Internet banking is the new normal – and it's becoming less and less common to get paid by the old-fashioned check in America.
But despite our heavy reliance on the digital world of ACH, direct deposit, Venmo, PayPal, and the like, these valuable pieces of paper are far from obsolete.
Receiving a check is almost always exciting. Except trying to cash a check without a checking account can be more complicated than it needs to be.
Some banks won't cash personal checks if you aren't a customer- and most check cashing services will impose a fee. Lucky for you, there are other ways you can cash a personal check without a bank account. Just be ready to provide solid identification.
You're probably reading this article because you need to cash a check. I'll discuss the best places to cash a personal check quickly, places you'll pay little or nothing at all. Chances are there's one of these locations near where you live.
What is a Personal Check?
Personal checks are individual slips of paper issued by your bank that come with a pre-printed routing number and account number (the signature line is left blank for you to sign). They are used as a convenient way to withdraw or deposit funds from your checking account.
What You Need to Cash A Personal Check
The options of where you can cash a personal check made out to you are many, but knowing what documents or things may be needed is paramount for the process.
For starters, you will need to have some sort of government-issued ID. This can be a driver’s license, passport, military ID or another form of photo id.
Additional I.D. options would be a school i.d. or maybe even a utility bill, phone bill or another form of mail with your name on it.
Best Ways to Cash Checks (Near Me)
There are several reasons why someone or an organization might write you a check. You may receive a handwritten check from a reward site or side gig.
Or a friend could be buying something from you, paying back borrowed money, or giving you a birthday present.
Whatever the reason, when you receive a personal check, you want to turn it into real money. Fast. For most Americans, cashing a check is as simple as depositing at their issuing bank.
But according to a recent FDIC national survey, 25 percent of households in the United States are either unbanked or underbanked. Without access to a banking system, Americans that fall into this category rely on alternative financial services, such as payday loans, pawnshops, and check-cashing.
If you receive checks from multiple income sources, you're most likely wondering, where can I cash a personal check near me?
Ideally, you want to go for the one with the lowest fees. Here are your affordable options:
1. Use an App
I can see your surprised face here. Yes, there's an app for everything, even for cashing checks!
If you're already a PayPal user, the payment processor offers direct deposit from the comfort of your couch. You can cash checks and have them credited to your PayPal account using the “Cash a Check” feature.
To deposit the check straight into your account,
- simply snap a picture of the front and back,
- upload the picture on the app
- and wait for the check to be approved.
You can pay a fee and get your cash credited to your PayPal account in minutes. If you're in no hurry, you can get your money in 10 days for no fee.
Ingo Money is another app that you can use to deposit personal checks. Just endorse the check by signing it and snapping a photo of the front and back.
The funds will be released once the check is approved. You can access your money via PayPal, Amazon gift card, or a prepaid debit card.
2. Credit Union or Local Bank
This is an obvious one. Your own bank or credit union is your best bet for free check cashing because you already have a relationship with them.
It's free to deposit your check into a checking account. You can withdraw your money from an ATM or bank branch within a day or two. If you need the cash urgently, you can request to have the check deposited and cashed on the spot.
Cashing a check at just any bank or credit union will be difficult. Reason? They won't know immediately if the check will bounce or not. Before visiting a financial institution where you don't have an account, it's advisable to call ahead.
Also, bring some form of identification to make the process smoother. The bank has to be certain that they're cashing the check for the right person.
Credit unions and local banks have a higher cashing limit. They will typically cash a check for up to $5000. Depending on the institution, there may be a lower limit. Checks above $5000 will often attract a higher fee.
3. Gas Station
When you're in a cash crunch and looking for the best places to cash a personal check, you're probably looking for something near you.
Gas stations used to be a popular option to cash handwritten checks. But due to the high risk of fraud, most stations stopped offering this service.
However, most travel centers (truck stops) next to gas stations still do. Look for these two gas station check cashing options:
- TravelCenters of America
- and Pilot Flying J.
Note that not all locations will be able to cash a check. Call beforehand to find ones that do.
4. The Issuing Bank
Most banks will only cash checks for non-customers if those specific banks issue the checks. This is the safest and fastest way to get cash.
