We don’t live in a cashless society yet, where everybody either gives you money via direct deposit, PayPal, or Venmo. Until that day arrives, you will periodically receive a personal check that needs to be cashed. Thankfully, you can cash a personal check without a bank account!
If you start a side hustle this year–local or online–your only payment method might be a paper check.
The best place to cash a check for free is a bank. If you don’t have a bank account, check out CIT bank which pays up to 1.55% interest. They allow you to deposit check directly from your mobile phone for free.
If you want some other options, here are the best places to cash your personal check at the lowest possible price, maybe even for free!
1. Your Local Credit Union
If for no other reason, you might decide to open a bank account just to cash personal checks for free. I recommend joining a credit union before a bank because they charge fewer fees and oftentimes don’t have minimum account balance requirements. For example, my credit union only requires us to have at least $1 in our account to keep our account active without penalty.
Regardless of our current account balance, your local bank or credit union should cash a personal check for free as a member benefit. So, pick a local credit union or bank that offers free checking and is convenient to access; it’s one of the very few ways you can cash a check for free.
2. Visit the Issuing Bank
You can also visit the issuing bank to instantly cash your personal check. If the check is issued by BB&T Bank for example, you can visit your local BB&T branch and cash the check, even if you don’t bank there yourself. As with any of these check cashing locations, you will need to bring your id to verify your identity.
Each bank has different check policies for non-customers. You might not pay a fee at all, or you could pay one of the following fees:
- $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
While it’s possible to cash your check for free, these fees can easily be more expensive than some of the other options mentioned here. Before walking into the local branch, take a few minutes to call ahead and compare their fees to the third-party locations listed below.
Some banks might only offer non-customers prepaid debit cards for cashed checks. These prepaid cards can come with monthly maintenance fees and expiration dates. If you receive a prepaid debit card, make sure you know the terms and conditions and be 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 go to a Walmart before you travel by the issuing bank or another check cashing store. 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, but the limit increases to $7,500 between January and April. Walmart cashes your check for cash or a Walmart MoneyCard. The reload fee is waived for the MoneyCard.
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 given to you by a friend won’t be accepted by Walmart because it’s more likely to bounce; you walk away with the money and Walmart is stuck with the loss.
4. Your Local Grocery Store
Grocery stores are hit-and-miss with check cashing services and you will need to ask. Like Walmart, some might only cash payroll checks, cashiers’ checks, and money orders. 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.
Some grocers waive the check cashing fee if you elect store credit instead of cash. If you buy groceries at this supermarket, this is the better option because it’s more money in your pocket. And, you can get even more money back by shopping with Ibotta at grocery stores too.
5. Gas Station Travel Centers
Many gas stations no longer cash personal checks of any sort–handwritten, business, or government–because of the liability but you will have the most success at travel centers (truck stops) you find driving along the interstate.
You will most likely find check cashing at these full-service travel center brands:
Other gas station brands off check cashing services too, but once again, you will most likely need to visit a travel center that 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 with the Transact by 7-Eleven app. You can cash a check by taking a picture with your smartphone of your personal check. Most checks clear within 48 hours and the balance is deposited onto your reloadable 7-Eleven prepaid card that can be used for in-store purchases and free gas purchases too.
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. And, some banks require you to complete a form for further verification that your friend has permission to cash your check. Check online or call the bank before your friend goes alone and burns his gas money for nothing.
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.
PayPal is one of the largest payment processors and cashing personal checks is another way to make money with PayPal. For free with the PayPal app, 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.
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 come at a small fee. Handwritten personal checks less than $100 cost $5 to cash and balances greater than $100 cost 5% to cash. Pre-printed payroll and government checks costs $5 to cash for balances less than $250, then 2% for checks greater than $250.
You can avoid the cashing fees by waiting 10 days to receive the balance. But, you’ll only be able to deposit the check balance into one account.
9. Check Cashing Stores
This suggestion should always be your option of last resort because of the sky-high fees. These check cashing stores are easy to find in your local town and they will cash every type of personal check including handwritten checks from family and friends. As a tradeoff for this convenience, you will pay the highest check cashing fees and might even pay a monthly maintenance fee to keep your reloadable debit card.
Most locations charge a flat percentage that can be significantly higher than the flat dollar amount, plus a processing fee of a couple dollars to load the money onto their reloadable debit card.
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
- Not every store or bank charge identical fees
- Pay attention to daily redemption maximums
For the most part, cashing a check in-person is extremely easy; especially if you have a pre-printed check from an employer, government agency, or your tax refund. All you need to do is sign your check, show your photo id, and you instantly receive the balance minus any applicable check cashing fees.
When you need money now, there’s no shortage of options to cash a personal check locally. But, you will have to pay more at some places than others to cash your check. With this list, you’ll be able to quickly find the most affordable place to cash a check and without paying hefty fees.
What’s your go-to check cashing location? Do you usually prefer the cash or prepaid debit cards?
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