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Places Where You Can Cash Your Check
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For millions of consumers without a bank account, cashing a check isn’t easy. About 5.9 million U.S. households do not have a checking or savings account at a bank or credit union, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s 2021 Survey of the Unbanked and Underbanked.
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There are ways to cash a check without a bank account, but they cost more money, often take more time, and are riskier than cashing a check at a bank where you have an account. Here are five different ways to do it and how much they will cost you.
Banks and credit unions are not required to cash checks for non-customers, but many banks will cash a check written by a current account holder at that bank, even if it is made payable to a non-customer.
There must be sufficient funds in the payer’s account to cover the check. The payee (the person to whom the check is issued) is required to show government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license, before the bank will cash the check.
The payee should also expect to pay interest on the check amount, such as 1 percent or a flat fee. This can be added over time. For example, if you get paid 52 weeks a year and it costs you $8 to cash your paycheck at a traditional bank where you don’t have an account, that adds up to $416 a year in check cashing fees.
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There may be other obstacles, such as check amount limits and rejection of two-sided personal checks. Checks that are six months old or older may even be rejected.
Walmart charges $4 for cashier checks up to $1,000, a maximum fee of $8 for checks over $1,000 and a maximum fee of $6 for two-sided checks.
Many grocery chains offer check cashing services. Kroger and Publix are just a couple. Fees usually range from $3 to $6.
Consumers without bank accounts sometimes use prepaid cards to deposit checks and access cash. Prepaid cards are similar to checking account debit cards. Your spending is limited by how much money you have loaded on the card.
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Prepaid cards have different check cashing options. Some prepaid cards allow you to set up direct deposit so that checks are automatically loaded onto the card. Other cards come with an app that lets you take a picture of your check to load it onto your card. Or, you may be able to deposit your check at an ATM to load the money onto your card.
Fees are a big drawback of prepaid cards. The Walmart MoneyCard charges $2.50 to withdraw money from an ATM (no bank fee) or at a bank teller window, and 50 cents to check your card balance at an ATM. The monthly fee is $5.94 unless you transfer at least $500 per month to the card.
Reloading fees can be high. Adding funds to a Green Dot Prepaid Visa card costs up to $5.95. Green Dot also charges $32.50 for ATM withdrawals and 50 cents for ATM balance requests. Additionally, there is a $7.95 monthly fee when the card is not loaded with at least $1,000.
Check cashers are probably the most expensive places to cash checks. Some of these require customers to become “members” or purchase check cashing ID cards before cashing checks. In addition to the membership fee, they may charge a first-time usage fee.
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Check cashers typically charge 1 percent to 12 percent of the face value of the check. Some businesses charge a percentage of the flat tax. Most checks cashed are paychecks and government benefits.
The national check cashing fee for one of these services is 4.1 percent, according to the Consumer Federation of America. So if you cash a $500 check, for example, the fee would be $20.50. If that was your weekly paycheck, you’d pay $1,066 in check cashing fees over the course of a year.
Check cashing stores are not only very expensive, but there is a risk of fraudulent practices. For example, the Better Business Bureau warns consumers about a scam when check-cashing store customers are called by someone claiming to represent the business. The subscriber offers the customer a loan and requests payment to secure the loan. Of course, the loan is never made and the customer at the check-cashing store gets scammed out of the cash.
Another way to cash a check without a bank account is to sign the check to a trusted friend or relative who has a bank account and cash the check at their bank.
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Make sure the person you are signing your check for wants to cash the check and that they