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How to Deposit a Foreign Check

Written by Nickel - 25 Comments

Bank Deal: Earn 1.00% APY on an FDIC-insured savings account at Barclays.

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.

Bank Deal: Earn 1.00% APY on an FDIC-insured savings account at Barclays.

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.

Published on May 9th, 2011 - 25 Comments
Filed under: Banking

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

Comments (scroll down to add your own):

  1. Currency converters are using the most recent exchange rate. Your bank, like mine, charges a fee to handle the exchange which causes the discrepancy. In other words, yes you paid a fee to exchange UK pounds to US dollars – its just hidden in the exchange rate the bank offers you.

    Comment by Anonymous — May 10th 2011 @ 8:29 pm
  2. I agree with Paul that the fee is included in the exchange rate. As a one-off, a 2.5% currency exchange fee isn’t too bad. Unless you are expecting to do this more often, it’s probably not worth it to look for alternatives.

    Comment by Anonymous — May 11th 2011 @ 1:18 am
  3. Bank of America may not have a foreign check fee but they do have a international wire fee of a whopping $13 I believe. For about a year my pay came from abroad via wire. Not sure if the $13 in savings would have made it worth it for them to post a check though. HSBC’s international wire fee was worse, $15.

    Comment by Anonymous — May 11th 2011 @ 8:18 am
  4. In effect there are two exchange rates, just buy 100 UK pounds and then immediately exchange them back into USD – you will probably have lost a good chunk.

    Comment by Anonymous — May 11th 2011 @ 9:20 am
  5. Is there any way to deposit foreign funds electronically? Or is any electronic method more costly?

    For example, would it have been easier if you had a GBP bank account and somehow electronically initiated a transfer into a a USD account? (Thinking along the lines of Citibank, which seems to have branches worldwide..)

    Comment by Anonymous — May 11th 2011 @ 9:56 am
  6. Hi everyone! I’ve been trying to search the internet on how to go about my problem with depositing a foreign check. Good advice will really b eappreciated!
    I just recently deposited a Canadian check but in U.S. currency account in my Capital One Bank account. First they said they can’t process it because its NSF, which is impossible because the payer is funded. So they sent me a copy of the check stamped “do not redeposit” and “unprocessable” with another letter saying they have to send it to their International Department. Then another letter came in the mail saying they have to hold it 2 more weeks and the credit is subject to final settlement. Is this even legal? Do I have the right to have them stop the processing of the check?

    Comment by Anonymous — Jun 30th 2011 @ 11:32 pm

    Comment by Anonymous — Feb 3rd 2012 @ 5:35 pm
  8. I just deposited 2 checks from a Canadian Bank in Canadian dollars into my account. Stupid me didn’t check the exchange rate at the time, and when they processed my checks at the local branch, they gave me a exchange rate of $0.9632 for each CAD. The market rate was around $1.055. A total rip off, I understand they need to make a profit, but they made almost $700 in profit from my deposit. I’ve been a customer for 14 years but i’ll be closing my account soon.

    Comment by Anonymous — Mar 27th 2012 @ 4:23 pm
  9. Published rates are generally between banks and represents transactions over $1,000,000. I doubt you would get that rate anywhere. Oh, and most major banks should be able to accept foreign checks denominated in their home currency for immediate credit.

    Comment by Anonymous — May 10th 2012 @ 1:51 pm
  10. I just deposited two Canadian checks in my US bank account. The exchange rate that day was .97774 The $1580 check cleared for $1486.00 and the $5,000 check cleared for $4705.00. I couldn’t believe it. I called the bank to disagree with the rate they gave me .94010 and they explained that check processing rates are lower than cash processing rates. By the way they won’t take a Canadian dollar at my bank. That’s approx. $390.00 difference. They appeased me with an increase of $13.00 total in both accounts.

    I began to read about the difference between US Banks and Canadian banks and learned that the Federal Reserve now has a VERY HIGH control over check clearing in the USA and in Canada it is LOW.

    So it would seem that a chunk of money is being taken from either the Feds or the banks. My guess is the Feds.

    I too feel ripped off and will be looking around for a better situation in the USA.

    Comment by Anonymous — May 29th 2012 @ 2:44 pm
  11. I have been trying to find a way to deposit my foreign checks that are made out in USA dollars. Wells Fargo charges me $5 for each check I deposit even though it’s in US funds, they charge me $15 for a wire transfer, also in US funds. There’s got to be a bank out there that doesn’t charge you to take your money; it’s starting to get very expensive as I get three to four of these a month.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 2nd 2012 @ 3:56 pm
  12. I just had the same problem with Wells Fargo. But they were going to charge me 75.00 up front for this check to clear but, in 4 to 10 weeks for them to put into my account.
    Were your checks under 200.00 or more?

    Thanks! Karen

    Comment by Anonymous — Aug 8th 2012 @ 4:50 pm
  13. My checks are usually in the thousands going into a business account. I just spoke with them the other day and they tell me it’s because they have to wait for their money, which kind of confuses me as I was of the understanding it was MY money.

