Readers of my book How to Protect Your Life Savings from Hyperinflation & Depression2nd edition know I advocate putting money in savings accounts in selected foreign countries. Specifically, I own and advocate holding rainy-day savings in AUD, CAD, CHF, DKK, and NZD.
I recently sent five-figure additional deposits to Canada BMO and Westpac in Australia. In each case, I just mailed them a check.
BMO converted it from USD to CAD and made the deposit into my saving account. They did this instantly upon receiving the check and for no charge.
Westpac sent me an email saying they could not deposit it because it was not endorsed and that if I sent a check that was endorsed, it would cost about $50 AUD and take up to six weeks. Jesus! They suggested I use a SWIFT wire instead.
Oookay. I used Charles Schwab for that. They charged me $25. The exchange rate I got was $1 USD = $1.31 AUD.
I checked the Exchange-rate.org to see what their rate was on the day in question—March 2, 2017. Their rate was $1 USD = $1.3177 AUD. Close enough.
I was surprised to see no charge—yet—from Westpac Australia. Normally with a SWIFT wire the receiving bank hits you up for about $15, too.
I once used First Republic to wire money to Down Under. They had to farm out the SWIFT wiring to a big New York bank and I got a high fee and lousy conversion rate.
I also recommend Schwab for a debit card to use abroad. They are one of the few who do not charge a percentage fee when you withdraw cash from a foreign ATM. When my wife and I visited Switzerland, Denmark, and Sweden in June 2015, we used our Schwab ATM cards to bring back cheap cash from those countries. But the Schwab Bank is NOT a place to leave money because it is not FDIC insured.
You can and should have rainy-day savings accounts in Canada and Australia in those currencies. Unfortunately, you have to go in person to each to initially open the account now. That was true when I went to Canada, but I was able to open my Australian and New Zealand accounts from the U.S. No longer in the case of Australia. Last time I went there the round trip ticket from SFO to NZ cost $1,390.
I would not be surprised if Australia and New Zealand treated each other’s checks the way Canada treated mine, but US and Australia apparently do not have such a relationship.
Here is the contact info for each of my bankers in those countries:
Ms. Tannaz Alesafar | Financial Services Manager | Park Royal Branch
BMO Bank of Montreal | 913 Park Royal South | West Vancouver, BC, V7T 1A1
(T) 604-903-2943 | (F) 604-903-2955
Ms. Kakon Nabi
Personal Banker, Westpac Consumer Bank
Westpac Shop 302A&B, 52 Martin Place (entrance via Phillip Street), Sydney, NSW 2000
T +61 02 8293 5860 | F +61 02 9221 6210 | E email@example.com