If you're out of town, consider visiting the bank where the check's issuer has an account. Even then, you might be charged a check-cashing fee.
This fee varies from bank to bank, and some banks will impose a percentage of the check amount.
- Bank of America charges non-customers $6,
- BBVA Compass Bank $8,
- US Bank $7,
- BMO Harris $10 (must be $50 or more),
- SunTrust $7 (free for checks less than $50).
These fees are meant to cover the cost of processing the check.
To avoid paying this fee, simply open an account with the issuing bank. You can request the teller to check the account it's drawn from to ensure the availability of the funds.
To find the issuing institution, just look for the bank's logo or name on the bottom left of the check. To get your cash checked, visit a local branch of your issuing bank.
Most banks have a branch locator tool on their site.
5. Transact by 7-Eleven
If you have an account at a local bank, you can always cash your check there.
But if you're experiencing a difficult time qualifying for a bank account, you may still be able to cash your check at Transact by 7-Eleven, one of the few gas station chains that still cash checks.
Load checks right onto your 7-eleven prepaid MasterCard when you download the Transact App. For standard mobile check loading, you won't be charged a dime.
To do this, open the app and snap a photo of the check. You can select to add the check to the balance of your card. You must wait 48 hours to have access to money.
If you need to access your cash faster, try expedited mobile check cashing for $5 or 2 percent of the check amount, whichever is greater.
After the check clears, you can use the reloadable card at any location that accepts MasterCard.
6. Prepaid Debit Cards
A prepaid card account is another option to consider if you don't need cash immediately.
Financial institutions know that a big portion of Americans is underbanked or unbanked, and to cater to this demographic, they offer prepaid card accounts.
Getting a prepaid debit card will make you a bank customer. You will be able to enjoy low-cost or free check cashing services.
For instance, Chase offers a prepaid card that allows you to deposit checks at any of their ATMs for free. What's the catch? You'll have to pay a $4.95 monthly service fee.
If you cash checks in large amounts regularly, consider setting up a prepaid debit card account.
However, it would be best if you considered caveats such as monthly service fees, out-of-network ATM fees, inactivity fees, and other hidden fees.
7. Walmart Store
Big box retailers such as Walmart offer check cashing services for customers. More often than not, Walmart charges less than you'll pay at banks and check-cashing stores.
These days, you can find a Walmart store (or a few) in your area. According to their website, they have over 4700 stores in the United States. No more stressing over where to cash checks near me.
Walmart has a simple system. They will only cash a personal check written to you if it's less than $200, and you must bring a government ID.
The fee is $6 or less. If you want to buy more, you will have to come up with multiple checks within $200.
They'll also cash government checks, payroll checks, tax checks, insurance settlement checks, cashier's checks, and MoneyGram money orders. The check cashing limit is $5000 and $7500 during tax season.
You can request the actual cash amount or an equivalent of Walmart Moneycard. It's up to you to decide whether to take cash or use that check to do your grocery shopping.
8. Grocery Store
Grocery stores also cash checks and money orders. Many franchise stores list different money services on their websites.
Most parent companies allow stores to determine their own policies, making them a hit or miss. What this means is that the type of checks your local grocery store will cash can vary. Some stores accept personal checks, but others don't.
To avoid disappointment, call ahead and ask if they can cash your personal check. You will probably need to join a loyalty program to cash a check at a grocery store.
Most grocery stores also require a government-issued ID to cash your check.
If you live in:
- or West Virginia,
you can cash a personal check at one of Giant Eagle's 474 locations.
While you won't receive cash for your check, your Giant Eagle Advantage card will be credited with equal value (no fees). This makes sense if you typically shop at that store.
If you have a Kmart store near you, they are a cheap option for cashing personal checks. They accept up to $500 and charge only a dollar.
Publix also does personal checks for people living in:
- North Carolina,
- South Carolina,
- and Tennessee.
Still, you'll need to provide a state-issued photo ID card, a driver's license, or military identification. The only downside is that they only accept a maximum of $75 per day.
9. Endorse The Check to a Friend
Sometimes, all the help you need to cash a check is right there next to you.
