Cashing a US stimulus check in Germany

Hi guys,

I got my stimulus check from the US Treasury in the mail but am having problems cashing it. Deutsche Bank tells me they don’t accept them any more. Any advice on how to get the money. I don’t own a US bank account...
Would an embassy cash such checks?

Matthias

Cheques are almost extinct outside of the USA.
The last time I had to cash a USA cheque here, almost 20 years ago, it costed about 10% of its vaklue as fee (plus currency conversion at an unfavourable rate). I then opened an Etrade account and mailed such cheques to them, to be cashed free of charge - until I stopped accepting cheques altogether about 15 years ago. Paypal and international bank transfers are so much easier and cheaper!

Wait: Isn't this amount paid by the USA government to stimulate the USA economy? In that case it even makes sense to pay it using a method that cannot be cashed out elsewhere (and potentially benefit other economies)!

OK, American here who had to deal with this problem.

Yes, even Americans abroad are eligible for the stimulus check since it is supposed to be a help for all tax payers/filers. America is one of 2 countries worldwide that make their citizens file tax returns – even though most will owe no tax in the end. I have written extensively about this subject elsewhere.  Compliance with IRS rules is a real pain and so I think it only fair that we as tax filers should also get some help. Trump and his goons are stealing hundreds of billions so we should get at least something.
Theoretically, if one has had to pay additional taxes after filing then the IRS would have one’s American bank account information available, if they have one. The poster says he doesn’t have such an account. I do but didn’t have to pay anything in the last years and there is no form of communication to contact the IRS to add this info. Thus they send a check, if one is lucky, to their foreign address.

In the end, I signed my check for deposit only and sent it back to the States where I have someone with signature authority on an account there. Otherwise, Commerzbank, where I still have a “Giro” account said they could cash it but one has to fill out a special form, wait for at least 4 weeks for the check to clear and pay a 30 to 40 Euro fee. Only some banks seem to be willing to do this and only if one has an account. I guess it doesn’t hurt to ask at banks where one has no account although I am very doubtful that for even a large fee they will help. Most banks don’t want to have anything to do with American clients due to IRS regulations. One can try to contact and ask the embassy or a US consulate but I am even more doubtful about that. They give very limited assistance.

Tom, You also got a check?

SimCityAT wrote:

Tom, You also got a check?

Yes, I did.

wait really? Only the US uses checks? In what ways do you guys use to transfer money the most in Germany?

I've always hated the check system in the US, Germany just keeps getting better and better.

Bank transfers are easy and cheap in Europe, plus they can be initiated by online banking. So they are the most used transfer method.

Like Beppi mentioned, direct bank transfers are used; cost nearly nothing and without any complications or extra fees throughout the Euro zone and some additional European countries.

Here is a wiki article about what is called the SEPA or Single European Payment Area tht regulates such transfers:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_Euro_Payments_Area

Quick side question if you don't mind... I've received a letter from "the White House" telling me am am receiving $1200 by check or debit card, but there was nothing else in the envelope. Tom and others who have received their money - did the letter and the check/debit card come together or separately? This letter came 10 days ago while I was away.
Thanks!

Bhejl wrote:

Quick side question if you don't mind... I've received a letter from "the White House" telling me am am receiving $1200 by check or debit card, but there was nothing else in the envelope. Tom and others who have received their money - did the letter and the check/debit card come together or separately? This letter came 10 days ago while I was away.
Thanks!

Letter and check were separate. But I actually got the check first. Just today my check arrived back in America where I sent it for deposit. Took one month by registered mail. Mail and package deliveries seem to be running normally within Germany but America is so screwed up it is taking a month.

Same happened to me.   You can try opening a capital one Acct and do a mobile deposit?   I also have bofa so that worked for me.   I believe with Capital one you can open an Acct remotely.

Thanks for mentioning virtual deposits. My US bank supports that, I will give it a try. If it works I will post a follow up.

In most countries with a 1st world economy now require you to have a bank account to work their now. Also if living in Germany as a retiree you must have a bank account.

In the USA and Canada people use checks to set up direct deposit. Many countries have banned credit checks to open checking accounts.

I deposited my stimulus check in my Sparkasse account here in Germany. I had to pay 25 euro fee but I guess it is not too bad... and the money showed up right away in my bank account after deposit. Before that, someone told me that checks may not work at all in Germany, so I was trying to see if I can somehow send it to US and deposit it in my american bank account but I did not have anyone with my signature authority in US. Anyway, checks seem to be acceptable in some German banks.

Do you know if these payments needed to be declared in tax return in Germany?

Germany like the majority of the world except for Eritrea and the USA. Their is no requirement to disclose a US check as income

John Davis25 wrote:

Germany like the majority of the world except for Eritrea and the USA. Their is no requirement to disclose a US check as income

This is patently untrue: Germany taxes all income of its residents, no matter where it accrues.
The question here is if such payments are counted as taxable income or not. This is beyond my personal knowledge - and you are probably well advised to ask a professional tax consultant to get a definitive answer.
(The difference to USA and Eritrea, in tax matters, is that Germany does NOT tax non-residents.)

