It’s been a wild year, so you might find that you are having trouble cashing checks. Many Americans have started working jobs on the side to make up for lost income. Some people may still be getting paid by check instead of direct deposit.
Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to turn that check into money that you can actually use.
Where To Cash A Personal Check
Your Bank or Credit Union
The best place to cash a personal check is the bank or credit union where you have a checking account. Most banks and credit unions will offer free check cashing to customers that they are familiar with. This can be a significant saving as most of the other options will charge a fee for the service.
Depending on the size of the check and if you are a new customer or have a relatively low balance, the bank may be willing to only cash a portion of the check while waiting for it to clear.
If your bank doesn’t offer free check cashing for customers, this is a red flag and you might want to start looking for another bank.
Credit Unions are a great option as well. If there are any fees, they will typically be lower at a Credit Union. They also usually offer better interest rates and lower account minimums.
The Issuing Bank
If you don’t have a relationship with a bank or a credit union, the next best thing that you can do is visit the institution that issued the check. The name of the bank or credit union will be listed on the check and all you must do is visit the local branch. This might even be preferable to cashing the check at your bank if you use a different bank or credit union. If you visit the issuing bank, you will likely have to pay a fee, but you will be able to access the total amount. This is because the amount that the check was written for is currently sitting on the issuing bank’s books. If you deposit the check at a separate institution, they might want to wait for the check to clear to confirm that all the funds are there. When you go to the issuing bank, there’s no need for this.
The best-case scenario is that you have an account at the issuing bank. If you’re fortunate enough for this to be the case, you won’t have to pay any processing fees and you’ll be able to access the entirety of the funds immediately.
Cash Your Check Using an App
If you need cash equivalent quickly there are several apps that offer a mobile deposit service. Unfortunately, you won’t be receiving greenbacks–but you will still be able to spend the money in a variety of places. If you do want cold, hard, cash then you’ll have to do a second transaction with something like MoneyGram.
Ingo is a really popular check cashing app and is often touted as the number one check cashing app on the market. It has a really simple format and once you download the app it’s just like any other mobile deposit.
What Ingo has going for it is that there are a lot of options for where to deposit the money. Once you deposit your check with Ingo, you can send your money to PayPal, Amazon, your favorite prepaid debit card, or even pay a credit card bill online.
The service is a little expensive. It costs 5% of the balance of your deposit. If the check is under $100, it will cost $5 which could end up being a large percentage of the total balance. If the check is a payroll check or comes from the government, then the fee is only 2% of the balance. If you’re willing to wait ten days then Ingo will waive the fee. But this usually defeats the purpose of using a check cashing app to get your money quickly!
PayPal’s check cashing service is actually partnered with Ingo so the look and feel of the process are very similar. The fees are even the same. For deposits under $100, they charge a $5 fee. For deposits over $100 the fee is a flat 5%. If the checking being deposited comes from the government or a verified payroll service, the fee is only 2%. You also have the option to wait ten days to receive the money–in this case, the fee is completely waived.
In order to convert this money into cash, you can load the money onto a prepaid debit card and then use an ATM to withdraw your cash. The fee for this transfer is only $.25 so it’s a very inexpensive solution.
NetSpend is a prepaid debit card service that lets you deposit checks using their mobile app. They offer a wide array of services to people without formal bank accounts and are a great choice for turning a check into cash. They also offer the option to use direct deposit and have thousands of locations across the country where you can load your NetSpend card with cash. If you want to cash a check using NetSpend, all you need to do is deposit your check using your mobile app. Once the money is loaded onto your NetSpend card, you just go to an ATM.
Green Dot is another mobile application that helps people who want a more convenient way to access money quickly. Green Dot has partnered with Ingo to process mobile deposits. The process is the same as when you use Ingo by itself, so if you’re familiar with mobile deposits it won’t be a problem. It might be better to just use Ingo rather than one of their partners. But Green Dot offers some great additional services that might make it worthwhile to bank with them. They are an actual FDIC insured bank that really provides that extra level of comfort for their customers. If you deposit your money with Green Dot it will be safe.
