Making payments to Indian businesses

Aug 14th, 2010, 01:36 PM
  #1  
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Making payments to Indian businesses

OK, so I'm trying to book lodging, pay my participation fee for the Great Himalayan Bird Count and such, and am running in to trouble. If they just give me a bank #, my bank says there's a $45 transaction fee to wire money. That's outrageous. I certainly can't tag an extra $45 to every expense I have to make in advance! Can anyone tell me if there's an easier way to get money to them if they don't take VISA?

Also, I was able to charge flights within India (yes, I'm flying to Jodhpur, dogster!) and overnight train trips to my VISA. But I was hoping to book the Shatabdi express from Delhi to Haridwar in advance & don't seem able to. That is, I don't seem to be able to book it through Clear Trip, and through the government site they want an Indian bank card. If I'm taking that train on the morning of Oct 24, would it be foolish to try to buy the ticket either in Delhi on the 18th or (if even possible) from a train station in Jodhpur on the 19th (when I'll have more time)?

Many thanks for any advice folks can give me!
GinaK is offline  
Aug 14th, 2010, 03:23 PM
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There is no easy/cheap way to do this.

I wired money to secure my accommodations for my upcoming trip. My bank said the fee was $50 but it turned out because of the type of account I have they didn't charge me. But there was a charge on the exchange of about 1.65% (the bank said there would be no foreign exchange premium), and an Indian bank the deposit passed through charged an additional $7. Charging it to my Visa card would have cost me 3% in exchange premium, had they taken Visa. Another bank I have an account with would charge me $25 for the transaction, and who knows how much for the exchange premium (though their cards only charge 1%).

Credit Unions often have more reasonable fees.

Another way to pay is to get a foreign bank draft from your bank and mail it to them. I don't know what foreign bank drafts run these days, as it's been years since I used one. But even then you'd want to use FedEx or some other trackable delivery system, which would add probably $30-40 to the cost.

A few places take PayPal.
Kathie is offline  
Aug 14th, 2010, 03:23 PM
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Hi Gina, regarding the train, I've been able to book tickets on the Indian Railway site during the last few days using my American Express card. Well at first it was rejected and I got a message from Amex saying to call them regarding a suspicious charge (although I did call them a few days before to say I'd be booking Indian trains!). Anyway, once it was resolved, I tried again and got my ticket. I haven't tried, but supposedly the secret to using a non-Indian Visa or Mastercard is to select "Axis PG" under "Payment by Credit Cards and Debit Cards). Hope that works for you. Alternatively, there's always the chance that your particular train accepts something less than 90 day advance bookings.

Re the payments to the Bird Count, have you asked if they will accept Western Union? That's how I sent money to a couple of Indian hotels where I had to prepay. The service charge wasn't terrible. I also sent a deposit via Paypal to another.
Nutella is offline  
Aug 14th, 2010, 04:34 PM
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For the trains you could look at using an Indrail pass from http://www.indiarail.co.uk/indrail.htm - even though I live in the US that's what I did back in 2001, and you can get a pass as short as half a day.
thursdaysd is offline  
Aug 14th, 2010, 05:37 PM
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Well, I really hope they'll take Western Union or PayPal... If not, I'll check other places where I have accounts to see if someone has a better deal. I think I did try the Axis PG option to no avail, but mebbe should double-check. And thanks for the Indrail pass tip!
GinaK is offline  
Aug 15th, 2010, 09:03 AM
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I never used it for India, just France and Japan, but you might check out xe.com - I got this idea from the Europe forum a few years back. I opened the account - a bit of a hassle but not that much and if I want to transfer funds they come out of my checking account just like when I pay a bill online - no charge against my checking account - and the exchange rate was very good. You need the payee's bank details obviously to do this. There is no charge or maintenance fee to keep the xe account going - at least there hasn't been to date....
Mara is offline  
Aug 15th, 2010, 09:46 AM
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Note that the exchange rate using Western union is not particularly favorable and tha Western Union may also charge an additional fee.
There are no free lunches.
JerryS is offline  
Aug 15th, 2010, 09:52 AM
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Mara, thanks for that info. I use xe to check exchange rates regularly. I didn't know they did wire transfers and EFTs. Your EFTs are free, but can only be done to a limited number of countries (several European countries, Canada, Australia, NZ). There is a charge for a wire transfer... they don't say how much, but they say it is less than banks. You have to have an account and get as far as the confirmation before they disclose fees. They also say their exchange rates are better - I certainly believe that!

I may decide to open an account and try it for the next deposit I have to make in October.
Kathie is offline  
Aug 15th, 2010, 10:07 AM
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Kathie - you're welcome - you can call them and inquire I would think - I have always found them helpful on the phone....I've only done EFTs and I am quite sure I did that to Japan....