If you don't have a checking account, but your friend, colleague or family member who has a checking account agrees to cash the check, things could be easier for you.
Just sign your name at the back of the check to endorse the check over to him or her to cash. Beneath your signature, write “Pay to the order of (new payee's name).”
Your friend can go to the nearest branch, cash the check for free and give the funds to you.
You may need to accompany the “third party” to the bank to verify your identity. Since individual bank policies vary, first confirm with the bank if they will honor the check this way.
10. Check Cashing Stores
If you don't have a checking account or don't live near a Walmart or grocery store that cashes checks, there's probably a check-cashing facility nearby that you can use.
Do you have a check that you know banks won't touch? Check-cashing stores got you! They have made it their business to cash such checks but at higher rates.
Depending on your state, the store's fees may be capped at 2.5 or 3 percent. That's a steep price to pay. Check-cashing stores should be used as a last resort.
Decent check cashing stores include:
- Ace Cash Express: Headquartered in Irving, Texas, has over 950 locations across 24 states and the District of Columbia and charges 3 percent to cash a check.
- Check Into Cash Stores: Over 1100 retail locations in 30 states for check cashing and other monetary services. They charge $2 per check after your first check cashing.
- Money Mart: 700 locations and charges 3 percent to cash a personal check.
Besides personal checks, they also accept small business checks, insurance checks and money orders. Unaffiliated with banks, check-cashing stores may also provide other services such as title loans and payday loans.
Confirm before cashing any check.
Expensive Places to Cash A Personal Check
Of course, there are some places you should avoid when cashing a check, such as payday loan providers. If it's possible to use the other options I mention above, then do so because of their much lower fees and convenience!
However, if you don't have any choice but to visit one of these businesses for your emergency cash needs you will have to pay some pretty high fees.
You will pay interest as high as 5%-20% on the check, as well as additional fees on top of that. This is why paying for expensive check-cashing services should always be avoided.
If you absolutely have no other option but to pay for this service, always remember to shop around and compare fees.
Can You Cash A Personal Check At An ATM?
Short answer, YES!
However, you need to be a customer of the bank to use their ATM to cash a check.
Also, not all ATMs offer check cashing services. If your ATM allows these options, carry your bank card, check and pen, and follow the screen's prompts.
Depending on your bank or account status, they may have a hold time for the entire amount. Before the ATM dispenses your cash, you may be required to have the amount of the funds already available in your account.
Cashing A Personal Check With Insufficient Funds
Can I cash a personal check with insufficient funds? It depends.
But first, it's unethical to knowingly cash a bad check with insufficient funds. Under normal circumstances, it's almost impossible to cash a personal check with no fund behind it.
But you may be able to cash the same check if you go to a different bank than the check writer's own bank. That bank has no idea whether the check writer has enough funds to cover it.
When the check bounces, that bank will charge the originator bank, which will, in turn, penalize the person who wrote the check.
Things To Keep In Mind When Cashing A Personal Check
The first step into cashing a check when it's written out to you is to endorse it. You can do this by signing the back of it with your name.
Include your account number right below your signature if you'll be depositing it directly into an account.
It's normal for institutions offering check cashing services to require some form of identification. Carry your
- bank card,
- state-issued ID,
- US passport,
- Military ID,
- Resident Alien ID,
- or Driver's license with you to cash it.
You may be required to provide more than one form of identification if you're trying to cash a large check.
It's best to shop around and research nearby locations for the lowest-cost option. Beware of fake check scams by inspecting the numbers, paper quality, and checking for mistakes.
Cashing a personal check without a bank account is a hassle. If you're unbanked, it's vital to work towards opening a bank account. Many banks have minimal opening balance requirements and low to zero fees.
If you urgently need to cash a personal or handwritten check, the above-discussed places will allow you to pay as little as possible in fees to access your checks.
Hopefully, I have answered, “where can I cash a personal check besides a bank?” I did my best to provide as much information about their fees and hold times as possible.
You might also want to look into ways to get cash back at stores with your debit card and avoid the atm fees associated with a cash withdraw. Go where you feel the most comfortable.