We don’t live in a cashless society yet. Direct deposit, PayPal and Venmo become more popular by the day, but paper checks are still a thing. Until that day arrives, you may still receive checks that need to be cashed. You’re probably here because you need to cash a check.
If you start a side hustle this year — local or online — you may have a client who pays you by paper check. You might get paper checks from companies for mail-in rebates, credit card cash-back refunds, or any other number of purposes. In any of these instances, you can’t access the money until you cash it.
1. Your Local Bank or Credit Union
The best place to cash a check is your personal bank or credit union. Free check cashing may be one of your account benefits. By visiting your local branch, you could have instant access to your cash.
If you don’t have a bank account, look into creating one. Online banks make it easy to get started. One to check out is CIT Bank. It’s an online bank with free check cashing. And CIT Bank lets you deposit a check directly from your mobile phone for free.
CIT Bank also offers high-yield savings. As of October 4, 2018, you can open a savings account with $100 and receive 1.88% interest.
That said, depending on your local bank options, you might be better off joining a credit union. Credit unions usually charge fewer fees than banks. If you don’t need access to a national network of branches, credit unions are a great choice.
A credit union might also have a lower minimum balance requirement to avoid monthly checking account fees. Many credit unions only require a $5 minimum balance to keep your account open.
Pick a local credit union or bank that offers free checking and is convenient to access. If your bank doesn’t cash checks for free, you should look for a new checking account.
2. Visit the Issuing Bank
When you don’t have a bank account, the issuing bank is the best place to start. It can be the cheapest and quickest option, compared to some of the other options on this list. Banks might also have a higher cashing limit than some other options, too.
The issuing bank’s name is located in the bottom left corner of the check, above the memo line. Go to your local branch of that bank to cash the check.
For instance, If the check is issued by BB&T Bank, you can visit your local BB&T branch. The teller can then check the account balance to make sure there are sufficient funds to cover the check.
As with any of these check cashing locations, you will need to bring your ID to verify your identity.
Each bank has different cashing policies for non-customers. Don’t be surprised if you are charged a non-customer fee, but not all banks and credit unions charge a non-customer fee. The best way to find out is to call the bank or visit their online website.
If you must pay a fee, banks usually charge one of the following fees:
- $0 for any check balance below $50
- $7-$10 for check balances above $50
- 10% of the check balance
- $7 per check regardless of the balance
Sometimes, non-customer banks fees can be more expensive than some of the other options mentioned here.
A few banks only offer non-customers prepaid debit cards for cashed checks. This practice is relatively uncommon. These prepaid cards can come with monthly maintenance fees and expiration dates. If you receive a prepaid debit card, read the terms and conditions. Make sure to use the card as soon as possible to ensure your money doesn’t expire.
3. Walmart Check Cashing
Believe it or not, 90% of Americans live within 15 minutes of a Walmart store. It’s very likely you will drive by a Walmart before you pass the issuing bank.
And if you buy your groceries at Walmart, your cashed check can double as your weekly grocery money.
You can expect to pay the following fees for the Walmart Check Cashing services:
- $4 for each check, up to $1,000
- $8 for each check greater than $1,000
The daily cashing limit is $5,000. The limit increases to $7,500 between January and April for Christmas money and tax refund checks. But note that Walmart won’t cash any personal checks over $200.
Walmart cashes your check for cash or a Walmart MoneyCard. They waive the reload fee for the MoneyCard for select payroll and government checks.
Walmart cashes all of these kinds of checks:
- Pre-printed checks
- Payroll checks
- Government checks
- Tax checks
- Cashiers’ checks
- Insurance settlement checks
- 401 (k), retirement disbursement checks
- MoneyGram money orders
- Two-party personal checks (limit: $200)
4. Your Local Grocery Store
Grocery stores are hit-and-miss with check cashing services. You need to ask their customer service desk to find out. Some stores might only cash payroll checks, cashiers’ checks and money orders. These checks are printed and not handwritten with a pen. Sadly, check fraud discourages many stores from cashing handwritten checks.
Very few grocers still cash handwritten personal checks, but here are four national grocers that still do:
The check cashing fees for grocery stores can be free, up to 2% of the balance or $6 per check. Each store has a different cashing policy.
