Travel and Visa's in the US

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by BillN, Oct 1, 2013.

  1. BillN

    BillN SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 25, 2010
    S W France
    Bill
    My wife and I have been thinking about spending a few months in the US during the European winter, (either the US or South Africa)
    Probably travelling from a base in Florida.

    We are UK passport holders and both retired
    just checking into Visa's
    Is there anyone who I could ask a few questions to by PM, e.g, is it possible to open a US Bank Account without a SS number, (we would rather transfer dollars in one go than keep using our £ credit cards or taking travellers cheques), if there are any possibilities to get medical insurance in the US for a period of more than 90 days., etc. and what happens if we wanted to stay more than 90 days.
     
  2. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    Hi Bill,
    That last question is more difficult. The answer to the first one I'm fairly certain is "no", but you could probably check the website of a few of our bigger banks to find out what requirements are for opening an account.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  3. BillN

    BillN SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 25, 2010
    S W France
    Bill
    Thanks Luke
    Bank account - checked on line - you seem to get bounced out if you do not have a SS number, plus they want an address in the US plus a utility bill.
    Maybe the easiest is to open an account with a US Bank in the UK ....... and then get them to open an account in the US for you
    This bank account thing seems to be getting more and more difficult - using a UK credit card is OK most of the time, (apart from the exchange rate, maybe), but sometimes you need to have dollars.

    Also this medical insurance question seems tricky

    Presumably you can drive in the US for say 90 days+ with a UK Driving Licence?

    Someone said if you want to stay for more than 90 days just go over the border to Mexico for a few days then come back
     
  4. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Bill,

    My experience with traveling is that you don't need a local bank account to get local currency. Most ATM cards are pretty much global these days and I had no problems using my US ATM and credit cards in any part of Europe I've travelled in in the past several years. There's always the issue of the exchange rate, but given the high cost of travel, I generally just considered that to be background noise. When I was in Italy for the month of July, I had no problem getting Euros from any European bank ATM and I could easily manage my US bank account via my ipad and transfer money into my primary account if needed.

    The visa question I have no idea about, but I can't imagine banking being a problem. If you're really worried about it, I think opening an account with some multi-national bank with branches in both the UK and US might give you additional comfort, and maybe even a break on the exchange rate. But it shouldn't be a problem even just sticking with a UK bank I wouldn't think.

    -Ray
     
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    Do your banks offer travel money debit cards (visa or mastercard) where you can load them in different foreign currencies?
     
    • Like Like x 1
  6. BillN

    BillN SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 25, 2010
    S W France
    Bill
    Luke - Interesting to compare health systems as it seems to be "in the news" in the US

    France
    Here in France the State pay 65% to 70% of all medical costs. Serious stuff they pay 100%
    For the extra 30% you either "self insure" or you usually take out an insurance policy and they pay the difference
    So, for example, a visit to the Doc's is Euro 23, (US$31), - you then automatically get 70% back the next day thru bank transfer and 30% a couple of days later from your Mutuel
    To insure my wife and I, we are of retirement age, to cover the additional 30% costs about US$2,500 annually for the best level of cover, (private room, choice of any specialist in France, etc., etc.), and in France no medical conditions are allowed to be excluded for such cover, as for the serious medical conditions the State pay all the costs.
    The French health system is very very good, the waiting times are quite short for most things., i.e. to see a doctor is usually the same day, as is a blood test and similar, a normal scan would be 5 days maximum. Anything not too serious would be a week and very serious would be immediate.
    When we travel in the EU the above cover applies

    The UK (National) Health System
    This is free for everyone. Sometimes you pay a small amount for medicines, but for the young and old these are also free.
    waiting times are longer in the UK than in France. But anything serious would be immediate, cosmetic stuff could be "forever" and the run of the mill, maybe one to three months depending on the area.

    Or you can go for almost completely private insurance in the UK, (a choice that quite a few people make as it is a common "perk provided by the company you work for). If you did this personally, however, the cost would be about US$4,500 to US$7,500 pa for a couple in their 60's - gets more as you get older. - cuts down the wait times and you can see any specialist that you want - such cover does not cover normal visits to the Doctors, which the State pay for

    What do you guys pay in the US for a doctors visit or say a normal scan?

