How To Cash A Check
Technology hasn’t quite eliminated the need to cash paper checks. Whether it’s a paycheck, a birthday check from your grandma, or a government-issued check, you can still cash paper checks at almost any bank, credit union, or check cashing store.
The free and easy way to cash a check is at your bank or credit union. But what if you lost your ID? Things get a little tricky when you can’t provide identification. In this article, we’ll walk you through the process of cashing a check, then explain how to cash a check without an ID or a bank account.
Table of Contents
- 0.1 Endorse the Back of the Check
- 0.2 Fill Out a Deposit Slip (If Necessary)
- 0.3 Present Identification
- 0.4 Take Your Cash or Make Your Deposit
- 1 How To Cash a Check Without ID
- 2 How to Cash a Check Without a Bank Account
Endorse the Back of the Check
First, when cashing your check, you’ll need to endorse the back of the check. Endorsing a check just means you signed the back of it and have handed it to your bank (or other check cashing location) in exchange for money.
But don’t sign the back of your check until you’re at the bank and ready to cash it. If you lose a check that you’ve already endorsed, or it gets stolen, anybody could cash the check and take your money. If you are missing your ID or uncertain whether you will be able to cash a check, hold off on endorsing it until you know it will be accepted.
Fill Out a Deposit Slip (If Necessary)
This used to be more common, but has become less so in recent years. If you’re visiting a teller at your bank to cash your check, the teller will probably fill out a deposit slip for you or may ask you to fill one out. Most of the time, however, this process is more or less automated, and doesn’t require a paper deposit slip.
If you choose to deposit the check through an ATM, the process is simple. Just insert your debit card, enter your PIN number, select “Deposit Check”, insert the check you wish to deposit, confirm the amount, and you’re done. Then you can withdraw the money from your account if you need cash.
Tellers at most banks will ask you for a photo ID before cashing your check. If you’re a member or have an account with the bank, they might ask for your debit card or bank account information, as well or in place of a photo ID. Some banks, particularly credit unions, issue account ID cards which can also be used to access your account and allow check cashing services.
Take Your Cash or Make Your Deposit
That’s it for the check cashing process. You may choose to cash your check or deposit the funds straight into an account. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- If you go to a check cashing store other than your bank or credit union, watch out for fees and review payment policies before endorsing the check with them. Depending on the amount of your check, the fees might not be worth it.
- You should also ask about any delays before you’re able to access the funds. Depending on the check amount, an institution (banks as well as check cashing stores) could put a hold on your funds for a few days.
- Only cash a check you know is valid. Suspicious checks in the mail might seem harmless but if the check bounces or is fraudulent, you could be held responsible. Always know where the check came from and whose funds it will draw against.
How To Cash a Check Without ID
You’re ready to cash your check, but what if you lost your ID? Or your ID was stolen and you need to get your paycheck deposited today? What can you do?
There are still options for cashing your check without an ID. But banks and check cashing stores need to protect themselves against check fraud, so some kind of alternative form of identification or authentication will be required. We’ll explain in further detail below.
Use an ATM
If you have an account at a bank or credit union, and you can access a location with an ATM, you should be able to cash your check through the ATM. Just use your debit card to make the deposit as described above. You won’t need your ID to use the ATM, but you will need your debit card and PIN number to access your account.
Use Online or Mobile Check Cashing
As long as you’re an account holder with a financial institution that offers mobile banking services like mobile deposits, you’ll be able to cash your check online or with your phone. Simply log-in to the Bank’s mobile app with your account information and deposit the check using photos. Make sure to endorse the back of your check first.
If you don’t have a bank account, you can still use a mobile check cashing app. You simply have to download one of the available check cashing apps, create an account, link it to a prepaid card, debit card, credit card, or Paypal account and take photos of your check to have it deposited. Keep in mind that this method will have a waiting period of up to 10 days before you can access the funds, or you can pay a fee for early access.
Use a Prepaid Card
An alternative option for cashing your check without an ID or a bank account would be to use a prepaid card. You can purchase one of these cards at a number of stores, like Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS.
With your prepaid card in hand, simply follow the instructions for activation and direct deposit. You can reload this card with cash anytime you’re at a store register, or choose to withdraw cash from an ATM.
PayPal also offers a convenient reloadable prepaid card that comes with the option of an associated account and other services.
Endorse It to Someone Else
If you don’t have your ID, a bank account, or a prepaid card, you can cash your check by endorsing it to a trusted friend. This is known as a third-party check, and it is far from a guaranteed option. Third-party checks are notorious for masking fraud, and very few institutions (including check-cashing stores) will accept them any more. It pays to inquire about third-party checks before attempting to use this method.
When endorsing your check to someone else, you’ll simply sign the back of the check like normal, but directly below your signature, you’ll also write, “Pay to the order of” and then the name of the person who is cashing your check for you. Make sure to only endorse your check to someone you really trust. And keep in mind that some banks will want you to be present at the bank location and may ask you to endorse the check in front of the teller.
Other Check Cashing Places That Don’t Require ID
Legally, federal law requires identification to cash a check whether that be your ID, your PIN number, online login, or if you’re lucky your local tellers will know you well enough to approve cashing the check. If any check cashing location offers to cash your check without any form of ID, you’d be better off avoiding them. Any institution that offers to skirt around federal law is probably doing something fraudulent and you don’t want to be associated with that.
How to Cash a Check Without a Bank Account
If you’re trying to cash a check without a bank account, online, mobile, and ATM options will be difficult. You can still use a prepaid card or endorse your check to a third party, but other options will require some form of ID and might charge fees. Let’s cover a few check cashing options if you don’t have a bank account.
Go to the Issuing Bank
If you don’t have an account with a bank or credit union, your second best option is to visit a physical location of the issuing bank printed on the check. Take a look at your paper check for a bank name or ask the person who gave it to you which bank their account is with. You can usually enter the location of the issuing bank and ask a teller to help you cash your check — even if you don’t have an account.
Use a Retailer or Grocery Store
Alternatively, you can use a retailer or grocery store that offers check cashing services, like Walmart, 7-Eleven, and most supermarkets and gas stations. Walmart is often the most convenient option because they have so many locations but they also offer low fees on their check cashing services.
Most retailers and grocery stores can only cash pre-printed checks such as paychecks or government-issued checks. Handwritten and personal checks are deemed too risky to cashiers; although some locations will accept personal checks for a fee.
Use a Check Cashing Service
You might also notice check cashing stores other than retailers and grocery stores. Check cashing stores are usually also a part of payday loan shops. This is an option if you need to cash your check but you don’t have a bank account, or if your bank is closed but you need cash now. Check cashing stores usually charge the highest fees for this service.
Deposit Instead of Cashing
You can also deposit your check without cashing it out to a number of free services that don’t require a bank account. Services like PayPal and Ingo Money allow you to set up an account and link a prepaid card to the service for depositing you check to.
These are a few options for cashing a check, even if you don’t have your ID or a bank account. Remember that many check cashing services that don’t require ID or an account will charge a fee, so it’s a good idea to set up an account with a bank or credit union if you can.
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Tylene is a freelancer in Boise, Idaho. She's a self-taught personal finance hacker with zero debt. She eats avocado toast for breakfast.
This post was updated August 14, 2018. It was originally published July 21, 2018.