John Davis25 wrote:

Germany like the majority of the world except for Eritrea and the USA. Their is no requirement to disclose a US check as income

This is falsely conflating different issues. The USA and Eritrea are the only countries that tax their citizens abroad. But all countries will basically tax people residing there on their world wide income. Thus US generated income usually has to be reported for German taxes if one is residing here in Germany.

And the US tax authorities have declared that the stimulus checks will NOT be treated as taxable income in the US.

How Germany will treat them is another question to which I don't have a definite answer. I know that various Corona assistance in Germany is indeed seen as taxable income but exempt from VAT. Unless I get a more definite answer I will likely personally declare my US stimulus money as income on my German returns since my income during this time is below the level to owe any tax regardless. For someone in a higher tax bracket, it might be different. And it could be decided that this US money is tax free in the end. The US treats it as a return of taxes rather than income - even if one has no tax obligation.

I don't want to suggest that one should fail to report it if it indeed gets rules to be considered income but the amounts are low and it is highly unlikely the German Tax authorities have the resources or will to investigate whether one got such checks or not - especially if they were deposited in a US rather than German bank.

Have you tried Paypal? Also, I think there might be a way to do it on Transferwise. I used my US banking app. but I know PayPal does it with a scanning feature on the app..

TominStuttgart wrote:
John Davis25 wrote:

Germany like the majority of the world except for Eritrea and the USA. Their is no requirement to disclose a US check as income

This is falsely conflating different issues. The USA and Eritrea are the only countries that tax their citizens abroad. But all countries will basically tax people residing there on their world wide income. Thus US generated income usually has to be reported for German taxes if one is residing here in Germany.

And the US tax authorities have declared that the stimulus checks will NOT be treated as taxable income in the US.

How Germany will treat them is another question to which I don't have a definite answer. I know that various Corona assistance in Germany is indeed seen as taxable income but exempt from VAT. Unless I get a more definite answer I will likely personally declare my US stimulus money as income on my German returns since my income during this time is below the level to owe any tax regardless. For someone in a higher tax bracket, it might be different. And it could be decided that this US money is tax free in the end. The US treats it as a return of taxes rather than income - even if one has no tax obligation.

I don't want to suggest that one should fail to report it if it indeed gets rules to be considered income but the amounts are low and it is highly unlikely the German Tax authorities have the resources or will to investigate whether one got such checks or not - especially if they were deposited in a US rather than German bank.

Thanks for explaining your approach. Mine was deposited in a German Bank so actually easily traceable. I will also ask to a tax advisor.

Can I give any US bank here in Germany a stimulus check from the US Treasury Department and receive the money immediately in cash at the counter?

Martin1945: No.
(By the way: How did you get a USA stimulus cheque? You are German citizen according to your profile!?)

Martin1945 wrote:

Can I give any US bank here in Germany a stimulus check from the US Treasury Department and receive the money immediately in cash at the counter?

The only US bank I have seen in Germany is JPMorgan Chase but they seem to only have a branch in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt and Stuttgart; so they are few and far between.

I am posting a link to a site that shows a Frankfurt headquarters for a handful of others but whether they have any branch offices or even deal with non-business clients in retail banking is not mentioned.

But even if one would find such a bank, one will have to be a client and wait for the check to clear, which is no different than for most German banks. Expecting otherwise is wishful thinking. And who knows if they will charge any less fees?

In response to Beppi's comment about the poster's profile showing them to be German; they could be one of us dual German/American citizens.

https://www.selectusa.gov/article?id=Germany-US-Banks

Hallo beppi,
It is correct, I am a German citizen. I worked in USA for a couple of years and I also receive a small pension for it.

Martin1945 wrote:

Hallo beppi,
It is correct, I am a German citizen. I worked in USA for a couple of years and I also receive a small pension for it.

Interesting. The determination if one gets what they call a stimulus check is if one files US federal income tax returns. So not only US citizens but also working foreign residents of America should qualify – yet Americans abroad who fail to file won’t. But if a German worked in America, returns to Germany and gives up their US residency then they usually would not have an obligation to file US taxes.

But I assume in this case the pension is seen as normal taxable income and means a requirement for a foreigner not even living in America to file. This sounds like a pain so I am surprised a foreigner would comply. Statistics claim that around 90% of American expats don’t actually file although most of them are obliged. But not only can this lead to further troubles especially if they ever return to live in the States but also should disqualify them from getting the stimulus checks.

Hi,
Yesterday I was at the Postbank to credit the stimulus check to my checking account at the Postbank.
They don’t accept them anymore a foreign check. When I asked what I can do with the check, he replied, "I have to offer the issuer the check to transfer the money directly to my Postbank account!" Now, I'm stupid with the check in my pocket!
Any advice on how to get the money. I don’t own a US bank account...
Thanks

Martin1945 wrote:

Hi,
Yesterday I was at the Postbank to credit the stimulus check to my checking account at the Postbank.
They don’t accept them anymore a foreign check. When I asked what I can do with the check, he replied, "I have to offer the issuer the check to transfer the money directly to my Postbank account!" Now, I'm stupid with the check in my pocket!
Any advice on how to get the money. I don’t own a US bank account...
Thanks

The stimulus money comes over the IRS (tax authority). For many if not most normal filers of tax returns they have their bank information already and transfer the money. I file my annual returns but never have a tax obligation so have never had to give them my bank details and thus they automatically mailed me a check.

