Bank Checks as Cash

Butlers Korea
2019-08-12 12:23
Contrary to the definition some of us have of a cheque - a bit of paper on which is printed our bank account number and which we use to pass money from our bank account to another person and/or to pay our bills, in Korea, such transactions are done through a direct bank transfer.

In Korea, a check is paper, yes. But it’s one on which an amount of money is printed. The standard amount on a cheque is W100,000, but you can request them from a teller in any amount you wish. Those you get from the ATM are for a fixed value of W100,000. Because the largest paper money denomination in Korea is W50,000, cheques are a convenient way of carrying 'cash'.

Same as cash but with some differences - We are told that checks are just like cash and up to a point, that’s true. However, there are some important differences:

  1. 1. If you try to cash your check at a bank other than the issuing bank, you may have to pay a small service fee of about 1-2,000 Won for a W100,000 check.  Some merchants may also charge this service fee, especially if the check was issued by a bank in another city.

  2. 2. While the cheque is generally 'cashed' right away when presented at a bank that is the same as the issuing bank (issued by KEB and presented for cash at a KEB branch) there may be a delay of up to 2 days before it can be honoured. if presented at another bank (issued by KEB and presented at Kookmin).

  3. 3. If you deposit a check from another bank into to your bank account the fee may be waived but there will still be a delay before it is honoured. However, if your bank account is the same as the issuing bank, there is often no delay.

  4. 4. When using the check to make a purchase or when cashing it at a store, you will likely be asked to write your name, telephone number and maybe your address and/or registration number on the back.

  5. 5. Even if you’re depositing checks in your account, the teller may ask for your passport or alien registration card as proof of identity.

  6. 6. Note also, that the ATM’s in some banks do not offer the option of depositing cheques if you’re conducting the transaction in English - the assumption being that non-Korean speakers are all tourists and as such don’t need to have access to many of the functions that are available for Korean-speakers, depositing checks being one of them. In large cities this is not as common an occurence as it once was, but it may still happen in areas where foreigners are still a rarity.

If you want the money quickly, make sure none of the checks are larger than W100,000 and use them to purchase goods or go to a store/restaurant where you are known. If it’s a large amount and you can wait 24 hours, just go ahead and accept one ‘big’ check and deposit it to your account.

Checks are a great convenience as long as you are aware of the rules. They may also be safer than flashing a lot of cash. To reduce the possibility of forged checks, banks began printing with a special ink in December 2013. This is just one of the new design modifications that allow the bank to more easily identify and/or track falsified checks.
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