17 Jul Handling Checks When Cruising
Managing your money is so much easier now than when Dave and I took our first extended overseas trip. Now, virtually all of our income is direct deposited and our bills are automatically paid or go on a credit card. Credit cards are set to be automatically paid in full every month.
But every so often, either a check gets mailed to us or we have to pay an unexpected bill by check. Used to be for the incoming checks, we’d get it when we got our mail – a month or two after it was sent to us – and then we had to mail it to our bank, which usually meant finding a cruiser going back to the US and sending mail with them to (hopefully) deposit in the US Mail. Getting a bill and paying it was just as bad. Some cruisers had friends or relatives “back home” handling their mail and banking, but there were problems with that, too.
Now, with a mail handling service that offers scanning and a bank with great online services, it’s actually pretty simple for us to both deposit checks and mail one.
We use St. Brendan’s Isle mail handling service, and they offer a scanning service – all the envelopes are scanned upon arrival at their facility and then I get a “you have mail” email that evening. When I see the envelope, I can request that the contents be scanned (there’s a fee for this, of course).
So if I think there’s a check or a bill in an envelope, I request the contents to be scanned.
We have accounts at a couple of different banks (good in case one has a security breach and cancels all its ATM cards . . .), but the one with the best online services is our Capital One 360 account. It offers mobile check deposits and will mail a check for free. (I’m not affiliated with Capital One in any way other than having an account.) Many other banks offer mobile check deposits; I’ve only seen a few that offer a “mail a check” service outside of setting it up as part of a bill payment system, which is usually more cumbersome and may have fees attached.
For depositing checks:
- SBI automatically scan both sides (this is very important for me to be able to deposit the check via internet).
- I print out the both sides of the check (we have a printer aboard), cut the check out, and endorse the “back” side.
- I then use my smart phone and the Capital One 360 app to deposit the check. Be sure to hang onto your scans until the deposit hits your account.
To pay a bill:
If there’s a bill that we can’t go online and pay by credit card or Paypal, I use the “mail a check” service. Actually, I just discovered this a few days ago and I have to say I’m thrilled with it. If you have a Capital One account, look under the “Make a Payment” tab and then find “Mail a Check.” I assume that other banks that offer this service have a similar setup.
You’ll see a form to enter the person’s name and address, the amount of the check and any memo that should appear on the check (such as invoice number). You do not have to fill in the account number field. Then you’ll go to a confirmation screen, pick the date to send the check and you’re done. Capital One even pays the postage!Capital One says to allow a week for the check to arrive at the destination. After that, check your account periodically to make sure the check is cashed (click on the link for the payee’s name and a screen will come up and tell you when – or if – the check was cashed) or you can email the recipient to make sure the check was received. For those people or companies without email, Skype works well to call from another country at an affordable rate (usually less than 3 cents a minute) . . . much better than international rates if you get put on hold, although you do have to have an internet connection.
To make IRS payments:
If you need to make an IRS estimated tax payment or an additional payment due to a miscalculation or to make up for an underpayment, you can do so from your checking account with no added fees at this IRS website. Be sure to get a confirmation – it can take a minute or more for the transaction to go through and when I’ve been in a place with slow internet, I’ve sometimes had the transaction fail and had to re-do it.