Can we get to our money?
September 15, 2009 11:56 AM   Subscribe

We deposited two USD checks to open a new Scotiabank account that are being held for quite a long time. Is there any way we can reduce the hold time?

We just moved from the US and opened an account last week. We had two checks - US Govt. issued, from a Stafford loan - that we deposited in a USD account as an initial deposit. We heard that there might be a "maximum" hold time of a month, but we made the deposit anyway.

Well, turns out that's the hold time, and we really need to be able to access our money sooner than that. I've dealt with management at our branch, and they say nothing can be done. Has anyone experienced anything otherwise? Would it be possible for us to have the issuer contact the bank, or something similar?
posted by setanor to Work & Money (13 answers total)
Cashing US cheques in Canada is a bear. A month is typical in my experience.
posted by GuyZero at 12:05 PM on September 15, 2009

In situations like these, the cheques are being physically presented to the issuer's US bank for payment.

Contrast with domestic US transactions - what you're no doubt familiar with - where cheques are electronically handled via The Clearing House .

Not really sure what you can do in these circumstances. Having the issuer stop payment and reissue the cheques might be an option, however the international aspect complicates matters and, as there is a risk of double payment, the issuer may not want to proceed.
posted by Mutant at 12:13 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have a USD account at TD-CT and never have to wait more than, say, a week to draw on USD deposits- not that I get that many, but still, it's not been the ordeal you describe. So I'd suggest you change banks. The Scotia near my house closes at 3pm which is also completely fucked. TD is open until 8 some nights and every Saturday.

But for now? You have no choice but to wait.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 12:20 PM on September 15, 2009

We had a really long hold time for one USD check deposited at CIBC (30 "business days" meaning actually 6 weeks) and then a few months later one only took about two weeks. The worst part with the long hold is that we could see by looking at our American account that the money had actually been withdrawn and yet it still took two weeks for CIBC to make the funds available to us. TD might be better. We're trying President's Choice which is now owned by CIBC but has free checking. My husband has an account with XE Trade where he actually buys Canadian dollars on the open market using US funds. Depending on where the American money is coming from, you might be able to use something like that?
posted by betsybetsy at 1:03 PM on September 15, 2009

I have a USD account at TD-CT and never have to wait more than, say, a week to draw on USD deposits

TD's account terms [PDF] say that they hold U.S. checks for a minimum of 15 business days, and a maximum of 30. That up to six weeks. I'm guessing you've had that account open for a while, and I don't think you'd see any of the big banks reduce the length of the hold in setanor's case, especially because the checks were deposited to open a brand new account. I gave up looking for Scotia's terms after a few minutes, but I imagine they're quite similar.

setanor, you're eligible for a Stafford loan, so I imagine you've also got U.S.-based bank accounts. Given the absurd hold times on deposits and the lack of deposit insurance (even though the Canadian banking system is pretty damn safe), you're probably better off without a USD account at a Canadian bank, unless you believe you will need to transfer money at a rate that is faster than your maximum daily ATM withdrawal per day, or you need to be able to deposit a U.S. check and have the money available immediately instead of mailing it to your bank in the U.S. and withdrawing money from an ATM once the deposit clears (even so, you'd have the money in less than three weeks).
posted by oaf at 1:24 PM on September 15, 2009

Oh, I have had my share of Can-American hassles with banks.

The "drawn on a US bank" claim is a very likely just a convenient excuse to justify the bank's excessive caution here, since all the big banks in Canada and the US clear checks for each other electronically these days. Yes, the paper ends up back in the USA, but the actual transaction happens sooner than that... the paper is just followup.

Your biggest problem isn't a Canadian/US thing, it's that you're a new customer to this bank.

A manager or (sometimes) even a bank teller can release a hold, essentially granting you that much temporary or flow-through credit. They can do this as a one-time thing, or as a permanent note on your account.

posted by rokusan at 1:35 PM on September 15, 2009

I would call the bank's customer support line. I'm in a similar position - erratic paychecks from being in a startup means that anything going into my account gets held for a week. But on a couple of occasions when I've been in need I've called customer support for the bank as a whole (NOT my local branch) and they've happily freed up some funds for me on the spot.
I'm with TD Canada Trust, fwiw, and they have a very strong customer service ethic, so ymmv with other banks.
posted by Billegible at 1:40 PM on September 15, 2009

Best answer: You're a new customer, with little to no recent history in the country, and you're presenting very large cheques in a foreign currency drawn on foreign banks.

I would not expect them to remove the holds.

This situation will likely not change, until credit history has been established to allow higher access to deposited funds, however it's very common for access to deposited funds to be much more conservative on cheques drawn on foreign banks.
posted by smitt at 1:43 PM on September 15, 2009

Best answer: a month is what I get at HSBC, and they're recommended as the go-to bank for international transactions in Canada. And I'm an established customer.

Welcome to the world of dribbling arse that is Canadian banking.
posted by scruss at 2:11 PM on September 15, 2009

A little unfair scruss... I read The Consumerist every day and it seems to me that American banks are pretty crappy themselves.
Personally I've had nothing but the best service from TD.
posted by Billegible at 4:28 PM on September 15, 2009

I've had USD checks issued by the same last name (my mother) cleared in much shorter timescales (1 week) at TD (pre-merger), but yes, USD checks take a while to clear. If you need to send a significant amount of money, bank transfer (don't know what the US charges, $40 in Canada to other banks) is the quickest way to send the money. The $40 isn't bad if you're sending a significant amount of money over, and it's available within 24hours or so. As to scruss - Canadian banking may be a dribbling arse in your opinion, but don't get me started on the US banking system, I've wasted many more hours trying to do the simplest things with them...
posted by defcom1 at 5:29 PM on September 15, 2009

I have to admit I have had the opposite experience. In my case, Bank of Montreal has been pretty cooperative.. It could be because I have a US dollar account that is literally a US bank account (Harris Bank last I checked). I have always figured that because of this, deposits of US cheques to that account are treated the way they would in a US bank (holds of no more than a few days, maybe).

But I also think that the bank treats different customers differently. I recently deposited a positively huge US$ personal cheque to my Canadian account and they cleared it right away (i.e., I walked in, handed them the cheque, then used the money to pay off a number of loans). It's possible they were so 'nice' to me because of how many "products" with them though ( mortgage, personal loans, credit cards, etc) which motivates them to be nice to me like that.

All that to say, there's some magic at work here, and it could be that talking to the right person, and making sure you do all your banking with the same bank, will help grease the wheels.
posted by drmarcj at 7:27 PM on September 15, 2009

I use Scotiabank - they did the same to me for my first six months or so in Canada, until I went into the branch pissed off one day, and told the manager I was going to lose it if I had one more che(ck)que arbitrarily held for 2-6 weeks. They looked up my account, saw that I had a steady stream of paychecks coming in, and they put on a couple thousand bucks' worth of deposit backup where, even if the funds hadn't cleared yet, I could withdraw from the funds without penalty.
posted by SassHat at 8:49 PM on September 15, 2009

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