to do that on a regular basis. I use XE.com (and their app) regularly for calculating exchange conversions, and I'd heard a lot of good things about them online regarding their money transfers, so I decided to give it a go last week.
The whole process was initially a bit confusing, despite their promises of "it's so easy to use!", so I thought I'd detail it here in case anyone else is looking to transfer money back home.
First of all, you have to sign up with XE, and there is a bit of information verification - including your home address, your French bank account, your home bank account, a photo ID, and a RIB or EDF bill. Once that has all been approved, you can start your first transfer. It starts by logging on to their Trade website, and completing a trade. You can either do an immediate trade, set up an automatic trade when the exchange rate reaches a certain rate, or you can set up a rate alert for the next seven days.
To do an immediate trade, you enter in the amount you would like to transfer, and then it gives you an immediate quote of how much money you will receive in the foreign currency. If you're happy with that, you press "book trade", and you'll receive an email asking you to transfer the EUR amount to their French bank account, specifying your unique trade quote as the object of the transfer (be sure to select "EFT Trade" - it takes a day or two longer than a wire transfer, but it is the free option). They will then transfer that same amount to their account in your home country, who will then do an internal transfer to your home account. So as you can see, there's a few more steps involved, but in the end, it means you don't pay an international transfer fees on either end. The rates they quote are also better than I've seen quotes at least by the BNP.
So voila - a little how-to on an inexpensive way to transfer money back to your home country!