After you open a French bank account, you may be wondering how to transfer money from an American bank account to your new French bank account for free.
I’m going to share with you the best solution I’ve found for transferring money abroad for free as an American. This solution works for transferring dollars to euros, dollars to pounds, and potentially more currencies. For now I’m going to focus on my experience of transferring money from a US bank account to a French bank account (dollars to euros).
Here is something to know: French banks don’t like cash.
My initial thought after opening my bank account in France was to get cash inside as quickly as possible. Thankfully, my banker told me that I could do this to start, but I should not transfer more than around 2000€ cash per year into my account, in order to avoid raising any red flags. The reason for this is to prevent money laundering.
So that means that all transfers must be done electronically from bank to bank where the origins can be traced.
When you begin searching for how to make international money transfers, one solution pops up far more often than others: Transferwise. Transferwise was great when it first launched, and it is in fact cheaper than traditional banks, but it still costs money. I’m going to share with you a way to move money abroad that is actually free.
I used Transferwise for my very first transfer because I needed the money in my account fast in order to put down a deposit on my apartment. I had issues with Transferwise because essentially they quoted me the lowest possible price, but the price I actually ended up paying was much higher because there were compatibility issues between Transferwise and my bank Capital One in the US. I had to use one of the more expensive options for some bizarre reason no one could tell me.
Needless to say I was not happy. I paid around $10.51 (after the initial sign-up discount) to transfer 1,100€ from the US to France. $10 isn’t a lot of money, but it can add up if you do it often! If you do that once a month to pay rent for example, you’ll find yourself paying $120+ per year, and actually more, because I calculated that using the price I paid after my one-time new-user discount.
Moving forward, I’ve found a far better solution that is totally free.
The Free Way to Transfer Money Abroad
It involves a British banking start-up called Revolut.
Revolut offers bank accounts in multiple currencies and I essentially use it as an intermediary when transferring funds between my American bank account and my French bank account.
I currently bank with Capital One in the US and Société Générale in France. These instructions should work for a variety of banks, however and you aren’t limited to just euros – this should also work for transferring to pounds as well.
First, you sign up for a Revolut account.
By default, your account will be in the currency of your home country. In this case, you should have an account in Dollars if you are American like me. You’ll need to verify your identity which might take a few days, so do this as early as possible.
Next, you need to add a new account in the Euro currency. This should be fairly quick.
Now, you need to add money to your US Dollar account by connecting your US bank account.
You can add money for free in a few different ways. The fastest is to add your debit card. I can add money to Revolut this way using my Charles Schwab bank account, but Capital One doesn’t allow this, so from that bank I do a Bank Transfer.
My Revolut bank account has an Account Number and ACH Routing Number just like any other bank. I use those details to transfer money from Capital One. You can also link another US bank account using their Plaid integration for faster transfers.
Once you have a way to transfer funds, you can click “Add Money” and get your account funded.
Once you have money in dollars, you’ll need to exchange it for Euros within the Revolut app before transferring it to your French bank account. To do that, click the three dots in the app near your Dollar balance, and then “Sell.” You are going to sell your dollars for euros.
Revolut will ask you how much you’d like to exchange, and show you the current exchange rate. In my experience, they have given me close to the exact real-time exchange rate that I see when I search Google for the current rate.
From there, you click the big blue “Sell USD to EUR” button and your money is exchanged automatically! No fees are taken for the transfer.
Once your money is in Euros, you need to switch over to your Euro account in the Revolut app. This is done by clicking the balance on the home screen of the app and selecting your Euro account.
From there, you click the “Send” button in order to send your money to your French or European bank account.
Click “Bank Accounts” under the “Who to pay” screen.
From there, “Add beneficiary.” Individual should be selected automatically.
You’ll need to select France as the country and then Euro, followed by your IBAN, your full name, and an email if you’d like.
I did a test of sending 10€ to start and I received the money in just one business day. I recommend testing with a small amount and making sure you receive the money before sending larger amounts!
That’s it! You’ve just transferred money internationally from a US bank to France for FREE!
In case you are wondering, Revolut does not currently allow Americans to transfer money in the opposite direction (from Euros to Dollars).
I think it’s a great way to get money to France without paying continuous fees. My current plan allows me to transfer up to $1,000 USD per month free of charge.