I asked the following question from you and received an answer. At the end of your answer you noted: “that this answer does not relate to the possible ribbis issues involved in the transaction.” If I may, I would like to know what “possible ribbis issues” may relate to this transaction.
1. Ploni takes a US$ check to a money changer and askes for NIS.
2. Moneychanger says: “I will hold the check for 3 days; you will pay 0.5% commission; you will receive a rate of 3.695 NIS to $1 (actual daily rate of 3.72; 2.5 ag/$1 profit to moneychanger)
3. Check bounces before ploni receives any shekels.
4. Moneychanger wants $30 for bounced check; 0.5% commission; and 3500 NIS to cover his cost of buying back the dollars he sold to raise the NIS (the $ rate went up to 3.79 on the day he decided to buy back his dollars.
You responded that ploni is liable only for the bounced check charge.
What issues of ribbis might be involved?
The possible ribis issue is the general question of changing US checks with money changers. Unlike Israeli checks, there is a certain time lapse between receiving a US check and getting the money for it. It appears that the higher rate charged by money changers for changing foreign checks is at least partially because of this time lapse — though there is room to argue that the rate is due to the handling involved.
A possible reason for leniency is that the exchange is seen as a purchase, and not a loan. The money changer is not lending money until he collects it from the check, but is rather buying the check for the stipulated amount.
However, out of concern for the issue of ribis, some write that one should stipulate, when changing a foreign check into shekels, that a heter iska should apply to the exchange, and this should preferable be written on the check itself.