Where to Cash a Personal Check, Paycheck, or Government-Issued Check
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You’ve worked hard all week, and now all you want to do is get your check deposited and enjoy the weekend! But maybe you don’t have a personal bank right now, or you just started your first job and you’re not sure where to cash your check. Don’t worry, we’ll help you get access to your money.
You can cash a check without a bank account. But the type of check you have matters, and will determine where you can and can’t cash it. Whether it’s a pre-printed check, a handwritten one, or a government-issued or personal check, will influence the risk of the cashier based on the likelihood of the check bouncing. Some cashiers might refuse to cash your check, or they may charge a fee.
In this article, we’ll cover personal checks, paychecks, government-issued checks, and how and where you can cash them. Let’s go over the best ways to cash or deposit your check.
Your Bank or Credit Union
Of course, if you have an account at a bank or if you’re a member of a credit union, this is your best option as it will be convenient and also free. You can use the institution’s ATM to deposit your check or speak to a teller about cashing or depositing your check. Banks and credit unions typically will accept any check whether it is pre-printed or handwritten.
Many banks also have a phone app associated with them, and they offer a convenient automatic deposit option where you can simply take photos of your check and get them deposited to your account, usually by the next business day.
Don’t have a bank account? It could be worth opening a checking or savings account with a bank or credit union. Banks and credit unions essentially serve the same purpose, but credit unions often charge fewer fees, offer better interest rates, and sometimes don’t have minimum balance requirements.
Alternatively, banks often have more branch locations and product options. Either one will provide you with a consistent and simple way to cash or deposit your checks for free.
The Issuing Bank
If you can’t get an account with a bank or credit union, an alternative option would be to cash your check with the bank that issued it. Every check should have the name of the issuing bank printed somewhere on it, unless it is government issued, but you’ll likely be able to cash the government-issued check nearly anywhere because they are considered “low risk.” Remember to bring your ID to verify that you are the legal recipient of the check.
If you choose to cash your check at the issuing bank, make sure and ask about fees first. Some banks will still charge fees to non-customers, even if they are the ones fulfilling the check. It will likely be extremely difficult to cash a check through a bank where neither you, nor the person who issued the check, hold an account.
Retailers and Grocery Stores
There are other options for cashing your check outside of banks and credit unions — like retailers and grocery stores. Walmart, 7-Eleven, gas stations and many other supermarkets offer check cashing services up to a certain, limited amount.
Walmart could be your most convenient option, if you’re near a location, because they only charge a $4 fee for checks up to $1,000 and $8 for checks over $1,000. Just keep in mind that Walmart has a daily cash checking limit of $5,000, or $7,500 during the months of January through April. But Walmart’s check cashing fees are considerably lower than other cash-checking stores.
Unfortunately, many retailers and grocery stores will only take pre-printed checks, such as paychecks or government issued checks. They often will not cash out a handwritten check or personal check because it is too risky; the check could bounce, and the cashier would be out the funds. Some check cashing stores will accept personal checks of smaller amounts but will be likely to charge a fee.
Grocery stores and gas stations are potentially valid options for cashing your check, but you’ll want to call ahead and ask if check cashing is available, if they will accept your check type, and what fees will be applied. Many stores will be happy to cash your check, especially if you plan to spend money while you’re there.
Endorsing or Third-Party Check Cashing
Another option entails endorsing your check to a third-party, such as a trusted friend or family member. Some check cashing options, like grocery stores, will ask you to endorse the check to them before cashing it out. Endorsing a check, or using third-party check cashing, is easy, on the back of the check simply write, “Pay to the order of (third-party’s name).” And then sign your name underneath.
Just keep in mind that not all banks or check cashing options will allow this, or they might require you to be present at the time of cashing, so it’s recommended to call ahead and ask. But endorsing a check or using third party check cashing is a way to get around a fee if you don’t have an account with a bank.
Check Cashing Stores
Around town, you also might notice a few check cashing stores, usually near payday loan shops. This is an option, but check cashing stores usually charge a pretty penny for their service.
This might be your only option if you’re trying to cash a personal check, or handwritten check, without using a bank or credit union, but be prepared to pay a processing fee and a percentage fee on your cash amount. Check cashing stores will also likely want to load a prepaid card for you instead of handing out cash.
Obviously, loading a prepaid card won’t put cash in your hand, but it’s the only option with some check cashing stores. Luckily, you can create a prepaid debit account, linked to a card and a mobile app, for quick and easy deposits—and you don’t have to have an associated bank account. But you might have to wait a processing period before the funds are available to use. Check for monthly service fees associated with the card.
Deposit Checks to an Online or Mobile Account
Not only will banks usually offer a convenient check deposits through their mobile app, there are some services where you can deposit money electronically into your own account without having a bank. However, this option will leave you with a plastic card and no cash in hand. It also might take a processing period before the funds are available to you and could charge a fee.
Digital currencies may be on the up and up, but we still need to cash physical paper checks sometimes. Luckily, you have multiple options available to you. Try to avoid paying unnecessary fees and consider opening a bank account instead.
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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 July 11, 2018. It was originally published July 10, 2018.