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evertoexcel
09-05-2011, 01:40
Here's my story, I'll try to make it concise:

Currently I pursue a research degree at University College London;
I am a recipient of a scholarship from the European Commission that is paid directly into my UK account (Lloyds TSB) in GBP on a monthly basis;
Despite the fact that next year I will undertake research at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, my scholarship will continue to be paid into the said account;
Seen in that light, I am completely clueless as to how to deal with the predicament of transferring money (online) from London to Moscow every single month. Should I open an account in Russia, use my UK Visa card, Western Union/MoneyGram, PayPal/Moneybookers, prepaid travel card? Which of the foregoing options would be the most cost-effective one?

Any advice, hints and tips would be hugely appreciated. Thanks in advance!

Peter

FatAndy
09-05-2011, 09:49
Easiest way is to use Visa for cash withdrawal, but with norarised translated copy of passport, visa and registration you can try to open bank account here and then deal with your UK bank about monthly funds transfer. Just check where you'll loose less money.

sis
09-05-2011, 10:56
do you already have an account in russia?

Seems to me that you are worried about how to live in russia? Just get the debit card linked to your english bank account, go to the cash machine in russia, and take out the money.

If for some reason you need money in a bank account in russia, then go to the branch and deposit the cash that you took out of the bank machine.

Doing this is probably cheaper, as bank transfers usually take a set fee, for instance $20, which is larger than the fee for the cash machine, about $5. The bank transfer will be cheaper if you are taking large ammounts of money > 40 000rubles, as usually you can only get about 10 000 rubles out of the cash machines in one go, and will be charged $5 for each time.

Both bank transfers and withdrawals from a cash machine will charge about 1,5% of the sum.

30 rub = $1

evertoexcel
09-05-2011, 13:33
Thanks for your prompt replies!

The thing is, I can't do international bank transfers online as such payments must be arranged at Lloyds branches. Also, one of my installments will be a large lump sum (to cover flights, accommodation etc.) and, given cash machine limits, I reckon that Visa withdrawal is not an alternative.

DavidB
09-05-2011, 14:39
I can suggest 2 options:

You can open an account with a UK bank which doesn't charge fees on international cash withdrawals. Metro Bank is probably the easiest option: Metro Bank (https://www.metrobankonline.co.uk/personal/).
Some other options are listed here: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/travel-cash
Note that with a credit card, if you transfer money to the credit card account before make a withdrawal, you won't be charged interest. That can make some credit cards very effective for withdrawing cash.

I would recommend applying for 2 cards if you take this option. Eg. Metro Bank debit card and maybe Post Office or Halifax credit card. That will give you a backup in case your first card is stolen or damaged, or if there is some problem with the bank's network.

Also note that, despite what some people think, "no fees or commissions" doesn't mean that you will get interbank exchange rates. What it means is that the bank doesn't add any fees or charges to MasterCard/Visa's exchange rates. The card networks' exchange rates are relatively competitive, however. I observed MasterCard's rates for some time, and the average was around 0.6% from the interbank rate.


The second option would be to open an account with any UK bank which allows you to make international transfers. Shop around for the one with the lowest fees. Usually banks charge 20 to make an international SWIFT transfer, but you may be able to find one which is cheaper.

Two often recommended banks in Russia are UniCredit and Raiffeisen. UniCredit has the lower fees of the two. Raiffeisen will charge you more for a debit card, and they charge around 4 to receive a SWIFT transfer. In Moscow, it shouldn't be a problem to find an English speaking staff member in the centrally located branches of these banks.

Opening an account in Russia is much easier than in the UK. FatAndy is correct - all you need is your passport, migration card, sometimes registration (your university will give you this), and sometimes a notarised translation. I wasn't asked for a translation at UniCredit or HSBC (note that HSBC has now closed their Russian operation). Current accounts are opened on the same day, and debit cards usually take 5 or 10 days to be produced. Cards and PINs are always collected in the branch.

evertoexcel
09-05-2011, 18:08
Dear David,

Many thanks for your elaborate reply that dispels most of my doubts! I scrutinized Metro Bank's personal banking offer and it looks really interesting. Have you had (or heard of) any experience with them before? I know that they are relatively new in the banking industry in the UK hence the question.

DavidB
09-05-2011, 18:38
I haven't heard of anyone using Metro Bank myself. I only know that their product offering suits travellers. You could open an account and test it with small amounts for a few months. They don't have any account keeping fees, and internet banking is free.

If you're concerned about stability, the other option is Halifax and Post Office credit cards.

CaliforniaChic
20-06-2011, 22:41
A few years ago when I used to study in Russia, I would go into Moscow Bank/Bank of Moscow and hand the banker my U.S. ATM card, fill out a form and confirm the amount to be withdrawn. She would then call up the main branch and they would deduct it from my account, handing me the cash on the spot and charging only a 1% fee. This worked out to be a lot more reasonable then the ATM fees, and also I was able to withdraw a greater amount than through the ATM. At the time my Russian was very limited, so I don't even know what they call this sort of transaction in Russian, but maybe someone here knows what I'm talking about.

DavidB
20-06-2011, 23:05
That'a a counter withdrawal. The problem is that the 1% is only Bank of Moscow's fee. You'll still be charged counter withdrawal fees as per your card issuer's policy. Usually it's more expensive than an ATM withdrawal, but given the higher limit it may work out slightly cheaper.

Tony P
21-06-2011, 03:16
also I was able to withdraw a greater amount than through the ATM.

Masterbank ATMs and ATM 'mini-offices' give me the option of withdrawing up to 50,000Руб at a time when I put in my UK bank card.
I've not put it to the test for that much yet, but see no reason why it should not pay that much if you have the clearance from your 'home' bank.

They do not deduct a commission and the amount/rate that gets taken from my bank account is the same as with Sberbank and VTB - whether that be good or not.

CaliforniaChic
22-06-2011, 22:52
That'a a counter withdrawal. The problem is that the 1% is only Bank of Moscow's fee. You'll still be charged counter withdrawal fees as per your card issuer's policy. Usually it's more expensive than an ATM withdrawal, but given the higher limit it may work out slightly cheaper.

Actually, my bank never charged me, that is why I continued to withdrawn funds in that manner. It's not the same as a cash advance, it's just accessing money that you actually have, so I couldn't imagine for the banks that do charge, that it would even be a significant amount. Also, there was never a conversion fee or anything since I would withdraw the funds in dollars and not rubles, so for me it worked out perfectly and was quite cheap.

DavidB
22-06-2011, 23:38
Actually, my bank never charged me, that is why I continued to withdrawn funds in that manner. It's not the same as a cash advance, it's just accessing money that you actually have, so I couldn't imagine for the banks that do charge, that it would even be a significant amount. Also, there was never a conversion fee or anything since I would withdraw the funds in dollars and not rubles, so for me it worked out perfectly and was quite cheap.

I see what you're doing now. I've done the same previously in Ukraine, because Ukrainian banks don't have USD banknotes in their ATMS. If you can find an ATM which allows you to withdraw USD, the fee structure should be the same.

However, the OP is British and there are very few banks which offer any services in GBP, so this isn't a good option for him.

Nik Nicholas
06-07-2011, 00:32
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