Have you ever dealt with a foreign check? Until about two weeks ago, I had never received one. But then it happened… I opened my mailbox to fund a check from the United Kingdom for some consulting work that I had done. It was payable to me, but it was in pounds sterling (GBP) as opposed the usual dollar-denominated checks that I deal with. Unsure of how to handle it, I stuffed it into my pocket until my next trip to the bank.
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About a week later, I found myself near our local Bank of America branch, so I stopped in. They had just opened for the day, and I was unsure of how to proceed, so I asked one of the “Personal Bankers” that was milling about near the front door. He responded that I should just head over to the counter and they’d take care of me.
When I approached the teller, I had several questions… How much would it cost for them to process a foreign check? How long would they hold the funds? And how much (in terms of USD) was my check worth? I was pleasantly surprised with her answers to the first two questions, and only mildly disappointed with the last one.
As it turns out, there’s no fee associated with depositing a foreign check at Bank of America – or at least not with our account type. Also, there was no hold placed on my deposit, so the funds were available immediately. This was a bit surprising, as I’ve heard horror stories about foreign checks being held for weeks and weeks. Regardless, I was happy to know that I wouldn’t have to wait.
As for that final question, I was told that my £500 check was worth right around $800 based on the prevailing conversion rate. Having already checked the Google currency converter, I had been expecting closer to $820. Oh well, it’s not like I had a boatload of options, so I just went ahead with the deposit.
I’m still not sure if the Google currency converter was using stale data, or if Bank of America was lowballing the conversion rate to make up for the lack of fees. Either way, I was in and out of the bank in about three minutes and I no longer have that check burning a hole in my pocket. If you have any tips for handling foreign checks, I’d love to hear them.