Theoretically, if you sent the check back and gave them the information then they could do a transfer. The problem is that it is VERY difficult to communicate with the IRS. I wanted to know if I was actually eligible after the first checks were being issued and I had not got one yet. I even inquired by a family member in the States who is a tax accountant. The answer is that they have the bank info and automatically do a transfer - or send a check; there was no absolutely way to communicate with them about the subject.

So the question would be to which address one would send the check to and to communicate their wish to have it done by bank transfer? Possibly one can send an email as a general inquiry but who knows if one gets an answer.

Hallo TominStuttgart

Today I sent a short description of my problems and a question about a solution to the social security office at the US consulate in Frankfurt over the Internet. It was stated that within ten days it would be answered.

beppi wrote:

Wait: Isn't this amount paid by the USA government to stimulate the USA economy? In that case it even makes sense to pay it using a method that cannot be cashed out elsewhere (and potentially benefit other economies)!

That is the theory but it is also to assist Americans, so the requirement is only that one legally files their US taxes and not where they live. One can also easily argue that Americans living abroad should not be burdened to file taxes returns to America; so they should at least get some benefit for honestly doing so.

And the latest check is part of what is called "the American Rescue Plan" - rather than a stimulus per se. The stated focus is to help Americans economically and to fund the Covid vaccination program.

I just got a follow up letter from the White House about the latest check.

They write that if one did not get their check or need information then they should contact irs.gov/coronavirus or call (US number) 800-919-9835

I think this would be the best place to start any inquires about alternative payment instead of the check.

So there are a couple of different ways you can do it. Do you still have a US bank account? I used my First American app. the other thing you could try is Paypal if you still have a US account. Maybe TRANSFERWISE?
https://wise.com/us/blog/coronavirus-re … s-get-paid

Also, I found this:
https://www.democratsabroad.org/how_to_cash_a_us_check
https://www.taxesforexpats.com/articles … broad.html

hope that helps! :D

Andrea Hunt wrote:

So there are a couple of different ways you can do it. Do you still have a US bank account? I used my First American app. the other thing you could try is Paypal if you still have a US account. Maybe TRANSFERWISE?
https://wise.com/us/blog/coronavirus-re … s-get-paid

Also, I found this:
https://www.democratsabroad.org/how_to_cash_a_us_check
https://www.taxesforexpats.com/articles … broad.html

hope that helps! :D

Martin 1945 already mentioned that he has no US account. And Transferwise is just one of many money transfer companies. But I don't think they cash checks.

Did you check the other articles I sent? :)

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)
Sparkassen (Germany)
UBS (Switzerland)
Credit Suisse (Switzerland)
Crédit Agricole (France)
It may not be preferable, but you might need to consider opening a bank account a new account in one of these banks in order to cash your stimulus check.

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.

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.

https://www.democratsabroad.org/how_to_cash_a_us_check

Also, in the other article I sent, it explains how you can use Transferwise as well :)


Use Transferwise

Open a TransferWise Borderless account, which gives you a USA bank account number.  Sample image below (source: Transferwise)

https://www.taxesforexpats.com/articles … broad.html

One should note that not all banks in Germany even take customers that are US persons due to IRS regulations they don’t want to deal with. And some that do take US customers limit the services. Commerzbank for example limits US person to a giro account, no investment accounts are possible. They will cash a US check for customers but when I inquired by them about the first stimulus check, they said the cost would be around 40 Euros and take a month to clear before the money would be credited to one's account.

Habe auch einen Stimulus Check erhalten ....Die meisten Banken akzeptieren keine ausländische Checks ...habe es bei der Reisebank eingelöst...

Tollivernora: This is an English language forum - please do not post in German. The moderators might remove it, as they do not understand (and thus cannot check its content).

Hello Everybody,
I am new in this group. By definition, I am not a expat, since I was born and raised over here. I am a dual citizen. For underground, I spent some years and the West and East Coast.
Now, I have been here for the last 10years.
I also would like to apply for the stimilius checks...
I will try to read of the post and see if I can make it work for me.
If not, I might have to ask for some help.

Regards,
Kevin

One does not apply for stimulus checks. They send them to you automatically - if you qualify. And in a PM you mentioned having filed US taxes back in 2001. US citizens, even living abroad must file every year. If you have not filed the last years then you will not be eligible.

I was pleasantly surprised that I received a stimulus check last week. I've been living and working (German company) in Germany for the past 20 years and still file my American taxes every year. I went to the Deutsche Bank this afternoon to deposit the check and was told that they didn't process American US Treasury and traveller checks anymore (since May 2020). Thanks to this forum I found a solution by going to the local Sparkasse which is just a stone's throw  away from my house. Also just got off the phone with a Sparkasse employee at said branch and they'll gladly deposit the check once I open an account.

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