Sending my relief check to family, difficulty level: Overseas resident
May 11, 2020 7:50 PM   Subscribe

It turns out my relief check from the U.S. government has arrived. I live in Japan, and I would rather send it to family back home, as they need it more than I do. Can anyone help me figure this out? Tons of weird complicating details inside.

As I said, I live in Japan. Japan doesn't really have a system of checking, so even getting it cashed here would involve a ton of hurdles to jump through. The thing is, I honestly don't need the money, but my sister and mother back home in the States could certainly use it. I'm looking for the simplest way to get this money turned back around and sent to them. A couple key points:

I haven't written, received, or even touched a check in nearly fifteen years. I honestly don't even remember how they're used. It's a little embarrassing to admit that, but yeah, I don't come into contact with them here.

I no longer maintain any bank account in the US, largely to make my taxes (both in the US and in Japan) simpler to deal with. I don't live in the States, and aside from short visits to family, don't really intend to ever live there again. I have bank accounts with Keiyo Bank and SMBC, though I have no idea if they can help with this.

I'd like to send this back to them as whole as possible, avoiding as many service fees and charges as possible. If there's a one stop shop where I could give them my check and have the funds transferred to my sister's bank account, that would be keen. I'm under the impression that endorsing the check and sending it back through the mail would be an outstandingly dumb idea.

Any help anyone can give would be greatly appreciated.
posted by Ghidorah to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do both of you have (or are both of you able to get) PayPal accounts? It looks like they'll cash your check via mobile deposit, and once it's cashed you could send the money to your mom's PayPal account, though unless you're able to get a US PayPal account you might have to pay some kind of fee.
posted by Polycarp at 8:01 PM on May 11, 2020

Simply endorsing the check would be dumb, but signing it over may not be. It's as safe as anything else in the mail, but your recipient may have trouble cashing it; it will help if they are related to you and have a good relationship with a bank or credit union that knows them personally. Even better if you also have a relationship with that bank or can otherwise prove your intentions to them.

If your intended recipient can do that, you can sign the physical check over and mail it back to them, with a total of zero fees.

Alternatively, walk into your bank in Japan - or a branch of an American bank - and ask for advice.
posted by Hatashran at 8:04 PM on May 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Could you log in to your mother's bank account on your phone and do a mobile deposit? That involves, through the bank's app, taking a picture of both sides of the check. You would endorse it over to her and put her bank account number on it with "For Deposit only" on it. Complications: You would need to install the app, get your mother's (or sister's) login info and password. Also, not sure if you can do a mobile deposit from outside the US. The app requires location permission.

I would likely first try to endorse the back and put for "Deposit Only" on it along with your mother or sister's bank account number on it. I would then Send it to the vial post or FedEx.
posted by AugustWest at 8:39 PM on May 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Have your mother ask her bank how they will accept it. "Pay to the order of (her name)" followed by your signature is the old-fashioned way to do this. If this is okay then just mail it.
posted by Botanizer at 4:58 AM on May 12, 2020 [5 favorites]

Seconding Botanizer to have your mother or sister ask her own bank how this can be done. The last thing you want is to mail it back and then have your relative discover that the bank won't accept checks that have been signed over to another person (e.g. to avoid fraud or something).
posted by heatherlogan at 5:54 AM on May 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm curious how you got one of these cheques without being a US resident. We've been sort of heaving sighs of relief that we won't be given one, because it will only complicate our taxes even further. I thought these were only for people actually living in the US!

We're US citizens who've lived almost 15 years in the UK, and yeah cheques are only a thing in the US because Visa and Mastercard lobby to prevent safe EFT systems. I appreciate that in Japan it's simply more of a cash-driven culture, however.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 7:21 AM on May 12, 2020

@rum-soaked space hobo: Yes, US citizens living abroad are eligible to receive stimulus checks as long as you have an SSN, have filed taxes for 2018 or 2019, and fall within the income thresholds.
posted by mekily at 7:54 AM on May 12, 2020

Just to echo mekily, as long as you file taxes, you get the check anywhere in the world. As far as U.S. taxes are concerned, the payments aren't considered taxable, though I don't know if they'll be counted as income in the U.K. or in Japan. Honestly, I'm just trying to help out family back home, but if I'm able to just send it back home without having to deal with any Japanese banks, in a way that doesn't cause me a tax hit here, that would be a nice cherry on top.

As far as the U.S. tax system, if you already knew this, great, if not, well, we're required to file our taxes from overseas every year, though there is a hefty exemption (up to $100k currently) on earned income overseas. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure you still have to file taxes on investments and such.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:08 PM on May 12, 2020

I've heard back, and my mom's bank is fine with me endorsing it and writing "pay to the order of..." on it. Thanks for all the advice.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:45 PM on May 20, 2020

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