Should You Take Your Money with You When You Move Abroad?

I have a terrible, shocking confession to make; I played a big part in a group of British ex-pats losing thousands of pounds in Spanish investments.

It all started when I moved across from the UK to work in a Spanish bank. My job title was something along the lines of International Banking Adviser. If truth be told, I was there as a buffer between a dodgy bank manager and some potentially gullible customers. It was only shortly before leaving the place that I discovered that the investments he had been putting huge pressure on me to sell were nothing like he had described. When I tried to avoid selling certain products he and the area manager would put the squeeze on me while assuring me that the customer’s money was safe.

After I left the Spanish financial crisis began and I later found out that about half a dozen customers had lost big sums of money due to those investments. I felt terrible about it and now is my chance to give out some advice to stop the same thing happening to other people. So, should you take your money abroad with you?

A Bit at a Time

When you first move to a foreign country you probably aren’t even sure how long you will stay there for. No matter how much you are attracted by the weather, the food or the language you might find that you end up moving on again. If you are going there for work reasons, who is to say that you won’t decide to take your career elsewhere in a few years time? My branch manager used to get horribly frustrated and say a lot of bad words really quickly when he talked about the Brits who looked like they were really wealthy but who only ever had a few Euros rattling around in their Spanish account. However, I think this is a sensible approach. These days it is easy and cheap to do international transfers whenever you need the money. Alternatively, you could use your UK bank card to access your funds. It might be tempting to start your new life abroad by taking all of your money with you but it doesn’t make much sense at the start.

Understand the Local Banking System

In the UK we are pretty well protected from being sold dodgy investments or otherwise being conned. Could you be sure that it is the same in your new country? Even leaving shady branch managers aside, you need to consider that the language barrier and cultural differences could make it very difficult for you to be able to say that you fully understand the local banking system enough to trust it. If you wander into your local branch and find a cheery Brit like me sitting there that is no guarantee either. As I mentioned earlier, this kind of job is often seen as being a sort of buffer between the bank and the customers. The ex pat adviser will probably have the best of intentions but they may also be struggling to get to grips with the local way of working. At the end of my time in the bank I was at constant loggerheads with my colleagues, as they didn’t want me to allow money to leave the bank in any way. Believe it or not, the manager called me in and gave me an Iberian rollicking one day because I had sent about €5,000 back to the UK when a client had asked for it. Apparently I should have left it sitting in the account for a couple of weeks until the guy starting kicking up a fuss.


Moving abroad is an exciting experience and if you are like me you won’t like the idea of leaving a bit of money here and a bit of money there. However, with internet banking and modern banking services there is no need to feel as though your savings are out of reach. Even if you are on the other side of the world you can still access the cash from your account back home until you feel ready to move it over with you.

Have you ever moved to a foreign country and regretted taking your money with you?

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2 Responses to Should You Take Your Money with You When You Move Abroad?

  1. Sounds like solid advice here. I don’t plan on moving abroad anytime soon (if ever) but one of the things I would worry about would be transferring my money to local systems. A lot of the US is different than countries in the EU, and to be honest, I don’t know the first thing about it. I’m sorry you were conned (from the sound of it) into being a part of losing other’s money. That really sucks, but I’m glad you’re now in a position to help others!

    • Robert Bell says:

      Thanks Ryan. Getting used to a new banking system is hard for expats and for people who go and work in a bank abroad as well

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