If you have a bank account and need to cash a check, you can deposit the check in-person at the bank. These days, you can even avoid a trip to the bank by using a mobile app to deposit the check. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes in most cases. But how do you cash a check if you don’t have a bank account?
Millions of Americans are “unbanked” – meaning that they do not have a bank account. There are several reasons why people don’t have a bank account. They lack proper IDs, do not have access to a bank nearby, or distrust the banking system. Or they may earn money in cash and wish not to deposit it in a bank account to avoid scrutiny.
One of the reasons it is so hard to cash a check without a bank is that the bank or the store cashing the check needs to protect itself against fraud. So expect the bank to ask for government-issued ID. That’s usually a driver’s license. But if you don’t have one, you can use a passport or a green card. Depending on the bank, a military or a school ID may also work.
Where to cash a check if you don’t have a bank account
Bank or Credit Union that issued the check
If you receive a check, your best bet to cash the check is to go to the bank or the credit union that issued it. For the bank, this has the least fraud risk and they will be happy to cash the check for you if you have two forms of government-issued ID (eg. diver’s license and passport)
This will be your cheapest option. It may even be free if the check is within a certain dollar amount.
Keep an eye on the fees that banks may charge you for cashing the check. The fee varies from bank to bank. Capital One and Citibank have zero fees in most cases. Chase and Bank of America charge $8 to cash a check.
Endorse a check over to a friend
If you have a friend you can trust and he or she has a checking account, you can endorse the check over to them. They will be able to cash the check for you.
Not all banks do this, so check with your friend and the bank if this will work. To endorse a check, sign and write “Pay to the order of [your friend’s name]. Then they will be able to deposit into their checking account.
Walmart will cash most checks for a reasonable fee. Not surprisingly, Walmart charges lower fees than most banks. You can get cash or even Walmart cards if you prefer.
Grocery stores like Kroger, HEB, etc. also cash checks. Requirements vary between stores, so call them before heading out to the store to cash a check.
7-Eleven stores have automated kiosks where you can cash a check. In addition to cashing checks, these kiosks called Vcoms (stands for Virtual Commerce) also allows you to pay bills.
Check cashing stores
These stores go by many names – payday lenders, title loans, and cash advance. A popular payday lender is Ace Cash Express, But what these stores all have in common is that they charge extremely high fees for their services. If you borrow money from them, expect to pay punitive interest rates.
But for those who don’t have access to a bank nearby, these check cashing stores can help cash a check. Make sure you read and understand the fees. This is likely to be your most expensive option.
Prepaid Debit Cards
If you have a reloadable debit card, you may be able to deposit your check as a reload. This is one of the least known ways of cashing a check and you can do it from your phone.
Most of these reloadable debit cards have a mobile app that you can use to upload and cash a check. If that’s not an option, you can always walk into a “partner location” and reload the card with your check. You can the partner locations from the debit card provider’s website.
Prepaid debit cards get a bad rap due to the high and hidden fees they charge. But they can be a good way to cash a check.
Places that don’t cash a check
We have some to expect warehouse clubs like Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’S Wholesale Club to do everything. But none of these clubs cash a check. They don’t even cash business or government checks.
There are many places you can cash your check if you don’t have a bank account. Credit unions, banks, grocery stores, and even some convenience stores cash checks. Fees vary and some places such as check cashing stores are more expensive than banks. Always understand the fees before you cash a check.