We don’t live in a cashless society yet. Direct deposit, PayPal and Venmo become more popular by the day, but personal checks are still a thing. Until that day arrives, you will receive a personal check that needs to be cashed. You’re probably here because you need to cash a personal check.
If you start a side hustle this year–local or online–some clients only pay by paper check. Mail-in rebates might send you a paper check too. In either instance, you can’t access the money until you cash it.
Cash a Personal Check Without a Bank Account
The best place to cash a check for free is your personal bank or credit union. Free check cashing is one of your member benefits. By visiting your local branch, you have instant access to your cash.
If you don’t have a bank account, check out CIT Bank. It’s an online bank with free check cashing. They pay up to 1.85% interest as of 9/21/2018 for their money market account. CIT Bank lets you deposit a check directly from your mobile phone for free.
You don’t need an online bank account to cash checks. It’s possible to cash a personal check locally and with a mobile app. In some cases, you can cash them for free!
1. Your Local Bank or Credit Union
If for no other reason, you might decide to open a bank account just to cash personal checks for free. BBVA Bank offers free checking accounts. Finding a free check cashing place can be a hassle if the checks are from different banks.
Depending on your local bank options, you might be better 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 account fees. Many credit unions only require a $5 minimum balance to keep your account open.
Your local bank or credit union should cash a personal check for free. This is a free member benefit for most banks. If not, you should look for a new checking account. So, pick a local credit union or bank that offers free checking and is convenient to access. Opening a bank account is still one best way to cash a check for free on a regular basis.
Tip: Stash your cash online at CIT Bank. They have some of the highest interest rates in the banking industry.
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. Banks might also have a higher cashing limit than retail stores too.
The issuing bank’s name is located in the bottom left corner above the memo line. Go to your local branch to instantly cash the check. As with any of these check cashing locations, you will need to bring your id to verify your identity.
If the check is issued by BB&T Bank, you can visit your local BB&T branch. The teller can instantly check the account balance to make sure there are sufficient funds.
Each bank has different cashing policies for non-customers. Don’t be surprised if you are charged a non-customer fee. Some banks and credit unions don’t 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 below:
- $0 for any check balance less than $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. Or, another check cashing store for that matter.
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:
- $3 for each check, up to $1,000
- $6 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. Walmart cashes your check for cash or a Walmart MoneyCard. They waive the reload fee for the MoneyCard for select payroll and government checks.
Unfortunately, Walmart only cashes these types of personal checks:
- Payroll checks
- Government checks
- Tax checks
- Cashiers’ checks
- Insurance settlement checks
- 401 (k), retirement disbursement checks
- MoneyGram money orders that were purchased at Walmart
A handwritten check won’t be accepted by Walmart because it’s more likely to bounce. Even your spouse writes it. Too many people in the past walked away with the money and Walmart was stuck with the loss.
Tip: Get a $10 Walmart gift card with your first online order with Ebates!
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. Like Walmart, 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 this supermarket, this is the better option. Waiving the fees also saves you a trip to the issuing bank to cash the check for free!
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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.
Two full-service travel center brands to try are:
Only a select few of their locations cash checks so you should try another location first.
Other gas station brands offer to cash checks. Once again, you will most likely need to visit a travel center. A travel center accepts personal vehicles and has dedicated refueling lanes for semi-trucks.
6. Transact by 7-Eleven
One of the few gas stations that cash checks are 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. The balance can be used for in-store purchases and free gas.
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 Online
If you don’t need the money immediately, 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 might prefer Ingo Money because of the multiple redemption options:
- Direct deposit
- Prepaid debit card
- PayPal account
- Amazon gift card
- Online bill pay
With the first four options, the personal check balance will deposit in a matter of minutes. When you want to use your check amount to pay bills for participating vendors, the bill payment posts the next business day. You can also split the balance between multiple accounts.
This flexibility does cost a small fee. Handwritten personal checks less than $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 less than $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, you can only deposit the balance into one account.
Use Ingo Money to deposit your check into a Chime Bank spending account. Chime offers free ATM access. You can also receive your direct deposit checks two days early!
PayPal is one of the largest payment processors in the world. Cashing personal checks is another way you can make money with PayPal. You can take a picture of the front and back of each check. The amount will deposit into your PayPal account within three business days.
You can cash up to $1,000 per day. This service is free if you wait 10 days to access your cash! To have instant access, you must pay a fee based on the check balance.
Once your balance is unlocked, you can transfer it to another bank account in one day. Another option is transferring the balance to your debit card in minutes. Debit card transfers currently cost 25 cents as of September 2018.
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 September 19, 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, large balances can be lower at most places. Even if they charge a percentage of the check balance too.
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 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 personal 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 but 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 (including Walmart) 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:
- Government Agencies
- Your tax refund
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.
When you need money now, cashing a check is an easy option. There’s no shortage of options to cash a personal 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?