How to Cash a Foreign Check

You cannot directly cash foreign checks at United States banks if those checks are written out in foreign funds. We contacted the four largest banks in the United States (Bank of America, Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo), as well as two major banks that have locations in both Canada and the United States (BMO Harris and CIBC). None of them can cash foreign checks. The international banks said that they would not cash checks in a different currency, even if the check came from that bank itself.

We also contacted various non-bank check cashing locations, including The Check Cashing Store, Amscot, Check ‘n Go, and Money Mart, as well as Currency Exchange International (a major foreign-money-exchange company) and Walmart Money Center. None of them would cash foreign checks.

How to Get Funds From a Foreign Check

There is a workaround for cashing a foreign check if your bank will allow you to deposit it; you can deposit a foreign check and wait for it to clear. Once the funds appear in your account, you can then withdraw the cash. However, understand that month-long wait times aren’t uncommon. (Wells Fargo provided us with a wait time of up to eight weeks.)

Even international banks with branches in multiple countries require 10 to 14 days to process foreign checks. Additionally, the treatment of foreign checks may vary from currency to currency and bank to bank, and you may not be able to deposit checks from some countries at all.

Many of the bank representatives we spoke with couldn’t definitively say whether or not their institutions charge fees for depositing foreign checks. A representative with JP Morgan Chase explained that his bank typically charges a small percentage of the check’s total face value, but could not give an exact amount.

Why You Can’t Cash a Foreign Check

Banks can choose to pay out foreign checks by either negotiating them (i.e., advancing the funds within three to five days after processing) or collecting them (which involves having a bank in the check’s country of origin process the transaction). For more details, see our research on depositing Canadian checks at U.S. banks. Because both of these processes take time, cashing a foreign check is impractical from the bank’s perspective and leaves the institution vulnerable to fraud.

Places That Don’t Cash Foreign Checks

In addition to the specific companies listed above, you cannot cash foreign checks at the following locations:

  • Major banks
  • Regional banks
  • Credit unions
  • Currency exchange companies
  • Grocery stores
  • Check-cashing businesses
  • Gas stations