I meant to comment that a couple of years ago I used Western Union and the exchange rate was horrendous and I think there were extra fees - I remember it was cheaper if I went in person than did it online...
Mara is offline  
Aug 15th, 2010, 10:21 AM
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Mara, from the website, it appears that the regulations change from time to time. Currently,

"Free delivery via EFT is currently available for the following currencies and countries:

AUD to Australia.
CAD to Canada.
EUR to France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain.
GBP to The United Kingdom.
NZD to New Zealand.
USD to The United States or Canada."

I expect I'll open an account. I'll report back on my experience.
Kathie is offline  
Aug 15th, 2010, 11:02 AM
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Kathie and Mara -
So, does this mean that although free EFT is available only for that short list, that xe.com might nonetheless be a cheaper way to wire money to India? I'm a bit confused. I'll be very interested to hear how it works and if it shakes out to be the best way to go.
Also, is it safe to assume that if there is an option to pay by VISA, that that is the best way to go? My transactions buying flights and train tickets resulted in a block on my VISAs (they suspected fraud), but I think I've cleared that up now.
GinaK is offline  
Aug 15th, 2010, 11:58 AM
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I just logged onto my XE account and chose a trade from US dollars to Euro and I got a choice of ACH/EFT.....I don't know what you are looking at, Kathie, sorry.....
However they have a toll free phone number (for the US,Canda, UK and other countries) so you can probably call tomorrow and find out exactly what the story is.....
And I really don't remember how the transfer went to Japan as it was 3 years ago - I could try to find my records....
Mara is offline  
Aug 15th, 2010, 12:28 PM
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Mara, I was just quoting from the FAQs. You should get an EFT option from dollars to Euros, but not, say, from dollars to INR. For that transfer, the FAQs say that only wire transfers (or bank drafts) are available. (If you have a moment, would you check?)

GIna, go to xe.com and look at opening an account. There is no charge. Depending on what the wire transfer fee is, the wire transfer may be less than the Visa fee (which is generally 3% - call your credit card company to find out). They do say that their wire transfer fee is less than that charged by banks. When I checked with two banks I use, one charged $50, one charged $25. Gina, I expect you know to call your credit card company before you leave on a trip or, in this case, before making foreign charges. I always do that, but sometimes they still block the account temporarily.
Kathie is offline  
Aug 15th, 2010, 12:46 PM
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Kathie - I misunderstood you - I thought you were saying I could not do an EFT from USD to Euro....
Okay, I found my paperwork from 2007 when I opened the account - I kept it as it was part of a trip interruption claim - anyway I paid approximately $21 above the cost of the yen for the wire transfer.....also the exchange rate I was charged was .00959429 and on xe's own website, that day in 11/07 the rate was .0092442683 so that is pretty close to the actual rate.
I am sure at the time I checked with my bank and the wire transfer cost was much higher....
And, Gina, I agree, see what your Visa card charges - I use a Capital One card which doesn't charge the extra rip-off fee.
And btw, Kathie, I think you were the one a couple of years ago to talk about using a brokerage account Debit card which usually doesn't charge extra to withdraw money from an ATM abroad - thanks for that tip. I always use my broker's card when I travel now.
Mara is offline  
Aug 15th, 2010, 01:22 PM
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"a brokerage account Debit card which usually doesn't charge extra to withdraw money from an ATM abroad" - I just opened a Capital One Interest Online Checking Account which also doesn't charge fees for unlimited ATM withdrawals (and refunds up to $10/month if the bank owning the ATM charges a fee). Plus, as with their credit cards, there's no foreign conversion fee. My Credit Union was charging 1% conversion plus $1.00 per ATM access over 5/month. And we don't want to get into what Wachovia is charging now it's Wells Fargo!
thursdaysd is offline  
Aug 15th, 2010, 01:35 PM
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thursdaysd - yes, that's another good idea - in my case since I already had some money in my brokerage account it worked better than opening a new account....
Mara is offline  
Aug 15th, 2010, 03:10 PM
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Thanks so much for all of the info, Mara. It's always helpful to find a less expensive way to deal with money in foreign countries.

And, like your account, Thursdays, my debit card reimburses for charges made by the foreign ATM.

I have refrained from getting a Capital One card because I'm still addicted to the ff miles I get from my visa...
Kathie is offline  
Aug 15th, 2010, 03:56 PM
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Kathie - I use my Citibank CC with AA miles at home, and my Capital One card when I travel. Not only do I not pay a conversion fee, I get 1% cash back.
thursdaysd is offline  
Aug 15th, 2010, 04:06 PM
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I do the same as thursdaysd - Citibank Amex with AA miles and Cap One with cash back - great minds think alike. ;-)
Mara is offline  
Aug 15th, 2010, 04:18 PM
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One of these day, I may do that, Thursdays. I trade off between my United card and my AmEx which gives me cash back. They give 3% back on restaurants, 2% back on plane tickets and hotels. So using it for hotels is basically a wash, as their conversion fee is 2.5%
Kathie is offline  

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