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I moved from the US to China. I'm trying to clear out all my accounts and consolidate my assets into my bank accounts in China. I mistakenly closed my bank account before my investment account. Now, with all my accounts closed, I received all my balances as paper checks. How do I "wire" those checks into my bank accounts in China? All the international money transferring services, like Western Union and Wise, require a bank account as payment method. None of them accept a check.

Theoretically, I could have those checks mailed to me, and I can deposit them into a Chinese bank account. This is a well-established practice, commonly used for international trade. It takes a long time for the check to clear, but costs very little. However, recently the regulatory bodies in both the US and China have become a bit paranoid. My local Chinese bank branches are reluctant to accept my check. Instead, they recommend that I deposit the check into a US bank account, then wire the money to them. However, I've closed my US bank account.

Is there a wire transfer service that accepts payment by check? Or is bitcoin my only option?

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    "costs very little"... This is actually very variable. And like a wire transfer, in addition to the fee for the check itself, you are then subject to currency exchange at the banks chosen rate, which is often not very favourable.
    – jcaron
    Aug 22 at 10:35
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    There are several US banks with operations in China. Bonus points if you can find a China branch of your old bank and investment fund.
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 22 at 12:30
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    @JonCuster I called local branches of Citi, HSBC and Standard Charted and they all said they couldn't do it. HSBC even recommended me to try a state-owned bank. I have no idea what's going on here. Aug 22 at 14:30
  • Wow, I'm pretty surprised by that - were ay of those your original bank?
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 22 at 14:32
  • @JonCuster No. The check was issued by Wells Fargo and payer (my investment broker) is Fidelity. None of them have a branch in China. I'm going to Bank of China tomorrow with a picture of my check and see if I can get pre-approved (I have the feeling that if I bring in a physical check and if it's not approved, it could be confiscated. The whole thing just feel sketchy at this moment so just to be safe.) Aug 22 at 15:43

1 Answer 1

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How's bitcoin an option? Not sure why it's even relevant. I've never heard of a way to mint bitcoins using paper checks.

Your alternatives are:

  • Deposit the check in a Chinese bank. It will take long time to clear. You may need to do some legwork until you find a bank that would be willing to deal with you. But I'm not aware of any legal reason on either side of the Pacific as to why you wouldn't be able to do that.

  • Deposit the check in a US bank account. You'll need to open a bank account. Given that you probably have a US credit history and tax id, you might be able to do it remotely and deposit the checks through an app, but given that you're physically located in China... maybe not. So you might need to travel to the US.

  • Sell the checks to whoever agrees to buy them from you. You'll probably lose a lot of the value. You may get back not money in China, but, for example, bitcoins or some other monopoly money which you'll then have to sell again to someone else to eventually convert into Chinese currency in your Chinese bank account. You'll lose a portion of your money during each of these exchanges. Probably not a small one.

No reputable check cashing service in the US would deal with you remotely. You probably don't want to deal with non-reputable ones.

Checks will take time to clear, the sooner you want the money the more risk your buyer is taking - which will be reflected in the price you'd be getting for these checks.

  • One last option you could try is contacting the investment account institution and asking them if they'd take the checks back and instead wire the money to you. They might agree, but it may require some convincing since technically they no longer owe you anything. You should have just asked them to wire the money to you in China.
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  • Right now I'm on track of option#1. I think I have sufficient legal proof for the source of this fund, even the tax (withhold) record. I just talked with a representative of a provincial branch of Bank of China. She said below $1000 is trivial but above $50000 is a definitive "No". Anything in between are subject to auditing, which should be OK in my case. Aug 22 at 7:55
  • I'm reluctant to #2 because I don't think it's legal to open US bank account outside US (not sure which law bans this though). Also the mobile check deposit limit is usually less than $10000, too low for what I'm dealing with. #3 is even closer to money laundering. Aug 22 at 7:57
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    It's only money laundering if you're laundering money. At least in the US, it is not illegal to sell checks to check cashing services, in fact there's a whole industry around that. It is also not illegal to open US bank accounts outside the US, but the US bank must be able to properly identify you - so they may refuse opening it remotely based on their distrust of your credentials. You may be able to work something out if they have presence in China.
    – littleadv
    Aug 22 at 7:59

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