Vanguard and international wire questions

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Vanguard and international wire questions

Postby ncaraway » Tue Apr 19, 2011 10:52 pm

My wife and I currently live in the US and want to transfer some funds to my wife's bank account in Taiwan in advance of a visit to her family so we could have some cash while there. (She has dual citizenship)

We filled out VG's international wire form attempting to link our joint VG bond fund to her Taiwan account. It's been two weeks and half a dozen calls with Vanguard since we submitted it and we still have no resolution.

First the VG rep said the SWIFT number that we provided for the Taiwan bank wasn't valid. That was because the bank appended the local branch number, which they have since told us isn't necessary. With the updated SWIFT number I thought all would be well. It wasn't.

A VG rep called me last week and said the sticking point was that they weren't sure whether we wanted the transfer in US$ or Taiwan$ (which isn't a question on their form, by the way). I told them Taiwan$ and assumed that was that. Wrong again.

I called VG today to check on the status and after waiting while the rep talked to others was told that VG can't do transfers in foreign currency and that I needed to get the SWIFT number for the US bank. I asked whether they meant the US branch of our Taiwan bank or any US bank. I was told the former.

So now I'm confused. My wife called the Taiwan bank to see if they could help clarify since we don't have an account with them in the US. In essence, they said if we have the funds transferred to the US branch it would be in limbo as we have no account there. They suggested that we have the funds wired to a US bank that we have an account with and have that bank do the wire transfer. We can do this, but then what's the point of filling out an international wire transfer form with Vanguard? We already have our VG accounts linked to banks here in the US.

Have I misunderstood something? Any suggestions for how to get this resolved?
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Postby livesoft » Tue Apr 19, 2011 11:10 pm

I'd blow off Vanguard. You do not need to wire money from Vanguard to your US bank, but can simply ACH transfer it as usual.

Then wire from your US bank to your Taiwan bank. This is one case where walking into the bank is gonna be better than trying to do it online or over the phone.
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Postby ncaraway » Tue Apr 19, 2011 11:21 pm

Livesoft, that's probably what we'll end up doing for an immediate resolution. However, it was my hope (and understanding) that once we got the wire info set up with VG that we could then initiate a transfer anytime. This would be useful for us when we move to Taiwan. We have accounts with ING, but they don't do international transfers. And we also have an account with Wachovia, which will soon become Wells Fargo, so that's a little up in the air. I've been shopping around for an alternative but the Patriot Act doesn't make it easy for expats.
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Postby TedSwippet » Wed Apr 20, 2011 11:20 am

Can you open a US$ account at your Taiwan bank? If you can, that might run more smoothly. This also decouples the foreign exchange from the international wire, letting you shop locally in Taiwan for the best exchange rate rather than take whatever the bank offers as a default.

I've been transferring US$ from Vanguard to a non-US but US$ account for a couple of years now without problems. It takes a bit of setting up, but once done it works as you'd hope. Just another form of fund sale/withdrawal.

One thing to watch out for is any bank that will require a "medallion signature guarantee" for international wires. This is a paper document. If the bank you're using needs these, be sure to get them sorted out before you leave the US, since these are borderline impossible to organize if you're not physically in the US.
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Postby HueyLD » Wed Apr 20, 2011 12:16 pm

ncaraway wrote:However, it was my hope (and understanding) that once we got the wire info set up with VG that we could then initiate a transfer anytime. This would be useful for us when we move to Taiwan. We have accounts with ING, but they don't do international transfers. And we also have an account with Wachovia, which will soon become Wells Fargo, so that's a little up in the air.

Try CitiBank. They have branches all over major cities in Taiwan and it's reasonable to assume that Citi will do international wire transfers.
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Postby ncaraway » Thu May 12, 2011 6:14 pm

I thought I should follow up and share what I learned from this process.

I was finally able to get the transfer to work from Vanguard to our bank in Taiwan. All that was required was the SWIFT number for the New York branch of our Taiwanese bank. Fortunately, this bank does have a US presence.

In retrospect:

* Vanguard's documentation for international wire transfers, including the form itself, lacks clear instructions. This is mostly why I was confused.

* Complicating this was the language barrier. I don't speak Chinese so my wife had to get the information from the Taiwan banks (both in Taiwan and in NY, since the rep I spoke with there had a heavy accent). And since I manage our finances here in the US, my wife probably wasn't completely conversant in just what Vanguard needed.

The bottom line is that this has been resolved and we successfully made a wire transfer from our Vanguard account to my wife's bank account in Taiwan. Too bad the dollar is in decline. :(

Many thanks to all who responded with tips. I am grateful.
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