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Old 18.06.2015, 04:55
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Best way to live in CH off of USD?

My partner is going to be a student in France, staying for long periods in Switzerland with me, for the next 2 years. He's financing it with his savings, which are all in USD. What is the best way to spend money there without losing it to fees and bad exchange rates?

He was thinking of getting a "no international fee" US credit card that he'd pay off with his USD, but the credit card companies all say that they set their exchange rates however they like (I'm assuming this rate isn't great - but maybe I'm wrong?).

If he takes out his money internationally and converts it, his debit card company will charge a 3% fee for the withdrawal (not good). He could also take all his money out in the US and bring it to Switzerland to convert it at the best price, but that seems like a terrible/extremely risky idea.

What do folks usually do in this situation? Is there an option we're missing?
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Old 18.06.2015, 09:48
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Re: Best way to live in CH off of USD?

Um, are you sure about that? I don't know how the French work it, but here in Switzerland as a student you have to live in the country you're studying in. You even need permission to live in a different canton from where your uni is based. I don't think he can just decide to live in Switzerland for long periods when France has granted him the privilege of studying in their country. After all, his study visa also acts as his residency permit in France.

This may help:

http://www.campusfrance.org/en

And what about health insurance? He has to take out either the French national cover or a private one and both would probably only cover him for emergencies here in Switzerland. What if he needs to visit a doctor when it's not an emergency? He'll have to pay the full cost of that himself.

And what about your landlord/agency? Have you told them that someone is going to be living with you for months at a time? They have a right to know.
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Old 18.06.2015, 09:55
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Re: Best way to live in CH off of USD?

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He was thinking of getting a "no international fee" US credit card that he'd pay off with his USD, but the credit card companies all say that they set their exchange rates however they like (I'm assuming this rate isn't great - but maybe I'm wrong?).
Unfortunately you are not wrong - nobody gives anything for nothing, they'll make their profit on the rate spread instead of the fee.

Surely he'll need a French bank account anyway, it can't be that hard to set one up, and then transfer the money over in a lum sum through xe.com or similar who give you much better rates. He could also transfer some to your account for time in CH, or you can work it out to spend his money in EUR and yours in CHF.

Transferring a large sum shouldn't be risky if done through a reputable company.
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Old 18.06.2015, 11:33
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Re: Best way to live in CH off of USD?

+1 for newtoswitz's advice.

He won't be a resident in Switzerland so will not be eligible to get a bank account here, especially with all the FATCA mess.
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Old 18.06.2015, 12:02
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Re: Best way to live in CH off of USD?

So ignoring all the "where he lives, where he studies", VISA, FATCA etc issues, I think one of the above replies is correct, no way he can open an account here in CH. But I'm assuming he could do that in France, and what I've seen is stay away from banks, find the equivalent of Swissquote (stock trading company) in France, as the fees on all bank account services are way higher than say a stock trading company. Yes, you lose the services that come along with a bank, but I've become used to that, because of exorbitant fees they charge.
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Old 19.06.2015, 05:14
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Re: Best way to live in CH off of USD?

Sorry for the confusion - he'll be in CH as a tourist for the summer, and will visit me on school breaks. So maybe not that long of a time. And yes, the landlord knows he'll be with me for the summer and breaks. Really the question was about the best way to save $ while he stays in Europe - we'll look into transferring the money directly without a fee, or a stock trading company? (I have never heard of the latter, but will tell him about it).
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Old 19.06.2015, 18:29
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Re: Best way to live in CH off of USD?

Not sure about your Visa and residence situation, so I skip this part.

I just share my experience with you, that I just left US (not citizen, not greencard holder), and transferred all my money to Switzerland.
[At US side] You have to go to the counter (online bank don't allow you transfer too much), and give them the IBAN of your Europe account (as long as name & address of the bank, swift code .....), Bank of America charged me $45 for the wire transfer, they told me this is a flat fee regarding the amount you are sending.
[At Switzerland side] You need to open a Bank account, I personally suggest Postfinance, since they provide you free USD account, so you basically loose nothing during the wire transfer. Then you can transfer the USD to CHF or Euro at any time you want.
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Old 19.06.2015, 20:02
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Re: Best way to live in CH off of USD?

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My partner is going to be a student in France, staying for long periods in Switzerland with me, for the next 2 years. He's financing it with his savings, which are all in USD. What is the best way to spend money there without losing it to fees and bad exchange rates?

He was thinking of getting a "no international fee" US credit card that he'd pay off with his USD, but the credit card companies all say that they set their exchange rates however they like (I'm assuming this rate isn't great - but maybe I'm wrong?).

If he takes out his money internationally and converts it, his debit card company will charge a 3% fee for the withdrawal (not good). He could also take all his money out in the US and bring it to Switzerland to convert it at the best price, but that seems like a terrible/extremely risky idea.

What do folks usually do in this situation? Is there an option we're missing?
I would recommend that you check the current exchange rate with your US bank. I am not from the US but in my case I usually pay in Switzerland with my overseas credit card and the exchange rate is usually better than if I change USD to CHF or EUR here.
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