Closing and Consolidating Financial Accounts

With just a little over one month to go until our move, we’re starting to feel the urgency here! This move that has been at the forefront of our daily lives for nearly two years is now sitting squarely on our doorstep. Meanwhile, Jake is working on the process of selling all of our worldly possessions except those that fit into a couple suitcases and whatever we can carry onto the plane, as our cozy apartment is beginning to look a lot less lived-in than I’ve grown accustomed to.

As for me, I am continuing to implement our plans for financials, documents, and whatever immigration processes need to be sorted out. Jake definitely drew the short straw on that one. There are several steps involved with consolidating the multiple bank, credit card, utility, and direct deposit accounts that a couple tends to accumulate over a decade of integrating two lives together.

First things first: Open an account with an American bank that has no foreign transaction fees. We went with Charles Schwab after doing some research online, but there are others out there.

Most of the savings funds for our move had been held in an account with Ally Bank simply because of its 1% interest rate on savings accounts. We never intended to keep our account at Ally once we moved, though, since their debit cards don’t come with a chip, and even though the foreign transaction charge is a small 1% of the purchase amount, a fee is still a fee.

Transferring Electronic Payments and Debits to Our New Bank

We reached our savings goal last month week, so it felt like a good time to begin the process of closing out our main checking account held with a local credit union. I went through each transaction for the past year and made a note of which bills drew from that credit union and which of my clients issued payments into that account — which sounds tedious, but since most of our daily expenses are paid with a credit card that’s paid off at the end of each month, the list was mostly payments, direct deposits, and transfers to/from friends using services like Square Cash.

Before making any changes to payments, I made sure to transfer all of our savings into our Charles Schwab checking account to cover any unexpected debits that may come out. This will be the account all of our funds will be sent from once we start with a Dutch bank, possibly ING or ABN AMRO.

The process took about a week to transfer everything over, and some financial institutions required trial deposits to be made into and back out of the new checking account in order to prove that the details are all accurate. Having enough savings to cover both outgoing expenses from the old account plus any new expenses from the new account is absolutely essential; we simply decided to split our savings down the middle in both accounts until we were certain that all of our debits had been satisfied. Finally, as a freelancer, I receive direct deposits from a number of companies, and each of them had to be notified that I have a new account.

Closing Accounts

Now that all of our funds are consolidated and we’re reasonably certain all of our payments are coming from Charles Schwab, we’ve started closing those old bank and credit union accounts, consolidating retirement accounts into a single Vanguard account for each of us, plus closing out credit cards with the exception of one Amex, one Visa and one MasterCard. Those three cards are great for rewards points, getting us a first-class/business-class flight to Europe for our move without having to pay much outside of minimal taxes, all for simply using a card for things we would normally have paid cash or used a debit card for.

Our financial lives are now totally “clean” and set for our move to the Netherlands. It’s finally starting to feel real. Now, if I can only figure out how to avoid getting payments by check from American companies…


Originally published at Expat Journeys.