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For most people, paying monthly bills is a routine that doesn’t take a lot of planning. However, if a homeowner needs to maintain a primary residence while living abroad, it’s important to consider exactly how the bills will get paid.
Here are a few tactics to ensure homeowners don’t return to overdue bills and tarnished credit.
Individuals should consider hiring a service that does mailbox forwarding, says Derek Capo, CEO of Next Step China, a relocation service company that has offices in Beijing and Shanghai, and focuses on studying, teaching and interning in China. With these services, individuals have their mail sent to one location where the first page is scanned so the homeowner can view it online. “You can look and say, ‘That’s junk, that’s junk. No, that’s important — can you send me the whole thing?’” Capo says.
The fees for these services typically range between $20 and $30 U.S. dollars per month for basic services. However, Capo says there is one drawback. “The only downfall is it takes a little longer in getting urgent documents because there is a middle man,” he says.
Nothing can ruin a nice dinner or shopping trip like hearing the words, “Your credit card has been declined.” Yet, if a credit card company is unaware of the cardholder’s whereabouts, it may flag international payments as suspicious and put a freeze on the card. This circumstance is embarrassing in the moment, and it can also complicate routine payments for bills back home.
To guard against this scenario, homeowners should contact their credit card companies in advance and explain where and how long their stay abroad will be, Capo says. This extra step can also help card companies identify suspicious transactions made in the homeowner’s home country. “That way if there are any issues or fraudulent charges, they can easily see what’s going on,” he says. “Or you can say, ‘Hey that’s not fraud, that’s okay.’”
Sometimes the easiest way to keep up with payments is to simply “Go on autopilot,” says Pete Meyers, vice president of New York-based EuroCheapo, a website that offers expert reviews of Europe’s budget hotels. “Wherever possible, set up auto-payment withdrawals for your mortgage, utilities and any other bills you’ll be liable for in the U.S. while living abroad. The more automated, the lower the headache.”
If a homeowner is earning income in a foreign country, he or she should keep tabs on his or her domestic bank account using online banking and online payment services. When it looks like funds need to be replenished, he or she can simply convert currency using an online foreign exchange service, which deposits the money in a domestic bank account at a lower cost than bank transfers. The most efficient way to conduct banking overseas is to set up rate alerts through an online foreign exchange service, which can help individuals determine the best times to transfer funds from one account to another.
Often, individuals who are traveling or moving for a year or more will rent out their apartment or home. Capo suggests all individuals — but especially those who are renting — appoint a power of attorney for any issues that arise while they’re gone.
“Let’s say you’re renting out your apartment or house,” Capo says. “But the tenant isn’t paying you and you have to evict them. You have to give power to someone who can represent you with a police officer.”
Whether an individual is traveling for six months or two years, and making regular international payments, it’s important to take the necessary steps to keep up with financial responsibilities in the U.S. Employing these strategies can set individuals on the path to stress-free travel.
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