1. Make inquiries with banks in the country where you live about U.S. Government check cashing facilities.
Not all banks do, but at least a few in each country are likely to. They may or may not charge a fee. You will need to inquire.
The following banks accept U.S. checks. If you know of any more, please email us so we can add more to the list:
- Lloyd's Bank (UK)
- Bank of Scotland (UK)
- NatWest (UK)
- Barclays (UK)
- HSBC (International)
DKB (German online bank)
Sparda Bank (Germany)
- Credit Suisse (Switzerland)
- Crédit Agricole (France)
2. Sign the check over to a friend or family member with a U.S. bank account.
Keep in mind that this person doesn't have to be in the U.S. or even a U.S. citizen in order to cash the check for you. It can be anyone with a U.S. bank account that you trust. And keep in mind that not all U.S. banks allow signing a check over remotely. The process for how to sign a check over is explained in this article. It's a lot simpler than it may initially sound, especially for those that have lived outside the U.S. in a country where checks are not typically used.
But you do need to trust the person to make sure that once the money is in their account, they'll definitely transfer the money to your account. So if you go this route, be sure you pick someone that you trust.
3. Open a U.S. bank account.
There are a number of commercial banks that will allow you to open a U.S. bank account from a non-US address. They may charge you to open an account or require some other fee(s). This is obviously less than ideal, but if it solves the problem then it might be worth the effort.
You can set up a U.S. bank account with the State Department Federal Credit Union if you live abroad and have no U.S. address. SDFCU accounts are not free of charge. See here for details.
4. Call the IRS
You can call the IRS, explain your situation, and ask if there are any other options available for you to get the money. They may say that you can wait to claim it back on your next tax return filing; that means a long wait which may be intolerable in your situation. But it's worth a try to see what options the IRS may make available.
5. Contact your Members of Congress and seek assistance from the constituency services staff.
This is your absolute last resort option when:
- You can't open a new U.S. bank account or an account at a local bank that will cash the check;
- You don't have any friends or family you can sign the check over to; and
- You can't wait until your next tax return is filed.
You can go to this website to find your House representative. You'll enter your zip code for the last place you lived at in the U.S. to find your representative (if you've never lived in the U.S., then use the address of the last place in the U.S. your American parent lived). Go to their website, click on the "constituency services" section, fill in the form with your issue and select the IRS as the agency you'd like your representative to contact on your behalf. A member of staff should reply to your message within 2 weeks.
HOW TO AVOID PROBLEMS WITH CASHING CHECKS
Democrats Abroad has received hundreds of messages from Americans abroad unable to cash their U.S. stimulus checks over the last year. When Congress passes legislation implementing the American Rescue Plan, more checks will come. If you are one of those who have been unable to cash a pandemic aid check we recommend you ready yourself for the next round of payments to ensure it can be paid via a bank transfer rather than a U.S. government check, which can be difficult to cash if you don't have a US bank account and your local bank won't cash a US check.
1. Provide the IRS with a U.S. Bank account using the Get My Payment Tool.
At this stage, the IRS is not making pandemic aid payments to non-U.S. bank accounts. Democrats Abroad wrote to the IRS 4 times last year asking them to give Americans abroad the option of having pandemic aid paid via electronic transfer to non-U.S. bank accounts; we await a response from Treasury.
The next best option to having the aid paid by direct deposit into your local account is to have the aid paid by direct deposit into a U.S. bank account the IRS has on file for you. To send the IRS a U.S. bank account number LOG ON TO THE IRS GET MY PAYMENT TOOL.
2. Open an online money transfer account and give the details to the IRS using the Get My Payment Tool.
Transferwise.com is a well-known service that allows you to transfer money between countries, but they can also provide you with U.S. bank details so you can receive transfers directly from the IRS into your Transferwise account. You can then transfer the money to your local account. Although it's free to open a Transferwise account, keep in mind that there might be transfer and exchange rate fees. Also opening a Transferwise account is not the same as opening a U.S. bank account, so they can't cash a check for you.
We received reports for the first two economic stimulus payments that many Americans abroad provided their Transferwise U.S. bank details to the IRS using the Get My Payment Tool, and they were able to receive the money without any issues. Although occasionally the Transferwise bank details didn't work, which then triggered the IRS to send the payment via check in the mail. So keep this in mind that there is still a risk that it may not work. There are a number of other online money transfer services that offer similar services that might be able to do the same thing, although Transferwise was the main one we heard from members that worked the most often.