what is "straight dope" on bank deposit as method of long distance payment?

I have seen organizations offer to take payments by depositing money in cash at a specified Bank of America account. AFAIU the idea here is that Bank of America has branches everywhere and hence it’s possible for free (or maybe for small fee, not sure) to deposit money into account belonging to somebody even in a different state. So from the standpoint of the merchant this sounds like a nice irreversible payment, like cold hard cash and unlike Paypal, except it can be done long distance.

Well, hey, great… So I was wondering, how come not everybody is doing things like that? E.g. I know that many programmers overseas have trouble getting money from their American customers transfered to them for cheap. So, wouldn’t it be trivial for a business in America to take payments from clients on their behalf and then reimburse them (let’s say in Romania) for a fee?

Ok, so what’s the straight dope here? What are the downsides of payment via Bank of America deposit?

The detail of information required is not the information you would normally give to strangers.

But know a lot of people that use this method to give their kids in college money.

what is the confidential “detail of information” are you referring to here? Do you mean that the merchant would be afraid to publish his bank account number? Or do you mean that the bank would demand too much info from the guy making the deposit? Awhile ago I made several such payments, I don’t think they asked anything special from me (although it was long ago, maybe I forgot some crucial details).

It should be free if you go into a branch. To send money to other countries, some banks offer remittance accounts where named individuals can withdraw from a partner bank. Typically, it is used by immigrants to America to send money back to say, relatives in Mexico. They don’t typically offer this service for every country, and the recipients I think have to have an account with the partner bank. This service usually has a fee to send, but not to withdraw I believe. The cost is significantly cheaper than a wire transfer.

Also, if you have many people making deposits, it can be difficult to track who made which deposit. Banks will not record the depositor of cash. You can require them to make payments by check only, which can be proven by the payer. It might also be possible to determine the payer if you assign them a fixed amount under $1 to determine identity, e.g. if they owe $52, they make a deposit of $52.13 to identify them as customer #13.

He’s talking about the merchant having to reveal the bank account number. Someone with your bank account number has access to all the information they need to forge checks on your account (since the remaining information, like routing numbers, are easy to find out).

Of course, everyone you write a check to has this information as well, so it’s up to each person to determine just how much risk you feel it exposes you to.

I have had some clients make cash payments to my company this way (depositing it at a another branch in cash). We’ve never had any problems, but there are some people I wouldn’t give that information to.

One problem, specifically with Bank of America, is that deposit receipts only include the last 4-digits of the account number. So if a dispute arises, the depositor doesn’t have anything conclusively showing that they deposited the money.

I don’t know if that’s true of every bank. I do know that when I worked at a bank many moons ago, when someone deposited money into an account that wasn’t theirs, I had to remove the account number from the receipt (our receipts included full account numbers by default). This seemed weird to me, since it’s not revealing any information that the depositor didn’t have to begin with, but there it is.

Is this some flaw in the US system? I run an Australian business and do transfers all the time to Australian, UK, and German companies. They all have no problems giving me a bank account number and SWIFT code, in fact the details are printed right on the bottom of invoices usually.

However US companies will hardly ever give me the details for a wire transfer meaning I have to jump through all sorts of hoops to pay them.

Do they have some other level of protection on cheques outside the US or is that kind of fraud just less common?

I work at a bank, and the bank I work at covers a multi-state area (though it’s not national like BoA). We can accept payments from anyone. Mom can have an account at Wells Fargo, come into my bank, deposit money into her kid’s account, who is away at college in another city/state. Anyone can put money in anyone’s account.

HOWEVER, it’s not that easy. There’s the issue of security (would you want to give out your account number to strangers in hopes that they’ll only put the money in and not try to do something worse?). Okay, so you decide, “I won’t give out the number. The people will just go to XYZ Bank and say 'I need to put money in Suchandsuch Biz, LLC’s account.” Well, the bank has to find it. And most of these businesses are under different names. (Burger King, the familiar name, may be listed under “Mountain King Restaurants” which is the franchisee’s company.) It takes time, searching, and hunting to find these business accounts. Unless the company is big, it’s not worth the bank’s time to take these deposits.

I mean, I do it for some local companies. There’s a few landlords that have their renters deposit into their accounts. And of course, the parents who come in to clean up their kids’ financial messes. But it’s not ideal.

I’m sure it could work. I just have reservations about it.

is it possible to prohibit writing of checks from a particular account? I.e. the idea is that the merchant would advertise the account and only withdraw money from it in person at the bank, and it would not be possible to forge a check on that account.

Or is this, even if possible, not enough for countering the threat inherent in publication of the account number?