    Comment by Anonymous — Aug 8th 2012 @ 5:47 pm
  14. My checks are usually in the thousands going into a business account. I just spoke with them the other day and they tell me it\\\’s because they have to wait for their money, which kind of confuses me as I was of the understanding it was MY money.

    Comment by Anonymous — Aug 8th 2012 @ 6:41 pm
  15. Remember to keep track of the fees charged. If you are self-employed, you can deduct any bank fees from your self-employment income. Not much comfort, I know, but it’s something.

    Comment by Anonymous — Aug 11th 2012 @ 1:12 pm
  16. I have a US refund check from green dot Money pack company,CA. I am on a business trip in US and not sure how to encash this check in US?

    Any Help is appreciated.

    Thank You

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 11th 2012 @ 3:45 pm
  17. Chase charges $45 and the hold is 2-6 weeks. My Canadian client was issuing bank drafts from an American bank, which GREATLY speeds up the process if that’s an option for you. Unfortunately for me, my client stopped doing this because of postal losses of checks, but I am currently negotiating for US bank drafts by certified mail, which hopefully will be less than $45. *Groan* I thought NAFTA was supposed to fix this crap.

    Comment by Anonymous — Apr 14th 2014 @ 1:25 pm
  18. I cash foreign checks once a year into my bank of america account, They charge from 3% to 5% ” A BUILT IN FEE” This rate is included and no other fees are charged. The federal reserve probably gets some of that fee also… AVOID WELLS FARGO! I have a top tier account with wells fargo and they will charge $75 to cash any foreign check! They also have a 2% to 3% fee included in their exchange rate. Lower than bank of america but still why have a $75 fee!?
    Also the tellers at wells fargo have no clue about foreign checks even the managers. Bank of America has a check cashing center in tampa you can mail in your foreign checks and have them deposited into your bank account. Just call them for info…

    Comment by Anonymous — Dec 10th 2014 @ 12:32 pm
  19. Trying to deposit a check from Mexico into my Bank of America account. They are totally useless. They sat on the checks for 90 days and then shredded them. Gave them copies of originals. The checks have term “no negociable” on them. To B of A, that says they cannot accept them. Research on the web says it just means that we cannot assign the check to someone else. They must go into my account only. They now claim MAYBE they can put them for collections, but there will be a fee. Nowhere on their website can I find out what that fee is. Any suggestions?

    Comment by Anonymous — Aug 9th 2015 @ 10:25 am
  20. i just came from saudi arab to usa

    Comment by Anonymous — Sep 1st 2015 @ 7:08 pm
  21. Banks vary in their methods of accepting and processing foreign checks.Some would endorse the cheque and scan and send them for cashing at the bank where it is drawn while others would mail in the check?Time frame equally vary from between 40 days to 90 days.Let me know if you have a different experience by posting your comment here.Thanks

    Comment by Anonymous — Nov 9th 2015 @ 2:43 pm
  22. How long does a canadian cheque takes to clear in the us

    Comment by Anonymous — Jan 14th 2016 @ 8:30 am
  23. Hello Ralph. I worked at BofA Fgn check processing for over 12 years. At the end of 2014 the whole unit was relocated out of State and no longer has a direct CS department. At the time of deposit the teller should have offered to send this item on Collections. The clearing bank BofA uses for Mexico will not clear an item that states “no negociable” on it. Because the clearing bank will not clear the item for BofA you are not able to receive immediate credit. If the item is in Pesos and did not have “no negociable” or another stamp on it and based on your account the teller would have been able to convert the item and give you immediate credit. It would then have been sent to the clearing bank for clearing. Although you received immediate credit that does not mean the item has cleared and could return at a later date. Which at that time your account would be charged back at the current Sell rate plus any fees. In your case because this item could not be processed for immediate clearing the teller should have explained that it could be sent on Collections and explain the current fees. Because of the fees the value of the item must be worth at least USD $200. What Collections does is send it directly to the bank it’s drawn in for clearing. Once the Foreign bank sends the funds you will receive a credit for the item minus the BofA collection fee and any fees the Foreign bank charges would be deducted as well. Also if the item came back unpaid you would still be responsible for the fees. Typically a collection item takes 4-8 weeks, but sometimes longer. It depends on how long the Foreign bank takes to process the item. The collection fee cover the cost of sending (usually FedEx) the item to the bank as well as multiple follow ups if the credit is not received. Best option in this case would be a wire transfer or a check issued in US Funds payable thru a US Bank. Lots of info, but there are a lot of rules and steps in processing a Fireign check. Very few banks will process Foreign checks and each bank will have their own way as to how they do so. Hope this helps!

    Comment by Anonymous — Jun 9th 2016 @ 3:00 pm
  24. question…I have a bank of America account and a westpac account. I’m planning on moving to Australia within 2017 and I was wondering, if I deposit American money into the atm do I get charged a fee and does the American dollar convert into Australian dollars and does that mean you’re depositing more money into the account?

    Comment by nicole — Nov 25th 2016 @ 12:14 pm
  25. I will be receiving a check written on a Brazilian Bank. How do I cash it here in the USA? Can I take it to my local bank? NWFCU?

    Comment by Kathleen Wiersberg — Nov 28th 2016 @ 3:01 pm

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