Some grocers waive the check cashing fee if you choose store credit instead of cash. If you buy groceries at that particular supermarket, this is the better option.
5. Gas Station Travel Centers
Most gas stations no longer cash personal checks of any sort. It doesn’t matter if it’s handwritten, from your employer, or a government check. The risk of check fraud is too much. You will have the most success at travel centers (truck stops) you find driving along the interstate.
A travel center accepts personal vehicles and has dedicated refueling lanes for semi-trucks.
Two full-service travel center brands to try are:
Only a select few of their locations cash checks so you will just have to try your luck or call the closest location to you ahead of time.
6. Transact by 7-Eleven
One of the few gas station chains that cashes checks is 7-Eleven. You must download the Transact by 7-Eleven app. This app lets you cash a check by taking a picture of the check with your phone. Most checks clear within 48 hours and the balance is deposited onto your reloadable 7-Eleven prepaid card. You can then use the card anywhere that Debit MasterCard is accepted, which is most online and retail stores.
7. Endorse Your Check to a Friend
You can also endorse your check to a friend who can cash it for free. After all, what are friends for?
Endorsed checks are sometimes called “third party checks.”
Endorsing a check to a friend to cash is simple. On the back of the check, follow these steps:
- On the top line, write “Pay to the order of Friend’s Name“
- You sign the check underneath this endorsement
Every bank has different policies for cashing endorsed checks. To fight check fraud, you might have to accompany your friend to the bank branch to verify your identity too. Some banks require you to complete a form. This form states your friend has permission to cash your check. Check online or call the bank before your friend goes alone to cash the check.
Certain banks including Ally Bank, Discover Bank and Regions do not accept third-party checks.
8. Cash Your Check Using an App
You can also cash your personal check online. Two apps that don’t require you to be a bank customer to cash a check are PayPal and Ingo Money.
This might be the best online app for cashing personal checks. You can use Ingo Money to cash most kinds of checks, including hand-written personal checks. Once you download the app, you endorse the check and use the app to take a picture of its front and back. Then you decide where you’d like the money to go.
You might prefer Ingo Money because of the multiple redemption options:
- Prepaid debit card
- PayPal account
- Amazon gift card
- Online bill pay for retail credit cards
- Cash pickup at participating MoneyGram locations
With the first three options, the check balance will deposit in a matter of minutes. When you want to use your check amount to pay a retail credit card, the bill payment posts the next business day. You can also split the balance between multiple redemption options.
This flexibility does cost a small fee. Handwritten personal checks that are under $100 cost $5 to cash. Balances greater than $100 cost 5% of the balance.
Pre-printed payroll and government checks cost $5 to cash for balances under $250. You will pay 2% of the balance when the balance is greater than $250.
For both check types, you can avoid the cashing fees by waiting 10 days to receive the balance. But, in that case, you can only deposit the balance into one account.
You can use Ingo Money to deposit your check into a Chime Bank account. Chime offers free ATM access. You may also receive your direct deposit funds up to two days earlier than if you’d used a traditional bank.
PayPal is one of the largest payment processors in the world, and it also offers a way to cash a check. It’s partnered with First Century Bank and Ingo Money to provide this service.
As with Ingo Money, you’ll need to first endorse the check, then use the app to take a picture of the front and back. Once your check is approved, you’ll be prompted to write “VOID” across the front of the check.
You can then choose to pay a fee and have your money made available within minutes. The standard fee is 1% for payroll and government checks with a pre-printed signature and 5% for all other accepted checks, with a $5 minimum fee per check.
Or, you can choose to wait 10 days to receive the funds, in which case the transaction is free.
Checks must be a minimum of $5 and a maximum of $2,500. You can cash multiple checks up to $5,000 per day and $10,000 per month.
Once your balance is unlocked, there are multiple ways to access your PayPal funds. You can transfer it to another bank account in one day. Another option is transferring the balance to an eligible debit card or prepaid card in minutes. Debit card transfers currently cost 25 cents as of October 2018. Or, you can transfer it to a PayPal Debit Card, which you can then use at any ATM to get cash.
