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An Option for Your Large Transactions Abroad


When paying for a big ticket item (could even be a large hotel bill) while traveling abroad, paying with an international wire transfer instead of most credit cards could be cost effective.


I made recently with JPMorgan left me thinking, “Did I help them out in their time of need?” As most people know, JPMorgan was involved in a

now tallying up to $9 billion. As a result, a bit of money from customers like me wouldn’t hurt the company’s finances at this crucial time.

foreign currency exchangerisk trading scandal

To determine whether JPMorgan was helping me or I was aiding the bank, I figured out what they charged me for my overseas wire transfer and what it would have cost at the exchange rate of the day. In summary, my total fee consisted of a transparent bank charge of $40 and a less obvious hike on the exchange rate of the day of .0357 per euro or about $100 on the €2,816.00 transfer I was making. The total cost to me for a $3,620.67 transaction was $140 or .04%.

Gosh, this was much better than expected — a reasonable fee for such a service. Consider that most credit cards charge 2% or 3% for international exchanges. In comparison, I got a bargain.

There are considerations when comparing my transaction to credit cards. For one, most of the latter are smaller and this is one reason the banks justify a larger fee.

American Express Platinum and the Capital card

are two exceptions. They do exchange currency at the rate of the day unlike most credit cards that upcharge on it. A downside of the Platinum is that the holder has to pay a fee every year. This is not true for the Capital card.

My wire transfer was for a Chinese ewer at a small auction house in Amsterdam (below). They don’t accept credit cards so I was forced to use a bank transfer. The total time to set up the transfer was at least 30 minutes, but worth it because once set up I can do the same transfer using different sums again and again. Though the procedure can be performed on JPMorgan’s website independently, the steps are not intuitive for an international transfer (much easier for dollar to dollar than dollar to another legal tender). Thereby I required help over the phone from one of their specialists and this worked well too.

Courtesy AAG Amsterdam

And, you might ask, “What did I get for my money and trouble?” It is above, an under-glaze blue ewer made in China for Europeans around 1640. It is unique because its lip on the left is in the shape of a V for pouring liquids like European vessels. But the piece also has a spout like Chinese pots. Thereby, it is a curiosity, a pouring vessel with not one, but two spouts, an honest mistake made by the Chinese in trying to fulfill European requests for objects different than those made for their own market.

Now, let’s apply this to a more practical application for most people. Consider a hotel bill of $10,000 for a family of six. This can easily occur in London or any other place in the world. Paying with an American

Express Platinum or Capital card

should do the trick provided your limit is that high. But, what if it isn’t or the hotel (as an example) charges you for using the credit card?

This is happening more and more in Europe and the rate is high — 2% to 3% — often a double whammy in that there is a payment for using a credit card on both ends. So, setting up an international transfer before you leave and actuating it when you arrive at your destination and need it might be just the trick.

Read more:

The Chinese are Buying!

The Chinese are Buying (They’re Just Not Paying!)

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice