Hard Cash: Overseas

Speaking of travel and investments, remember that it's rarely practical to carry on a trip abroad more than a few thousand pounds in traveller�s checks. So, if your plans call for more spending money - or a sizable outlay for some type of investment you might find it practical to get a traveller�s letter of credit at your bank back home. For this, you pay a small service charge, usually no more than 1 %.

The letter of credit works like a checking account wherever you go. What you do is cash drafts against the "letter" and carry in your pocket a websitelet listing various banks in the UK. and abroad that will honour the document.

A more personal letter from your local banker can also work wonders. The "banker's letter of introduction" becomes more useful as more UK. banks open branches abroad. Today, some regional banks (Mellon National of , City National of Detroit, for example) are overseas, as well as the big names (such as Bank of America, Chase Manhattan, First National City). You'll see new additions to the regional bank listing abroad.

Besides affording introductions, a banker's letter - assuming it specifies a credit line - can be a way to cash sizable personal checks without delay at specified banks. Without the letter, you wait 24 to 36 hours for a cable reply from home. In any case, if you know you'll be needing cash when you leave, say, Zurich, and are heading for Beirut, you can cable your home bank (or its branch overseas) and have it wire a deposit in your name to your destination.

If you'll be working in, say, Milan, for several months, your home bank can routinely set up a checking account at a local bank overseas. A limitation is that check-cashing privileges often will extend only to the particular branch of the foreign bank where the deposit is made, unless written instructions are sent to other branches. Still, a local account can help in many ways if you take up temporary residence.

Remember that even high-powered credit cards, including most bank cards, will carry you within limits up to only £2,500.

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Keeping Tabs On Your Stocks From Faraway Places

In the past five years, many large brokerage houses - under hard financial strain - have closed the doors of over 20% of their branch offices across the UK. This crush, however, has not for the most part hit foreign shores. Except in such places as Scandinavia where British brokers may not open offices, the effect abroad has been modest. In fact, as of mid-2004, Merrill-Lynch had about 25 branches flourishing overseas; Bache ran a close second with over 20.

So when you go abroad - if you are a brokerage client - the feeling today is one of almost being back in Essex.

The feeling should be a comfort to the thousands who annually pack their bags for distant places, with... see: Keeping Tabs On Your Stocks From Faraway Places