    We are quite happy just to pay the normal costs of visits to Docs if needed and I reckon we can get a "repatriation" type cover for a few hundred £/$? etc - although I am not a fan of these "holiday type" medical covers and prefer to go direct.
     
  7. BillN

    BillN SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 25, 2010
    S W France
    Bill
    Thanks Nic and Ray

    I've never used my Debit or Credit card for "cash out of the wall" - I suppose that I'm just far too "old fashioned"

    (But I've just bought a used iPhone 4 which I believe will have mobile "internet access" so I suppose I may enter the modern world of whatever you can do with such things)
     
  8. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    Whenever you tick the box on a travel insurance application that you are travelling to the United States the premium soars.
     
  9. BillN

    BillN SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 25, 2010
    S W France
    Bill
    I know, that's why I started the thread

    Just about to book South Africa for Feb/Mar - as long as I use my "Gold" BNP (French) Bankers card to book the flights most of the major areas that worry me seem to be covered
    and simple visits to the docs, (if needed, but hopefully not), are easy and cheap

    (Also car rentals, including FULL all risks insurance in S Africa are very reasonable at not much more than $100/$120 per week for a small VW)
     
  10. Richard

    Richard SC Top Veteran

    564
    Feb 1, 2013
    Marlow, UK
    In my experience, the exchange rates applied by credit card companies for foreign purchases are generally pretty good, but then they add various charges (called ‘foreign exchange commission’ or 'foreign loading fee' or similar) which cost you something like 2.5% of the sum spent, each time the card is used.

    What you should really avoid (except for emergencies) is withdrawing cash from an ATM with your credit card, because that will incur interest at rates of up to 30% APR – even if the card balance is paid off in full before the end of the month. Use a card associated with your bank account if you need cash abroad, as the fees are far lower.

    -R
     
  11. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Oh, OK. You're like my father-in-law. He never used an ATM in his life and he lived until 2003, by which time they were pretty ubiquitous and global. Well, my advice applies to those who choose to live in THIS century! If you don't, it'll likely be more difficult. But my guess is that it would be a WHOLE LOT less complicated to just decide to start using your debit card and online banking than to open new accounts in the US when not a US citizen... Everything is a double edged sword, modern conveniences not excepted, but we're all dealing with the downsides, so may as well take advantage of the up-sides, which are considerable...

    As for health care, our "system" is nothing like what you're used to, mostly because it's not a system. The new law will add to the number of people in our country who are covered (we have an incredible number of folks with little or no good access to health care today) and it regulates away a few of the worst excesses of the private insurance market (like requiring pre-existing conditions to be covered, imposing lifetime limits, etc), but I doubt it will make it any easier for a non-citizen traveling in this country to get good care if suddenly in need. The sad reality is that this is not something we've done well in this country. I've travelled in the UK and, as a non-citizen tourist, was amazed at how quick and easily and inexpensively I was treated for a couple of medical issues I encountered. I've never needed medical attention in any other country I've traveled in, but it sounds like it would be easier in any number of European nations than here. That said, if you have the money, we have great care available here, but it's definitely been a haves and have-nots kind of thing.

    Good luck,

    -Ray
     
  12. Richard

    Richard SC Top Veteran

    564
    Feb 1, 2013
    Marlow, UK
    By the way, don't go using your iPhone for Internet access abroad without first researching how much data roaming is going to cost you. For my recent trip to the States I kept mobile data switched firmly off for the duration, and used WiFi in the hotel and in restaurants for Internet access. You can easily run up a mobile phone bill of hundreds of pounds by browsing the web or sending emails with attachments when using a smartphone outside Europe.

    -R
     
  13. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    Good point. I've never used a phone on roaming overseas; wifi only. If you want to make a call back home you can always use Skype.
     
  14. pniev

    pniev Student for life

    Jun 10, 2013
    Bill,

    It was already difficult to get a bank account before 9/11. Nowadays you can forget about it unless one of you has a student or work permit. Even then, you also need nice and helpful bank staff. We were fortunate to be assisted by a great guy but he also had to battle with the bureaucracy in HQ to get things done. If you manage to pen an account, you will also have to fill out all kind of tax forms. So we decided to close our account. Having a debit card would be nice but is not necessary. If you carry visa and master card you should be fine. You can use ATMs for cash. If you want to be sure about the exchange rate, you can open a dollar account but personally I would not do that.

