Banking - Like Advice

Hello all,

So I recently accepted a position at a school in Vietnam (Apollo English). My salary is deposited into Vietcom. My goals for banking were to hopefully avoid a high conversion fee, on top of the international wire. Right now, I'm thinking of having two banks:

1. Vietcombank (for salary deposits) and American bank (wire transfers, savings, etc)

Does this sound like a good set up?

I have established an online bank, but I can't quite put my finger on why I did. I think I had wanted one American bank account for bills, and another American bank account for savings (no fees), so has to have 2 credit cards that gave me access to oversea funds.

That way if I, to my chagrin, lose one card, I'm not completely screwed, because I have a backup.

I had wanted to go with a Citibank account in both countries (hoping to deal with lower wire transfer and conversion fees), but with my job's automatic deposit into Vietcom, I decided I didn't want to deal with 2 vietnamese bank accounts.

Thanks in advance! I apologize if this seems like a silly question, but it doesn't hurt to get feedback from veterans.

Well, it's a good setup if it is working for you. If you read through some of the numerous banking threads, you will find that everyone is using various banks for different purposes.

So, yes, it's quite normal to have several local accounts as well as accounts with international banks. Also, as you mention, it's a not a good idea to keep all your money in one place.

Vietcombank will offer you an ATM card.  They may or may not offer you a credit card; either way, I’d suggest that you wait a bit before applying for it. 

Even though credit cards are accepted at tourist-oriented places (hotels, malls, large restaurants, transportation tickets), a great majority of your daily transactions will be in cash including your rent.  Your ATM card, therefore, is much more important than a Vietnamese cc.

I strongly recommend Charles Schwab as your American bank.  Schwab VISA/Debit reimburses ATM fees, has no foreign transaction fee, gives exchange rate, and charges only $25 flat rate for International wire transfer.

I've been looking into American banks, but my job deposits my paycheck into a local Vietnamese bank (which I understand).

I have to ask if I can have my check deposited elsewhere, but if the company is affiliated with Vietcombank, I'd have to open 2 other bank accounts (another foreign chain, and another one based back here in America), and I'm not sure I want to deal with the headache that is multiple accounts spread across different businesses.

I had been looking into Citibank. HSBC was another, but their deposit requirement was much too high for me. I have yet to think about Schwab, but I'm not sure it matters at this point. It doesn't look like I can avoid fees.

Have you looked into Timo? Here's a video from an expat about the bank.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQ-uTiJQcAE

I have Charles Schwab now but I'm looking at First Republic Bank. It's not as big a CS but they seemed to have more security notifications than CS and that's something that I want in a bank these days of hacking, phishing,...

M4uesviecr :

I had been looking into Citibank. HSBC was another, but their deposit requirement was much too high for me. I have yet to think about Schwab, but I'm not sure it matters at this point. It doesn't look like I can avoid fees.

The transfer fee is something you cannot avoid if you need the service, no matter which bank you go with.  However, in all the years we've been expats in different countries, we'd only needed to transfer money twice:  the first time to put down a deposit to purchase a house, and the second time, 30 days later, to pay the rest of the amount of purchase.

Here in Vietnam, we've yet and are pretty certain will never need to transfer money from our American bank at all, and we don't even have a Vietnamese bank to speak off (we don't earn any income here). 

Schwab pays our bills in the States and provides us with unlimited cash withdrawal everywhere in the world ($1000/day, higher if we need) for absolutely no fee whatsoever.

When we use our American cc (my BofA Travel Rewards Visa and my husband's Barclays MC), both have no annual fee, both give us points or cash back, and both provide us with no foreign transaction fee.  In addition, my Travel Rewards charges me single digit interest rate (9.24%) for life as long as I make payments on time.

We haven't paid one dime for fee of any kind since we moved here.  Why can't you do the same?

I'm not saying our banking system is the best, as others will tell you about theirs which can be just as good or even better.  If many of us expats are happy with the good deals readily available out there, what would be  difficult about setting yourself up with the same system?

As a newcomer or a potential newcomer, it may sound overwhelming to you at this point, but as you've come to the forum for help and have received enough help so far to be on the right path, I don't understand your negative view at all.

Ciambella :
M4uesviecr :

I had been looking into Citibank. HSBC was another, but their deposit requirement was much too high for me. I have yet to think about Schwab, but I'm not sure it matters at this point. It doesn't look like I can avoid fees.

