Need to cash a check? Easy peasy. Visit your local bank and hand over the check to the teller, or head to the nearest ATM and insert it into the machine. But what if you’re among the seven percent of US consumers, as noted by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) that don’t have a bank account? That’s when things get a bit complicated. Or do they? Not necessarily as there are tons of check-cashing solutions for unbanked consumers.
Read on to learn more about your check-cashing options, whether you’re a banked or unbanked consumer.
Options for Banked Consumers
Your Financial Institution
Banked consumers have multiple options to cash checks, including:
- Physical location: if the payor uses the same bank, you may be able to retrieve the entire amount right away. Otherwise, expect a one to three business day hold. This timeframe could be longer for larger amounts, like checks exceeding $5,000.
- ATMs: insert the check and walk away with cash, but it may only be a fraction of the check amount. It depends on the bank’s policies, the amount that was available in your account before making the deposit, and your banking trends.
- Mobile apps: allow you to deposit checks at the tap of a fingertip. But keep in mind that you’ll still have to visit an ATM or branch to withdraw the funds, and the total amount of the check may not be available right away.
Quick Note: Credit union members have the luxury of cashing checks at various branches or ATMs throughout the nation free of charge if their institution is a member of the CO-OP. Restrictions with regards to how much cash can be retrieved the same day may still apply.
Options for Unbanked Consumers
The Payor’s Bank Account
Does the payor happen to bank with a financial institution that’s near you? They may be willing to cash the check for you, free of charge, as long as you can provide a valid source of identification. But before you make a trip to their location, call to inquire about their check-cashing policies for non-accountholders.
Apply for a Bank Account
It’s far cheaper to use your bank to cash checks than to pay for third-party services. Worried that your banking history will prevent you from opening a bank account? Many banks offer second-chance banking solutions, and some don’t use screeners, like ChexSystems or Early Warning Systems (EWS). So, you should be able to open a bank account without all the hassle.
Once you make the required opening deposit, you can cash the check right away. But keep in mind that the funds may be subject to a temporary hold that’s longer than the typical one to three business days since you’re a new member.
Check Cashing Stores
- ACE Cash Express: cashes income tax refund checks, government checks, insurance settlement checks, money orders, payroll checks, personal checks, and checks made payable to a company
- Amscot: cashes cashier’s checks, government checks, insurance checks, money orders, payroll checks, personal checks, out-of-state checks, tax refund checks, and traveler’s checks
- Speedy Cash: cashes cashier’s checks, government checks, money orders, payroll checks, and personal checks
- The Check Cashing Store: cashes government checks, money orders, insurance checks, payroll checks, personal checks, and small business checks
Select convenience stores throughout the US have in-store kiosks that make it simple to cash checks, including 7-Eleven, Flying J Travel Centers (or Pilot), Sheetz, Stripes, Travel Centers of America. Fees and allowable check types vary by location and kiosk, so it’s best to read the fine print before moving forward.
If the convenience store is open 24/7, you’re free to use the kiosks to cash your checks whenever you see fit.
Why not cash your check while out an about picking up groceries for the week or that last-minute meal? You have several establishments to choose from, including Albertsons, Food Lion, Giant Eagle, H-E-B Grocer, Hyvee, Kroger, Meijer, Publix, WinCo, and Winn Dixie.
Along with grocery stores, some major retailers offer to cash your checks in exchange for a fee. Two popular options available at multiple locations throughout the nation include:
- Kmart: offers check cashing services of $1 or less on government checks, payroll checks, and tax refund checks of up to $2,000. A $500 limit applies to two-party personal checks.
- Walmart: cashes cashier’s checks, government checks, insurance settlement checks, MoneyGram money orders, payroll checks, pre-printed checks, retirement disbursement checks, and tax checks. Pre-printed checks up to $1,000 can be cashed for as little as $4. Pre-printed checks between $1,001 and $5,000 can be cashed for a fee of up to $8.00. A limit of $200 applies to two-party personal checks.
Prepaid Debit Card Accounts
Long gone are the days of having to load your prepaid debit card with cash. Several new and improved prepaid debit card products allow you to make check deposits via their mobile app. They include ADP, Bluebird by American Express, Chime Banking, Green Dot, Ingo Money App, NetSpend, and Transact by 7-Eleven.
While the funds may not be available on your card right away, it beats paying a third-party a fee to cash your check. And you’ll have a debit card at your disposal when needed, which prevents the need to carry around a large wad of cash.
A Relative or Friend
Do you have a relative or friend that you trust to do the right thing if you hand over the check? Consider making the check payable to them and ask them to cash it and hand the funds over to you.
To do so, you’ll need to flip the check over and write “Pay to the order of (insert intended recipient’s name) directly underneath the part that says “Endorse Here”. Be sure to sign directly underneath your note, but do not write on the portion of the check that says “Original Document”.
Your Place of Employment
If most of your coworkers don’t have a bank account, your employer may offer on-site check cashing for payroll checks. It’s up to your employer to decide how much they will charge for this service. But keep in mind that they probably won’t offer to cash personal checks as there are strict regulations in place when doing so.
Can You Cash a Check Without an ID?
Since financial institutions and other entities that cash checks require at least one, if not two, forms of identification, it’s impossible to cash a check without ID. That’s unless you initiate a mobile deposit using your smartphone or use an ATM so the check can post to your account right away. Even if you choose the electronic route, you won’t have access to the funds until the waiting period lapses.
The Bottom Line
Even if you’re an unbanked consumer, cashing a check doesn’t have to be an exercise in frustration. There are several solid options to choose from, but be prepared to pay a fee for the services. Or you can open a bank account to make your life easier.