Q&A: Avoid fees on UK money transfer

Personal finance expert Hugh MacDonald helps a reader get his UK pension into his French bank account without charges

22 September 2009
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I AM currently a UK resident, approaching 65 when I will receive a UK state old age pension. I plan eventually to become a French resident. I will have my pension paid into a British bank account, but my wife, who is French and a French resident, does not have one. She is entitled to the spouse’s part of the UK state pension and she would have this paid into her French bank account.
According to March Connexion most banks will not levy bank charges for receiving regular foreign sums of money transferred automatically via the banking system. Could you indicate which banks you are referring to? We have contacted La Banque Postale but they levy €8.50 per transfer when receiving money, which is a lot when you have a small pension.
It appears her pension payments could incur continuing bank charges, firstly for pound to euro conversion and secondly for the transaction. On a related issue, you have the choice of having the UK state pension paid every week, four weeks or thirteen weeks. What is the best solution to incur the minimum costs?
Secondly, I would like to ask about my entitlement to be covered by my wife’s complémentaire santé (mutuelle) health insurance when I move to France. She has maintained it for her retirement, through her former employers, with a favourable tariff. It was a “family” one when she was a salaried employee and became “individual” when she retired, however she has permission to maintain it for me when I retire, on condition I register with the sécurité sociale.
On my UK retirement I will have an E121 form. Is this considered as being on sécurité sociale? I.A.

The old age pension can be paid to you in euros, the exchange occurring automatically in the banking system when the sterling payment is made.

With regard to the bank charges, it is usually the case with most banks that regular pension income from abroad suffers no charges.

However it is impossible to name those individual banks which do or do not operate the “no charge” facility as their methods vary depending on where they are located.

The best thing to do would be to ask the bank, before you open an account, if they make a charge on receiving regular foreign pension income and if so either argue the charge or find another bank.

As to the best option of payment, this is really down to individual choice, as one could argue that having UK income changed into euros more often could result in an overall better exchange rate than doing currency exchanges less frequently - just as one could argue the opposite.

The relevant issue is not so much the banking costs but one of exchange rates, which, being impossible to predict, means it is entirely up to you.

With regard to the health insurance mutuelle, the aim of these policies is to ensure that, once the government has contributed its share of the costs the remaining element is then covered by the policy (subject to limits).

Take care as some of these policies will not reimburse anything if the government fails to contribute - for example for homeopathic or non-generic medicines, which are not generally covered by the state health system.

The basic requirement for a mutuelle is that you belong to the French state health system. The E121 confirms that the cost of belonging to the French state health system will be borne by the UK.

You still have to go to the health office, the caisse primaire d'assurance maladie, in order to register to access the health system. You should then be able to be covered by the mutuelle.

Find your local Cpam in the Pages Jaunes (Yellow Pages).

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