The transfer fee is something you cannot avoid if you need the service, no matter which bank you go with.  However, in all the years we've been expats in different countries, we'd only needed to transfer money twice:  the first time to put down a deposit to purchase a house, and the second time, 30 days later, to pay the rest of the amount of purchase.

Here in Vietnam, we've yet and are pretty certain will never need to transfer money from our American bank at all, and we don't even have a Vietnamese bank to speak off (we don't earn any income here). 

Schwab pays our bills in the States and provides us with unlimited cash withdrawal everywhere in the world ($1000/day, higher if we need) for absolutely no fee whatsoever.

When we use our American cc (my BofA Travel Rewards Visa and my husband's Barclays MC), both have no annual fee, both give us points or cash back, and both provide us with no foreign transaction fee.  In addition, my Travel Rewards charges me single digit interest rate (9.24%) for life as long as I make payments on time.

We haven't paid one dime for fee of any kind since we moved here.  Why can't you do the same?

I'm not saying our banking system is the best, as others will tell you about theirs which can be just as good or even better.  If many of us expats are happy with the good deals readily available out there, what would be  difficult about setting yourself up with the same system?

As a newcomer or a potential newcomer, it may sound overwhelming to you at this point, but as you've come to the forum for help and have received enough help so far to be on the right path, I don't understand your negative view at all.

I think (hahaha!) the OP has totally opposite needs, in that she IS 1. Generating income here in Vietnam 2. Hoping to periodically move some funds out of the Vietnamese banking system (where she seems to be required to receive her salary at Vietcombank) 3. Wants to accomplish this for little or no fee, if possible.

I think OP is right: no way to avoid fees if she wants to deposit savings in the US by wire.

If she accumulates the money here and only sends funds a couple times a year, then Schwab may be her best bet because of the flat rate you mentioned ($25.00) although for smaller transfers, Timo or another service MIGHT prove more affordable.

IF OP plans to travel home once or twice a year, then carrying cash on the flight might work best, within the legal limits, converting her Đồng here to Dollars before traveling, assuming she's not planning on saving more than the legal customs limit.

BUT HERE'S THE QUESTION put another way:

"If I come to work in Vietnam, but I want to fund my savings and other banking needs in my home country, will that cost me money?"

The short answer is "Yes".

OceanBeach92107 :

I think (hahaha!) the OP has totally opposite needs, in that she IS ... Hoping to periodically move some funds out of the Vietnamese banking system

My apology for misunderstand the OP's question.  My reading comprehension is above par but this time, it must've fallen down on the job.

Let's switch direction to address the OP's need to move part of her salary out of Vietnam periodically.

I don't know how much English teachers at Apollo actually take home per month.  The hourly salary can be an incredible lure when being compared to the COL, but IRL, are the actual working hours and condition of employment true to the promise?

After a few years reading the forum, I haven't seen any post from teachers who reported that they were given the promised hours within a tolerable schedule, received payments for all the hours they must be presented at school, and ended up with substantial funds to send home. 

A year or so ago, a potential teacher in Hanoi asked a question on the best bank to send her saving back to the UK.  After bringing to her employer the dozen queries from members of the forum, she confirmed what everyone suspected:  her dreamed saving at the end of her contract would never surpass the cash allowance that she could legally take out of Vietnam.

Right now, based on the math I've done, I'll be taking close to $1200 home per month. I don't expect to break bank (I would need a higher paying job for that), but I expect to make enough that I can bolster my savings in addition to what I already have at my expense.

I could be naive in this regard, but experience will take care of that soon enough.

I see what you are saying, though. I need to research to see what my transferring limit is with Vietcom to see if I will be in for a rude awakening. My goal is to send $500 home each month, but that equates to 11.6 mil..

I never thought about sending money home twice a year. I could do that as well, but my savings would get to a point where transferring out may be hindered, or raise huge red flags. I feel a transferral once a month is routine and can be trusted.

As far as my job, I have asked questions to the full breadth of possibility. At this point, assuring I have my hours would depend on how adamant I am on making sure I am given them. Right now, I need to be at my post 15 minutes before my classes start. Granted, I plan to be there well before that time, but still, it shows how flexible they are with time, as long as they get the necessary results.

I appreciate your thorough feedback (and everyone else's) on this matter!

Hi M4uesviecr

Suggest you go with Citibank Vietnam. You can deposit in VND (which is good interest bearing) and have a linked USD account as well . Then you can withdraw funds anywhere worldwide with no fees in the local currency,

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