I’m an iPhone 4 user. And whether you’re a fan of this brand or loyal to another smart phone and OS, you can understand my frustration at not being able to use my pricey—and useful—toy while living abroad. Well, I solved that problem with a little piece of nifty technology (i.e. the Gevey Ultra SIM), but in the process discovered a common challenge that I had previously been unaware of: U.S. banks are not keen on allowing international home addresses. This wouldn’t really matter save for the common requirement from U.S. online merchants that your credit card billing address must match you shipping address (this seems to be especially true when shipping internationally if the package/company is of U.S. origin).
Now, for those of you who might be living abroad in Europe this problem is easily circumvented by purchasing locally. And in many other places you can simply get an account at an international bank with both U.S. and local branches wherever you are. But when you’re in a country like Bolivia that has limited product choices locally and no U.S. banks currently operating domestically, the seemingly small requirement of a matching billing and shipping address can become a big challenge. See how I solved it after the break and let us know what your experience has been!
If you’re only abroad for a short time, then having family or friends (or even a service) forward what you need is no problem. But when you’re living abroad for a substantial amount of time, it becomes burdensome to keep asking for favors. And while many forwarding services work really well, unless you have a high volume of mail coming in and going out, their subscription prices are hard to justify.
My solution was to check with all of the banks I’ve ever done or currently do business with to find one that would allow an international address. The lone bank that permitted this change? E*Trade bank. As in, the bank affiliated with the stock market trading company. After making a free ACH transfer from my Schwab investor checking account I can now use my E*Trade checkcard for online orders to Bolivia with matching billing and shipping addresses. There’s no minimum balance to have the account and if I put too much in and need it back, transfers out to my Schwab account are also free and quick.