Life as an expat can be adventurous, exciting, and a dream come true for many of us.
But along with the adventure of living in an exotic foreign country, there are times you wish things happened the way they did back home. This is particularly true when it comes to handling money!
For many U.S. citizens living abroad, typically there are still financial obligations to be handled in the U.S., and banking is a big part of it. Thanks to modern technology, many transactions can easily be carried out online or with apps.
Where things typically fall short is when you need to deposit a U.S. paper check when you’re living abroad. Maybe it was sent to a U.S. address, and you don’t have the physical check. These could be payments from an employer, social security, tax refunds, gift checks from friends and family, security deposits, freelance work income, etc. This is where it can get a bit challenging.
The good news is that you have a few options that can make depositing a paper check easier when you are living abroad, including:
- Online and Mobile banking
- Open an account at SDSCU (State Department Federal Credit Union)
- Use a global mail forwarding company to manage your mail and deposits
- Mail-In Checks to U.S. Banks
Online and Mobile Check Depositing
In most cases, U.S.-based banks will allow you to deposit your paper check (U.S. currency only) via online banking or their mobile app. Simply scan or snap a photo of the check and deposit. This is a fast and convenient way to deposit your check from abroad.
The one glaring downside is that you need the physical check with you for this method. Here lies the challenge for many people living abroad. In this situation, someone needs to send the check to you. Unfortunately, this can cause delays in depositing, and thus, accessing your money.
Also, be aware that if you plan on making mobile or online check deposits from abroad, your U.S. bank may prohibit online and mobile access from the country you’re living in to prevent fraud. Check with your bank to see if your country is on the approved list.
Use A VPN to Avoid Specific Country Restrictions for Online and Mobile Banking
So, if you were hoping to use the convenient mobile check depositing function, you may be out of luck depending on where in the world you live. By installing a VPN (Virtual Private Network) on your computer or mobile, you are essentially blocking your international location (IP address) and creating a workaround that can work in some cases. However, some banks, like Bank of America, do not grant access to VPN connections.
Tip: Use a paid (not free) VPN provider, these tend to be more effective.
Use a Mail Forwarding Service That Also Offers Check Depositing
Even though you’re a US Citizen living outside of the U.S., you can still stay on top of your personal affairs. The beauty of using a Professional Mail Forwarding Service is that it can handle many things at once, including check depositing on your behalf in the US. Services vary from company to company as do the plan rates. The average price range is around $9.99/month to about $39.99/month.
Here’s what they can provide:
- Deposit a Check by Mail. If your bank accepts deposits by mail, they can do it for you, no matter where you are.
- Forward Mail to any address worldwide on demand
- Request a scan of mail content 24/7 from anywhere, with a smartphone app or online
- Recycle and Shred Unwanted Mail
Top-Rated Mail Forwarding Companies:
Anytime Mailbox, PostScan Mail, iPostal1, Earth Class Mail, Virtual Post Mail, Traveling Mailbox, and US Global Mail.
Open an SDFCU Credit Union Account for International Check Depositing
The State Department Federal Credit Union (SDFCU) is a full-service credit union, the same as any accredited U.S. bank, but with the extra perk of allowing Americans who live outside of the U.S. full-time or part-time to open an account.
And, yes, you can make paper check deposits!
SDFCU has partnered with American Citizens Abroad (ACA) to help provide convenient bank accounts for Americans residing abroad. ACA is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing resources for U.S. expats.
You must be a member of American Citizens Abroad (ACA) before you can apply for an SDFCU account. ACA is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing resources for U.S. expats and they have partnered with SDFCU to offer banking solutions for people living abroad. Simply, fill out the simple ACA online registration form and pay the annual non-refundable membership fee of $70 and you are ready to sign up for your SDFCU account.
You can open an account with SDFCU in as little as 3-5 days and members have full access to online and mobile banking which includes:
- Deposits of paper checks (online and mobile). Only U.S. currency checks can be deposited
- Bill pay (taxes, bills, personal payments, etc)
- Receive electronic direct deposits
- Transfer money to your foreign bank account using your account SWIFT code
Please note that it takes about 40 days until you can use the paper check depositing feature.
Also, be aware that some countries are banned from online and mobile banking. If you live in one of the countries listed below, this may not be the right option for you.
- Countries blocked for online banking – Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Crimea, Syria
- Countries blocked for mobile app – South Korea, Russia, Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Crimea, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Czech Republic, Belarus, Pakistan
Mail-In Check Deposits
Many large banks will allow mail-in check deposits to be sent in such as Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, and others. Simply mail the check accompanied with a deposit slip or letter specifying your details (name, account number, etc) and mail it to the correct address which can be found online. The checks do need to be endorsed. In most cases, you can make a reusable stamp. If your checks are going to a US address, the recipient can do it for you. Or you can mail from abroad.
Check with your bank to see if mail-in deposits are accepted.
International Money Transfers
Maybe you’ve successfully managed to deposit your paper check into your U.S. Bank account and now you want to transfer the funds to your foreign bank account. Wise.com (formerly Transferwise.com) is an online platform where you can send money abroad (and locally). It’s the best, fastest, safest, and cheapest way to transfer funds. It far exceeds other options such as Western Union, bank wire transfers, and PayPal which hit hard with their fees, poor international exchange rates, and slow delivery.
With the progress of technology, managing your finances from abroad is easier than ever. While there is no “one” solution that works for everyone, there are options. It may require a bit of research on your end to see what options are available for the country where you are currently living.