Opinion(s) Sought - Best Ways to Manage Cash/Accum Miles while overseas

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by TravelBearTX, Apr 20, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. TravelBearTX
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    TravelBearTX Silver Member

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    I've done some reading about BankDirect, ING Direct, American Express Banking - and the benefits of having online savings accounts vs. the traditional brick & mortar (e.g. Bank of America).

    While I'm quite savvy at accumulating miles & points(self taught, and many years of reading FT, TB and most recently MP) - I'm an old schooler when it comes to banking (and insurance). That is, I've been pretty loyal to one bank over the years, with just a savings account and checking account (to which my payroll is direct deposited). I believe I'm missing out on higher interest rates of the online savings accounts -- and - germain to MP ;-) - accumlating miles for AA.

    So - the question. What would be the ideal set of accounts to establish - where one can have your money accumulating interest, earning miles, and when the monthly bills are due - allow you to make your payments automatically (I have most of my credit cards, utilities, mortgages etc set to direct debit from my BofA checking account).

    To add a bit of complication - while the US is home (with my BofA accounts), we've been living/working in Australia for the past 3 years, and have just accepted another 2 year assignment for Perth. Thus, I also have OZ banking accounts with ANZ & NAB. (and credit cards, rent payments, utility payments etc to make in OZ).

    I'm considering opening an ING Direct account (either in OZ or the US) - and have my OZ payroll direct deposited; and then, on a monthly basis - transfer money to my BofA account where most of our US Bills are paid, and transfer money to our ANZ account where most of our OZ bills are paid.

    I'm continuing my online research - but thought my MP savvy mates may have an opinion or two. And of course, if there are referral bonuses for your suggested program - I'd be happy to be the referee to help both of us get bonus points/miles (if applicable).

    My other notes/thoughts -
    - BankDirect looks interesting with it's earning of AA miles, -- but I see caveats/concerns about it's lack of ACH clearning?
    - As my salary will be OZ based, I'll benefit from the strong OZ dollar for the near-term future - and will enjoy a bit of an uptick in the exchange rate when I transfer OZ $ to my BofA account for paying bills each month
    - HSBC Premier - looks like another candidate; with my 401K I'm rolling over from the US - I'll have enough to qualify for this service

    So - a little bit open ended - but I'd appreciate feedback/thoughts and personal experience as to which banking service (s) you'd receommend.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Ed Chandler
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    Ed Chandler Silver Member

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    My situation is different. I live and work in the US. However, my "go-to" combo is the following:

    SchwabOne investment account
    Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account (with Debit card)
    BankDirect Checking Account
    FIA Card Services VISA Card (used to be Schwab co-branded)

    Here's how it works:
    • The Schwab checking account is my "main" checking account. It's a pittance of interest, but they rebate all ATM fees everywhere and charge no foreign transaction fees if you choose to use your debit card for purchases (which I don't). I keep only "operating funds" not "excess funds" in this account.
    • I move "excess funds" into BankDirect so they accumulate interest and AA miles. This can be done with a bit of set up on either the Schwab site (which I find easier) or the BankDirect site.
    • For purchases, I use the FIA VISA which earns me 2% cash back on everything and has no foreign transaction fees. The 2% gets deposited into my SchwabOne investment account.
    • The SchwabOne investment account is only there to serve as a funnel for the 2% cashback from the FIA VISA. I can instantly transfer those funds to my Schwab checking account at any time.
    If I were living abroad and dealing day-to-day in a foreign currency (and didn't mind having to check the "yes I have a foreign bank account" box on my taxes) I might get an account at a foreign bank to make "local" life easier ... just slide it into the equation wherever you see fit.

    Hope that helps.
     
  3. Global Explat
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    Global Explat Silver Member

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    Same theme, but slightly different situation: My "home" is in the US, yet I am living in the UK on an expat gig. ie I'm a resident of both. How do others in similar situation (OP or others?) continue to take advantage of all of the, predominantly US, credit card offers while living abroad?

    My main issue is that, while I have a US address, with utilities bills and mortgage still being paid monthly, my mail doesn't go there anymore. It was building up, and was a bit much to ask the neighbo(u)rs to keep clearing it for me. So, like many expats, I have a mail forwarding service which collects my mail and sends it over to the UK every couple weeks.

    Here's the problem: if I want mail to get to me, I have to use the mail forwarding address BUT when the credit card co does their simple profile check, it doesn't show up as somewhere I've been "living" & impossible to provide proof of address like a utility bill or something. Yet, if I provide the actual address where I am paying the utility bill, the mail doesn't reach me.

    To date I've kind of muddled through- get approval based on my home address- then call up and change the address when the card gets sent back to the company. A bit of a long process but still managed to get 2 AA Citi cards, a Hilton Amex, & both Marriott & United Visas this year. I see I've been approved for the Barclays Lufthansa card, but its currently in limbo somewhere- probably forwarded back to the company & I have no idea on the status of my Chase BA card, as they said they'd post a response.

    Given that US credit card bonuses are such an important part of the miles accumulation process, how do other expats (or folks from outside the US) get on? Any similar experiences?
     
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  4. Counsellor
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    Counsellor Gold Member

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    I'm presuming that you have a Social Security number, and a US bank account, or it's going to be very difficult.

    Do you have a relative living in the States? If so, would that relative be willing to receive occasional mail (and maybe a phone call or two) for you?

    If so, you may be able to use that address and phone number to apply for credit cards. If someone calls the relative's phone number and asks for you, the relative can respond that you're currently out of country on a business trip, and is there a number he can return the call at? The relative can then pass the information on to you.

    Once you get the card (your relative can activate the card and send it to you), open an Internet-based e-mail address (e.g., Googlemail, Yahoo mail, etc.) if you don't have one already and register the card on the Internet (at the provider's site) using that e-mail address. Now you can read your bills on the Internet site and pay the bill (from your US bank account) and even communicate using that Internet e-mail address. Most credit card companes will be delighted to stop sending you paper and let you do business with electrons.

    Another thought: If you already have a US-issued credit card even though the address is the mail forwarding service, by now you probably have that address listed as a residential address with the credit reporting agencies (Experian, etc.) because the credit card folks are reporting your credit experience to them. So, when you apply for another card you might try using that address; when the (new) credit card issuer pulls the credit report using your Social Security number, it will show that address as one of "your" addresses. (Probably wouldn't work if the mail forwarding folks are using a post office box as their address, though.)
     
  5. Global Explat
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    Global Explat Silver Member

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    Yes, and yes... everything is legit- I actually am resident in both US & UK, I just go for long stretches when I'm out of the US, so I can't keep my home address as a postal address.

    The relative suggestion is a good one, but won't work in our case unfortunately.

    With respect to the point about the mail forwarding address showing up as one of "my addresses".. I hope you are right- I will ensure the physical version of their address rather than the PO Box is the one that is used. Now I just need to get my wife's name recognised as a resident there also....
     

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