04 January 2011


"What is it with wogs and cash?" - Darryl Kerrigan, The Castle

What is it with Americans and cheques? (Or "checks" as they spell it.)

Now, I know my parents have a chequebook, which they use to pay some bills and so on. But I don't have such an account, and can count the number of times I've needed a cheque on one hand. Getting my British passport was one such occasion.

But for everything else, my ATM/debit card (which works as a credit card for online/overseas transactions) and cash work. They work well.

Here in America, I've noticed the use of checkbooks a whole lot more. Bills, church offerings, and even Christmas presents - which brings me to the reason for this post.

I was given money for Christmas by Kara's grandmother. A cheque for $25. In my name only. Misspelt, too (Davis). Which is great - but I don't have a bank account in the United States. And cashing a cheque without a bank account can be an interesting process.

So Kara and I headed down to her bank this morning, to add me to her account. I had two forms of identification handy. On the computer, both of Kara's parents are also on her account as co-signers. The way the account is set up, to add myself onto the account, both her mum and dad would have to come to the bank as well to authorise me. They're both at work, so that wasn't an easy option.

Instead, the bank official got me to sign the back of the cheque, and then write "Pay to the order of Kara Davies." Kara signed the back of the cheque as well. Then she could cash it for Kara. Who then could give the cash to me. Roundabout, but it worked.

The signing thing is a little funny to me. In Australia, depositing a cheque is fairly simple - anyone can make a deposit into anyone's account. Withdrawing money is when you really need to prove identity. But here in the U.S., the person writing the cheque signs it as per usual, but the receiver also has to sign the back ("endorse the check") before either depositing it or cashing it. Some banks don't need an endorsing signature if it's for deposit only.

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