    A tourist visa suffices because it allows you to stay for three months in the country. Just fill out the form in the plane. No need to go to the embassy. After those three months you need to leave but may come back the next day, if you want. However, be prepared by offensive questioning by customs; they may suspect that you visit the US to do some work there.

    Ask your own insurer about your coverage abroad. Policies vary per insurer.

    Phone is relatively easy. You can buy cards locally.


    Peter
     
  15. BillN

    BillN SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 25, 2010
    S W France
    Bill
    Ray,

    thanks this medical thing is worrying and strange

    To quote you a few (funny!) examples concerning my son who had a habit of dislocating his knee caps - he was always doing it at University playing rugby and rowing but he had a couple of mates who just knocked them back while he screamed
    It happen on one occasion when he was on a University trip to Japan - I got a phone call late at night from somewhere at the top of Mount Fuji - "Dad, I've dislocated my knee cap" - me "what do you expect me to do" - anyway they whisked him off to the nearest hospital and sorted it free of charge.

    Second example - he when skiing with his sister in the French alps - just as the ski lift started he caught the front of the ski on the floor and yes out popped his knew cap - evacuated him down the mountain - unfortunately it was a Sunday lunchtime so he had to wait until the doc finished his lunch - 45 mins later, doc came, put the knee cap back - US$30 .........

    Third occasion - he was windsurfing near the coast in France - I was on the beach and he started waving at me - I thought nothing of this and just continued to enjoy the sun - but the life guards saw this and went out to him and brought him back - yes another dislocation - called the French Firemen, (they operate the Ambulance service in France as they are trained as para medics), they drove at high speed some 40 miles to the nearest clinic - when he was there he saw two docs, one was a specialist who sorted him out - no charge was asked for.

    Fortunately 4 years ago he had both knees operated on - not sure what they did but it involved splitting some thing screwing bits in place and wrapping various bits around his knee caps - so the problems seems to have gone away.

    so what I think that I am saying is that I think that it is sensible for every (reasonable wealthy and not so wealthy if you like), country to have a (free or inexpensive) basic health service - it that what Obama is trying to achieve in the US?

    slow afternoon so I'm sitting in front of my screen, (too much)
     
  16. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I'd be careful about this. It may vary with credit card account, but I know if we take a cash advance against our VISA credit card, the fees and interest rates are exorbitant. Making purchases is no problem, but trying to use them for cash in an ATM can be really problematic. So I'd always use a debit card for cash and limit the credit card to direct purchases. This may not be a problem for your with your account, but I'd double check before you rely on a credit card for cash...

    -Ray
     
  17. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Wow, sounds like your son should stay home!

    I'm not sure what the best strategy would be for a traveller in the US. I know a lot of poor US residents go to the hospital emergency room for almost everything. Hospitals are required to treat anyone whether they can pay or not, and if they can't, the cost gets spread around through the rest of the "system" through increased prices for everyone else. But if you can pay, they'll try to make you pay, and the costs without insurance are insanely high. Many orders of magnitude higher than you're used to. So I don't recommend it if you can find a better alternative. But I don't know what that would be...

    -Ray
     
  18. BillN

    BillN SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 25, 2010
    S W France
    Bill
    Thanks Ray

    Apart from having the operation, I think the surgeon gave him a video, his partner is a doctor and he current job is managing a "medical centre" - so he should now be covered
     
  19. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    Two things I need to interject here.

    1. People can help Bill with his question concerning medical costs and possible insurance coverage while visiting the US, but we must leave politics out (and I know it may be difficult).

    2. Using debit cards (when local or abroad) carries with it some inherent risks. If those digits fall into the wrong hands and your account is drained of money, you DO NOT have the same protections as you do with a CREDIT card. They look the same and the act pretty much the same, but PLEASE understand the difference. There are other differences as well and worth researching if you are in the habit of using your debit card a lot.

    Here's a good read about when NOT to use debit cards..... http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/10-places-not-to-use-debit-card-1271.php
     
  20. pniev

    pniev Student for life

    Jun 10, 2013
    Thanks for clarifying. I agree! I should have added that I do not use my creditcard for cashwithdrawal. My (Dutch) debet card works fine for that w/o exorbitant charges.