Best Practice: Bank Accounts
So Ive been reading some older posts from this past year on opening a bank account before on island or maybe first day on island.
I read that travelers checks are not really used much any more. I also read that these can be a real hassle to cash in creating issues for landlords.
I also read that First Bank (which is the bank we decided on) needs an island address, proof of residency in order to open an account. Which we wont have until we find our place.
Credit cards typically wont work for first and last and securities for most landlords.
Many landlords wont accept stateside checks because they take so long to clear.
Carrying a big hunk of cash is not a good idea.
SO, what are the options? Seems like a catch 22... need a bank account to be able to have a large amount of cash/local checks for a landlord, and cant get the bank without the proof of address from a landlord. lolz
I am wondering what others did when they arrived on island, how did it go securing a rental... cash, check, travelers checks? We want to make it as smooth as possible for us and our future landlord.
THANK YOU!! 😀
Thanks Blu, I can do a EFT but how can I get a bank account to do the EFT without having an on island address? How can I pay the landlord upwards of 4K for first last and securities without an on island bank? Quite the conundrum. I am surprised that there are no island businesses that aid in the relocation process.... hummm maybe a good business venture 😉
Are certified checks as good as cash in the VI??? I recently sold a 20K printer from my graphic design business to a man from Canada. He also had a certified check from his bank BUT my bank here wanted to wait 3 weeks to verify funds! Needless to say he was NOT happy but I was not willing to release this printer to him without the money being verified. I would hate for that to be a situation there too, maybe because its a territory and not a different country that wouldn't be an issue. Good advice there. I will look into that! Thank you.
A few tips for you -
1) Be wary of any Landlord who won't accept a check from you at the initial stage of the Lease. You're not buying a TV where you leave the store with the product. Your Landlord should be giving you the benefit of the doubt until a check bounces.
2) Unfortunately, our Banks in the VI put a hold on ALL checks, even drawn on local Banks, unless the check is from the same Bank. In other words, if I attempt to deposit a FirstBank check into my FirstBank account, I'm good. But if I bank at Banco Popular, they will still sit on the FirstBank check for a period of days.
3) Here is something most people don't know - rule #2 above applies even with Bank/Certified Checks!
4) if you pay any cash up front when you sign your Lease, make sure you have Landlord sign, typically by the signature pages, that landlord acknowledges receipt of the sum of $____.
5) Except for 1 Bank locally, wires can take 1-2 business days to hit your account. This deviates tremendously from the states where a wire can appear 20-30 minutes after being initiated.
After having lived here, STX, before and since I have so many things auto-drafted from my bank acct and have direct deposit on others, I decided not to open an acct here this time.
We did lease our home and since I leased it online and over phone the week prior to my already scheduled PMV and I did't want to miss out on this house, I brought with me a cashiers check from my bank stateside for 6 months + deposit and signed an 18 month lease. The Realtor had no problem with that. And, will accept stateside checks for monthly rents.
I also brought with me $10k in cash hidden in various places. I have never had a problem with ATM or using my debit card. We have very quickly gone through the 10k since moving here 7 weeks ago, but our house was only partially furnished and I try to keep my credit cards as clean and empty as possible.
It is a conundrum but, between the two of you, I think you will do fine. The thing that was hardest for us was getting a mailing address. Once you get that, you will be set. Good luck and God bless!
This is our general practice for accepting new tenant funds. Also, I would often prefer a stateside check on a long established account to a starter check on a local account. But hey, as long as it cashes, it's all good.
There are some landlords who prefer not to accept anything but cash up front, but I don't know that this says anything bad about them. It can be very hard to move a person out if his check fails. Knock wood, we have not experienced this. Most people are mostly honest, and that honesty is heightened if they know they'll be subject to even a very basic reference or background check.
Gosh you guys and galls ROCK! Awesome advice. I think we're going to try to hold off on a local account and just use checks and cash for a month at least. Once I find a job I might open an account for direct deposit. We can always EFT from statesides banks back and fourth. My BF has his checking and saving here, I have my checking and savings here along with a separate bank for my mortgage and then we have a joint STT fund lol that's our years worth if savings for this adventure. So I think 6 accounts is enough! Thanks u all for the feedback especially landlords.
Hi A, Sounds like it's getting close!
Do you have a PayPal account? Great little money mover. Are you renting from an individual with only one rental or a business or real estate company? If a business, or even multiple property landlord, they very likely will accept PayPal payments. Also, I would think the new landlord would go ahead and provide you with your rental agreement, allowing you to have proof of address, so you can go ahead and open an account. Also, have you asked the new landlord about accepting an off island check? We always took them, and in all the years we rented apartment on both St. Thomas and St. Croix, we only had one check bounce, which was taken care of immediately by the tenant. BTW, it was a local check...
Good luck with the move. It will all work out OK.....no worries.:)
With Merchants, after you've had an account in good standing for 30 days, both stateside and local checks will clear after one business day. Unless something has changed, it takes at least three business days at FirstBank and Scotia. Not as good as the "instant" service with photo direct deposit, but you won't have to pay a fee to access your cash, either!
No, I don't work for them -- I just think more people should know about how much they offer compared with the other much-maligned (for good reason) local banking options.
Also, be careful with PayPal as they are not a bank -- they can freeze your account for any reason they see fit and not give you access to your funds, sometimes for many months. They are really good for moving money in many circumstances, but in the wrong situation you can get very badly screwed. (Hasn't happened to me, but has to multiple friends for different unrelated reasons.)
Would love to hear the details of your friends' PayPal issues. I don't use it much anymore, since I no longer handle the rentals, but I do still have the account and use it occasionally. Never had a problem. The longest we had to wait for a payment to clear was 3 or 4 days, and that was if the person didn't have a "verified" account.
My friends' reasons were varied (from a held transaction on the buyer's end, to a change of address and PayPal didn't accept their new address verification -- both took months to straighten out). This link details a lot of the more common reasons -- scroll to the section that says "The Cold Hard Facts".
I myself have had my PayPal account limited because they thought (groundlessly) that my contact information was out of date. Even the customer service rep admitted when I called that I had done absolutely nothing that should have caused my account to be frozen -- and yet it was. Got it resolved quickly, but if I had been travelling it would have been a huge pain.