Travellers’ cheques not recognised as cash

ALTHOUGH the Reserve Bank says that Zimbabwe travellers’ cheques are as good as cash, they are not recognised as such by commercial banks and building societies.

ce=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>For example, I want to move a sum of money from my current account at Barclays to a savings account at Cabs so that I can immediately use the Cabs purchase-point machines in supermarkets to buy my groceries, having neither cash nor sufficient cheques to do this.

I thought that the simplest and quickest way to move “cash” into the Cabs account would be to draw travellers’ cheques from my current account and pay them straight into the Cabs account. That way, since they are “as good as cash”, I would have immediate access to that money.

Not so. Cabs regard travellers’ cheques as cheques, not as cash, and want three weeks to clear them. And Barclays also tell me that if I were to pay a travellers’ cheque into my current account, they too require a cheque-clearance period. What are they clearing?

I cannot buy a travellers’ cheque from my commercial bank unless I have cleared funds available. Payment against a travellers’ cheque is not subject to there being funds in my account at the time that it is “cleared”. The travellers’ cheque has already been paid for.

All that is necessary for a travellers’ cheque to be cleared is for it to be verified that the two signatures on it are from the same (any) person (not that it is the signature of an account-holder whose sample signature is kept on file at the bank) and that the cheque itself is not forged.

These should be able to be done by the teller in the same way that tellers are able to verify the legitimacy of any bank notes that they accept for deposit.

By wishing to “clear” the travellers’ cheques, Cabs and other commercial banks are implying that they could subsequently choose to decline them.

So what could happen is that, after a couple of weeks, Cabs could return my travellers’ cheques to me having declined them.

I would then presumably have to pay them back into my account at Barclays, who would again require their clearance period, and who could, presumably, also decline them. Where would that leave me and my “cash”? And if Cabs and Barclays think that this scenario is impossible, why do they need the clearance period?

So what is happening to the money paid for travellers’ cheques while they are waiting for “clearance”? Cabs and commercial banks are evidently able to use my cash for their own purposes for several weeks while they do not allow me to use it.

They are the only ones benefiting from the use of Zimbabwe travellers’ cheques. It certainly isn’t their customers.

And where is the Reserve Bank while this farce is being enacted?

Roger Stringer,

Mount Pleasant.