Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cheaper and Easier Ways to Send Money to Serbia?

Shamefully, Paypal still doesn't serve any of the Balkan countries.

In the past, when I needed to send funds to Serbia I relied on bankwire or various types of moneygrams -- usually costing me at least $35 in fees per send.

Those fees can add up quickly, so if I had to send money to someone frequently, such as paying a freelancer on a routine basis, I often sent a larger sum to one person in Serbia I trusted, such as a relative, and then had that person disburse the funds over time. For example, my husband's white-haired godmother used to personally pay various Serb contractors for us every two weeks. I think she enjoyed it; she put on her best dress to draw funds from our account at the local bank where they treated her like a visiting dignitary, and then she majestically handed out pay packets to contractors as they came cap-in-hand to her house.

If you have to send a lot of money to one person, which an intermediary might not be comfortable with, you might consider opening up an Everbank account. The good thing about Everbank is they have, to my knowledge, the best Dollar->Euro exchange rates you'll find in the US and if you exchange your dollars with them, they'll wire the Euros anywhere in the world for free. And you can do the wire by faxing instructions, instead of visiting the bank in person which most other US banks insist on. The drawback is, again to my knowledge, they don't exchange Dollars for Dinars. If I were to buy a house in Serbia, I'd probably send the money over via Everbank. But I might not use it for more routine things.

Today I discovered iKobo, an online service that I've decided to try next. They charge $8 per transaction, and you can do the whole thing online, which is a lot cheaper and easier than dealing with bankwires. However, there's an additional $33.60 charge the first time you send money to a particular individual in Serbia. That's because iKobo uses Federal Express to send that person a Visa debit card. Then, when you send additional funds, the debit card is automatically "topped off".

This tactic has an added bonus in that the Serbian recipient gets to flaunt a Visa card in their wallet, which is still unusual enough for some people there to get excited about. For example, I doubt my husband's godmother has any credit cards whatsoever.

If you've tried this tactic, or others, let me know how it went. And let's cross our fingers that Paypal gets to the Balkans sometime soon!


Lisa Petrarca said...

You always have such great, informative posts.

Wish I could find some of my old relatives (Lemic Family)...maybe I could send them some money or vice versa (LOL!)

Anonymous said...

Depends who you send the money to. Since 1990s, I've been giving my relatives bank cards that they've successfully used in their respective countries ($5 per transaction - standard PLUS system fee), which is basically what iKobo does but charges you more.

For contractors, I deduct the wire transfer fee from their pay.

For occasional transfers to a specific destination I use my "local" contact who hands the money over to people and I transfer money to his local bank in my country (costs $1.50 per transaction).

Moneygram/Western Union - almost never.

teenamite said...


you can load it from a US bank account, and then u can send the visa or ATM card to serbia (or use it anywhere else in the world for that matter) to take money out :)

Hope that helps ;)

send money abroad said...

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