NetSpend offers online check cashing too. You can also find a local NetSpend partner to cash checks too. The check balance loads to a prepaid debit card.
It’s also possible to get $10 overdraft protection with their Premier Card Account feature.
Green Dot is another prepaid debit card option with in-app mobile check cashing. You can also cash checks at Walmart to reload your prepaid Green Dot debit card. It’s free to deposit checks with the mobile app.
As of October 4, 2018, Green Dot has the following mobile check cashing limits:
- Minimum balance must be $1
- Single check balance can’t exceed $2,500
- Can cash up to $3,000 in a single day
- Can only cash up to $5,000 every 30 days
If you need to write somebody a check, Green Dot will send you a book of paper checks. You don’t have to open a checking account as the balance comes off your debit card.
9. Check Cashing Stores
This suggestion should always be your option of last resort because of the high fees.
Most locations charge a percentage of the balance instead of a flat fee. For smaller check balances, this can be cheaper than other stores that charge a flat fee. But, fees for large balances are often lower at most other places, even if they charge a percentage of the check balance.
These check cashing stores are easy to find in your local town. They will cash every type of personal check, including handwritten checks from family and friends. Sadly, this convenience comes at a high price. These stores charge the highest check cashing fees.
When you put the balance on their reloadable debit card, you must also pay a monthly maintenance fee. Expect to pay a reload fee each time, too. If possible, cash your checks at Walmart if you want a reloadable debit card.
What to Look For When Cashing a Check
Cashing a check is easier than writing a check. In most cases, you only have to sign the back to receive payment.
But, you should still verify several areas on the check front before you head to the bank. If any of the information below is incorrect, the teller won’t cash your check.
Pay to the Order Of…
Make sure the check is written in the name that matches your legal ID. Only the person whose name is on the check can cash it. If you want your spouse to cash your check, you need to open a joint bank account.
The teller won’t necessarily reject your check if it doesn’t have your full legal name. For example, if the check says John Doe but your driver’s license says Jonathan, it’s acceptable.
Matching Dollar Amounts
Each check has two fields for the dollar amount. In one field, the issuer writes the check amount in numbers. This field is to the right of your name. On a $50 check, this box should read, $50.00.
The second check amount field is underneath the “Pay to the order of” field where your name goes. On a $50 check, this field reads Fifty and 00/100 Dollars.
The Check Issuer Signs the Check
Whoever writes the check must sign the check in the bottom right corner. Their signature verifies the check is active and legit.
Some places might only cash a check if it’s been issued within the last 180 days. Some checks even state to void the check if you don’t cash it within 180 days. If a check is issued on January 1, you have 180 days from that day to cash it. For this example, you have until June 30 to cash your check.
Incorrect dates are most common in the new year for handwritten checks. Some businesses might “future date” the check and give it to you early. If payday is on the 15th but you get the check on the 12th, you must wait three days before cashing.
A Few Things to Remember When Cashing a Personal Check
There are a few things to remember the next time you cash a check:
- You always need to bring a photo ID
- Some locations won’t cash handwritten checks
- Certain stores and banks charge more to cash a check than others
- Most places have a daily redemption limit
For the most part, cashing a check in-person is extremely easy. This is true when you have a pre-printed check from one of these issuers:
All you need to do is sign your check and show a photo ID card. You instantly receive the balance minus any cashing fees.
Can You Cash Checks at ATM Machines?
Only bank customers can cash checks at ATM machines. Even then, the ATM must have that capability. These machines are usually located at the physical bank branches. Other bank ATMs accept remote deposits but have a three-day holding period.
Most banks now offer mobile check deposit. This feature is free and quicker than mailing your check to the bank or finding a local bank. If you’re making a mobile deposit, make sure you check the “Mobile Deposit” box on the back of the check. Most paper checks now include this box as an extra security measure. You should also write “VOID” across the check once you’re sure that your deposit has cleared.
When you need money now, cashing a check is an easy option. There’s no shortage of options to cash a paper check locally. But, you will have to pay more at some places to cash your check. Going to the issuing bank can be the cheapest option, but other places cash checks for free too.
What’s your go-to check cashing location? Do you usually prefer the cash or prepaid debit cards? Let us know through our social media accounts.