Beware if you dare to want to accept cheques in any other currency than Sterling.

The UK Banks really don’t want to know – in my experience – unless you are a business. If you can find a bank that will open a US Dollar account, they usually ignore the money they will be making on holding the foreign currency and instead they will want to charge you a significant sum for holding an account in a foreign currency.

Barclays do have a “Currency Call Deposit Account” though which does not make a monthly charge but instead pays no interest on the first $2,999 but then pays a massive 0.25%. Wow!

Then of course, there’s the small issue that that account does not give you a cheque book or debit card to make any withdrawals or payments nor does it provide you with a credit book to pay cheques or cash in with!

The problem then comes when you go to your local branch – the one who allegedly holds the account (it’s their sort code and branch on the quarterly statements) – to try to pay cheques in. They’re used(ish) to people presenting cheques on a “negotiation basis” into their Sterling accounts. Barclays charge a fee for this and you then get credited with the balance at whatever the then excahnge rates are. I don’t want to halve the face value of the cheques I receive and I live in hope of being able to eventually use my US Dollar account to trade with US-based companies and individuals.

So presenting a US Dollar cheque or cheques for payment into a US Dollar account, I want them handled on a “collection basis” which is how they I presume they should be handled.

Unfortunately, most of the local branch staff DHAFC and frankly I get fed up of going through this palaver every time I have a cheque to pay in, so I tend to wait until I have two or three and then pay them in at once. Depending upon how the staff at the branch have mishandled the credit slip, I sometimes get a letter acknowledging receipt or telling me they cannot negotiate the cheques and are simply going to present them on a collection basis instead.

So on 7 September 2007, I paid in three US Dollar cheques totalling just $88.99. On 12 September 2007, I received a letter which said:

“We have received your cheque(s) for the sum of USD$88.99, which you have requested we present on a negotiation basis…”

I just want the cheque paid into my account with as little fuss (and as little fee) as possible.

Then on 22 October 2007 – 6 weeks after I paid the cheques in… – I received a letter telling me that they had “received payment for this collection and have today credited [my] account … USD 38.40…”

And the statement arrived today showing only $38.40 has been credited to my account.

So I rang Barclays on 0845 7555555 which is the number which appears on my statements and on the letters they write (unless they simply don’t state a number anywhere which is a regular occurrence too).

This puts you through to a call centre on the Indian sub-contintent after you negotiate the electronic call system which doesn’t like you failing to enter a bank card number or telephone banking password, neither of which are provided with the account…

Eventually you talk to someone who asks you repeatedly for the sort code and number of your account. You know full well they cannot find it on their system as these accounts are ‘handled’ by Barclays International in Poole (the ones who once sent back a large fee deposit from an Italian client because despite quoting the sort code and account number for my account, they didn’t recognise the – incomplete – branch address and apparently Barclays are happy for more than one customer to have the same account number, just at  different branch…).

So after 37 minutes and two transfers, I eventually spoke to a guy in Poole who is as I type this trying to find the cheques in their system. As I said to him, I paid them into my local branch and they acknowledged receipt of the cheques, so if they’ve lost them, that’s their problem not mine.

He’s going to ring me back when he finds them…