Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.


Add international money transfers to my list of activities that are now easier
online than in the "real" world.

I had always found bank transfers a pain because they generally required a
visit to the bank with stacks of forms to fill in. If lucky, my money disappeared
for up to eight working days before arriving in the destination bank at a horrible exchange rate.

Recently I wrote about my experiences using an online foreign currency exchange service that was easier, cheaper and faster than the bank.

Since it is easy to transfer small amounts, I now find the service a lifesaver.

What other new Web-based services could be useful for people who live abroad?

Note: I may cross-post comments on the IHT blog and they may be reproduced in the paper for publication.


Thanks for the heads up Thomas. Always good to find new services. I find www dot shopthestates dot com invaluable for sourcing products only available within the US. Prepaid credit card vouchers like www dot 3v dot ie are also convenient when terrible teens come looking for your credit card.

Wow, sounds like you have a crappy bank.

I have a Citibank private account which means I deal pretty much with the same guy every time I call on the phone, which really makes a difference. With an office in London and a place in Hong Kong, I'm constantly moving money around between different accounts (one in London, one in HK) but have always had the money within 24-36 hours.

As for really small amounts, when in country, I just use an ATM. The fees are neglible compared to an exchange service.

What really gets me up is SIM cards. They are a total pain to manage, becuase usually I have to get 'pay as you go' which is fine for 2 days but sucks for 2 months. I wish there was an easier way to get monthly-fee phones in countries (yea, paying for 12 months is sometimes cheaper than 2 weeks of pay as you go).

i have two paypal accounts one in each country, each one has my local bank account attached, then i just use paypal to "pay" myself, after the paypal transfer the money can be transfered to my local bank account .. no charges, no hassles, all done by the internet.

This is a great idea! Transferring money upon arriving in a country is like the WORST idea and it is such a pain. I'll keep thinking on what services would be helpful...

This is a bit of a low-tech solution, but a solution I used years ago when living in Tokyo and Taipei in the pre-PayPal days. Before I left the US, I opened a CitiBank account. You can use your CitiBank card at any of their ATMs worldwide. Although you won't get the best exchange rate, there are no other fees to pay, and no messy paperwork. While living in Tokyo, the added benefit was that although there were not as many CitiBank ATMs available as the local banks, they were located in major parts of downtown Tokyo, so convenient enough for me, and they were all 24 hour ATMs (as opposed to the local Japanese banks that actually closed the ATMs at 5pm, 9pm, or midnight, depending on the time the branch decided to close them).

From Japan to the US I use Lloyds. MUCH better and more convenient than dealing with the horrid clerks and paperwork at Citibank Japan. My Yen become Dollars within 24 hours. Of course the problem then becomes that moving money inside the US is problematic if you are not physically present there. AFAIK there is still no way to make a certified payment for businesses which dont use Paypal or accept Western Union without being physically present at a branch bank in the US to initiate the transfer.

please do not cross post the above.

Interesting to use paypal for transfers. I wonder how their rate of exchange compares with other methods?

1. Standardised global credit rating

The geographical fragmentation of the credit rating system is an excuse for financial services to gouge customers with high interest rates. There is no reason we could not standardise or share information on credit history internationally.

2. Labour mobility and globalisation.

The Labour movement has really let us down on globalisation. Protests are all well and good, but they must be buttressed with a cohesive engagement and negotiation agenda.

While commerce and finance continue to move ever more freely across borders, labour mobility feels as restricted, if not more restricted, than ever before.

The number one beef that most of my international friends have is with labour mobility and the visa/admin hassles surrounding it. This is especially true for people getting married across borders.

As a case in point, an Aussie and Canadian couple that has been together for two years. If they get married and she moves from Oz to Canada she will have to sit in Canada and do no work for at least six months. Six months is a big gap on a young professional's CV.

We need to be able to follow the boom. If London is booming, I need to get to London. This isn't bad for commerce or labour, but it might be bad for crap goverments if people start to vote with their feet.

Which explains why governments aren't so keen to discuss it.

Surely this is something both labour unions and companies can agree on. Work is less and less tied to physical space and labour needs to be able to respond and adapt to that.

Segway: International professional union. does anyone know of any type of union that represents the interests of internationally mobile professionals? Or are we doomed to keep getting wedged between the local tax man and the global company. Am not a big fan of wedgies.

When I lived in Japan, we found that the post office was the cheapest way to go, up to a certain amount. It was always a challenge to get money back and forth. Now, we do the wire transfer thing.

I wonder if anyone currently living in Japan can tell me the best way to send money from Japan to the US now. I'd really like to know.

I use Citibank's website to wire money between my US and Japan Citibank accounts. Clean and simple.

In Finland foreign transfers are online and completely electronic for 1-2 years already. I use the biggest scandinavian bank Nordea, and you just need the SWIFT and IBAN to type in to move money to any bank anywhere in the world - it's not really different from transferring money within the same bank inside the same country.

I hope the rest of the world catches on..

Great postings. I have a question, does anyone know of the tax implications of wiring larger sums of money from Japan to the US? Or is their a firm that specializes in this?


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