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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Cashing Checks in Germany vs. USA

No matter how long you live abroad, you still come across little everyday things that will surprise you. Things that you know would be so simple in your home country, but are confusing, over-complicated, or even archaic in our host country.

Today, I am talking about cashing and depositing checks in Germany versus the USA.

Checks in Germany vs. USA

As I already bragged about multiple times on my blog, I won an academic prize from the DAAD in July, and this prize included a check for 1,000€. Desperately needing the money to pay for my upcoming semester, I took it to the bank the next day to deposit it in my bank account.

To deposit checks in Germany, you (at least at my bank, Postbank) have to bring it to a teller, who will write down the check number and your account number on a little slip of paper, which you will receive a carbon copy of. Then, you wait for the money to appear in your account 3-5 business days later.

Although you can still deposit checks like this in the U.S., it feels quite archaic for me. In fact, just one week after depositing my prize money, I flew to the U.S., where my wonderful grandmother gave me a check for my birthday. 

To deposit the check, I simply drove to the ATM, feed my check into the machine, and made sure that it read the amount correctly. I could see the pending amount in my account almost immediately.

But who cares? If you have been to Germany, then you know that it's not the most technologically-advanced country in the world. But as long as the system works, it's fine. Right?

Well, after spending 2 weeks in the U.S., I came back to Germany and checked my bank account to see if my 1,000€ check was ever deposited. It wasn't. Cue panic.

I searched for my little carbon copy stub that the bank teller gave me, but I couldn't find it. I stashed it away god-knows-where when I was cleaning out my wallet before traveling to the U.S. Luckily, my proud fiancé had taken pictures of my check on the day of the award ceremony. [Note: I later found the receipt, and all the numbers on it are correctly written.]

So, I called Postbank.

"It's been over 2 weeks and my check still hasn't been deposited."

"Yeah...That's not normal."

I gave the customer service woman the check number and date of deposit. It wasn't in the system. "Just wait for a letter in the mail with more information."

Yeah. I couldn't wait. So, I complained via Twitter.



The next day, Postbank calls me to tell me that if the money still isn't on my account. The check disappeared. Of course they don't outright say that they lost it.

Now I have to ask my university if the check was cashed (Postbank did mention that it was possible that the check was stolen or deposited into the wrong account). If it wasn't cashed, then I have to ask them to cancel the original check and issue another one. Too bad I already tried contacting my university, and  they said it would be too difficult for them to do that. It's Postbank's fault, so they have to fix it.

So, here I am stuck in the middle with no money and no idea who to contact at this point.

Moral of the story? Avoiding using checks in Germany. And maybe bank somewhere else than with Postbank.

Germany, this is an area where you can learn a thing or two from the U.S.

Have you experienced any differences when banking in different countries?

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