Homebound, unbanked and needing to cash a check
August 21, 2016 1:01 PM   Subscribe

Hello all, my mom is disabled and homebound. She just received a retirement check from the people who manage the retirement for her old job, and now she doesn't know how to cash it. The check is around 1800 dollars and made out to my mom.

My mom finally received a retirement check, which is basically just a check for 1800 dollars. She was operating under the assumption that she could just sign the check over to me and that I (her son) could deposit it into my bank account where we could use it to help pay some of her bills. She recalls doing this with other checks, but honestly that was a long time ago and the checks were much smaller.

I called my bank and asked about this and they were extremely unhelpful. I was told that if I wanted to cash that check, I would have to bring my mom down to the local bank branch to sign paperwork stating that she understood that she was signing the money over to someone else.

When I told them she was homebound and had difficulty leaving her house they basically got even more unhelpful, basically telling me to get her to the bank that originated the check. That is definitely not a possibility, because that isn't even a local bank. I got the distinct impression that either they didn't want to deal with this situation, or, even though they looked up my account info and could see I've been banking with them for 15 years, they were suspicious that I was trying to do something funny.

I've basically ruled my bank out as an option, and the other places around that I've been suggested to try are the local Walmart, which will cash checks, and another local to my area store that is well known for check cashing, with a fee structure similar to Walmart. I've also got the usual assortment of check cashing joints but was treating them as a last resort.

Does anyone have any recommendations for what I should do in this situation? Should I try again with my bank or can I do this elsewhere? Thanks in advance.
posted by FireballForever to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Some banks allow you to open a checking account entirely online - I think that Chase is one of them, for instance. Try calling them and ask about how to open the account without going to a branch, then have her open the account online, then you can deposit the check into it (through their mobile app, if you use Chase), have her write out a check to you, and close the account. Annoying, and you might have to wait a week or so for the check to clear into her account, but it should work.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 1:08 PM on August 21, 2016 [6 favorites]

Seconding the suggestion from the agents of KAOS. Schwab does this as well and the limit for deposits via the mobile app is $10000.
posted by asphericalcow at 1:12 PM on August 21, 2016

I did this earlier this year. On the top of the endorsement section in the back, I wrote "Pay to the Order of:" then added the full third party name on the second line, and signed the third line. It went through fine to the third party. Banks involved were PNC and Wells Fargo.

I would call the originating bank and ask if they allow third-party endorsements of their checks. Or call your bank again and see if you get someone else on the phone, someone who has some empathy...

Otherwise, I would do what the agents of KAOS suggested and open a free online account for her, deposit the check, and then send you the money for bills. Might be worthwhile for her to have an account in her name anyway, and there are online only accounts that don't have annual fees.
posted by gemmy at 1:13 PM on August 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yes, open a no fees account for her in her name-there is a good chance future situations will arise that can be handled more simply if she has one.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:24 PM on August 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

I (very recently) used to be a teller, and the bank I worked for was fairly liberal with these kinds of things. With third-party checks over $1000 the general requirement was: "Pay to the order of _____", both parties' endorsements, and we either needed to have a very trusting relationship with the customer and/or needed to verify the original payees endorsement. Usually this can be handled with a clear photo or a photocopy of their ID card that has a genuine endorsement. These checks also needed to be approved by a supervisor or lead teller in order to get a second verification and make sure the account holder's account won't get charged-off if the check charges back. and to see if there's any suspicious history with the account holder's account.
Simple as pie. Good luck.
posted by omgkinky at 1:38 PM on August 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Another option is to open a new account with a local credit union. Have it opened as a joint account with you and her as co-owners.

She is not receiving any disability payments or social security payments? The SSA requires that the recipient have a bank account for direct deposit, unless she elects to have the funds deposited to a debit card for her use.
posted by yclipse at 2:32 PM on August 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

She could open an online-only bank account. Ally (formerly GMAC) doesn't have physical branches at all. You don't need to talk to a human to open an account, even. You can deposit checks by mail and online. Online is super easy and the limit is $50,000/day, so you're well under.

From there, she can do what she wants with the money. You can order checks from Ally online, which would let her write checks to whoever.
posted by BungaDunga at 2:34 PM on August 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

You don't mention whether your mom has an ATM card, or if her bank has an ATM. If the answer is 2 yeses there, you can deposit the check that way for her after she's endorsed it.

If the bank has a smart-phone app you could use that to deposit the check. This would require some set-up steps, of course, on your phone (or hers, although this sounds unlikely) and maybe some set-up for her account. but it's really easy. This would be easier, I think, than creating a whole new account for her.
posted by qurlyjoe at 5:15 PM on August 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

A joint account with online access is probably a good idea, especially if you're helping her out with other expenses on an on-going basis.

Was this check a one-time deal, or will it be a regular thing (monthly?) If it's ongoing, can you set up direct deposit (into, hopefully, an account that you share with your Mother)?

You should also consider asking your mother to give you Power of Attorney. There are free forms, but you'll probably need to have it notarized, and you'd be better off working with an elder care lawyer in your jurisdiction (the Bar association in your state may be able to hook you up with pro/low bono resources, if cost is a concern). POA's are an easy route to financial abuse, so it's not a decision that your mother should take lightly, but if she is disabled and homebound it might be best for someone she trusts to be able to act in her stead.

If you had POA from your mother, your bank would probably be quite a bit more receptive to you cashing her checks.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:21 AM on August 22, 2016

Is your mother on disability or receiving state benefits? If so I would ABSOLUTELY NOT open an account in her name, as that would require her SSN and any income she receives could affect her benefits.

I was a bank teller many moons ago. We saw third party endorsed checks all the time. Worst case scenario is there is a 3- 5- or 10-day hold on the funds depending on the bank, but otherwise it shouldn't be a problem.

If this is going to be a regular disbursement (monthly) she will probably need a bank account as she will need to report taxes so if she gets benefits they are going to be affected anyway. If the disbursement is less regular perhaps you can work with the company to find a different way to pay out.
posted by vignettist at 9:16 AM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This check is a one time only thing. I called my local branch and they told me that I would have to bring her there (even after I told them she was homebound) to sign paperwork stating that she understood she was signing the check over. I called the corporate office above the branch and they said that they would do it. So it sounds to me like the branch is adding extra steps to cover themselves against fraud. I called the corporate office after talking to my local branch and they told me to just have her sign it on the back and I would also sign it and deposit it, the way I always understood that it was done.
posted by FireballForever at 11:06 AM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Traveling Notaries are a thing and they exist for precisely this situation. If the bank continues to give you a problem after you've followed their steps that you outlined in your update, tell them to give you the paper and you will have it notarized. I can't believe they didn't suggest it to you.
posted by vignettist at 8:42 PM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older My kippot are the best, believe me   |   Washing machine drain pump help! DIY-ers welcome. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.