Boost Mobile Wallet
Boost Mobile is a great solution for people who already use Boost Mobile for their cell service. They have a payment processing app that will allow you to deposit your check and send the money to thousands of different vendors. Of course, you can also pay your bill with Boost Mobile. Boost Mobile Wallet also allows you to send money to other people that have the app, similar to Venmo or Zelle. Once you send the money to a friend using the Boost Mobile Wallet, just ask them for cash!
Walmart Check Cashing
Walmart is a great option for turning checks into cash and is convenient for a huge number of Americans. They are increasingly offering more services that include financing, money transfers, money orders, and even check to print. Walmart is a legitimate institution that you can feel safe working with.
Here’s a list of the types of checks that they’ll cash:
- Pre-Printed checks
- Payroll checks
- Government checks
- Tax checks
- Cashiers’ checks
- Insurance settlement checks
- 401(k), retirement disbursement checks
- MoneyGram money orders
- Two-Party personal checks
Here are the fees and limits:
- For pre-printed checks up to and including $1,000: max. $4.00
- For pre-printed checks over $1,000 up to and including $5,000: max. $8.00
- Two-Party personal checks are limited to $200
- All other checks $5,000 ($7,500 from Jan-Apr)
Your Local Grocery Store
Some grocery stores still cash checks but unfortunately, it’s falling out of favor. As most transactions move online, a higher percentage of check transactions that remain are fraudulent which makes it difficult for some businesses to keep offering the service.
Don’t expect your local grocer on Main St. to turn your check into cash, but a lot of the larger national chains are still cashing checks.
You’ll likely have to pay a fee for the service but if you don’t have any other options, cashing your check at a grocery store isn’t a bad option. They might even waive the fee if you’re willing to accept store credit instead of cash.
Here’s a list of a few large grocery store chains that still cash checks:
Gas Station Travel Centers
If you’re on the road, you might try to cash a check at a travel center. It’s unlikely that any local gas stations will cash your check, but a couple of the national travel centers will still do it. It will be hit or miss though so if you’re traveling, you might want to call ahead to confirm that they will cash your check. Otherwise, you might end up driving around all day and never find a travel center that will cash your check.
The best candidates for cashing your check are:
Transact by 7-Eleven
7-Eleven has been evolving with the times and has really adapted to meet the needs of the modern consumer. Their rewards system and associated app is quite sophisticated and many people who frequent the convenience store chain are very satisfied customers. You might not think that 7-Eleven would cash checks for you and they don’t–kind of. 7-Eleven offers a reloadable card that they call “Transact”. Once you have a Transact card and download the app on your phone, you can do a mobile deposit through the app and the balance will hit your Transact card usually within 48 hours.
Once your check clears, you’ll be able to use your Transact card like a normal debit card to purchase whatever you want. Transact by 7-Eleven is a great option for people without formal bank accounts. Since their debit card allows you to make purchases anywhere that debit cards are accepted it mimics a lot of the functionality of a checking account without the hassle of actually opening an account.
Write Your Check Over to a Friend
This is a solid option if you have a friend who has cash and trusts that your check is going to clear. The process is pretty straight forward and not all that different from what you do when you normally deposit a check. When you deposit a check in your own account, all you need to do is sign your name on the back to endorse it. When you sign your check over to someone else, all you need to do is sign your name in the endorsement section and then also write in “pay to the order of:” followed by your friend’s name.
Some banks won’t allow this at all–but most will. It’s also likely that the bank that accepts the deposit may want you to be present with your friend when he or she deposits the check. Additionally, you might be required to fill out a form.
A variation of this might be an ideal solution if you are one of the many people who are starting side-gigs to help support themselves through the pandemic. If you have a partner that you are working with, your customer can make out one check to your partner who has a bank account. Then he or she can deposit the check into their bank account and pay you your share in cash.
Check-cashing stores are not a great option but if you are absolutely stuck, then you might have to visit one. They charge extremely high fees and are often criticized for taking advantage of people who don’t have bank accounts or access to better options for cashing their checks. Fortunately, because of technology, they are becoming less and less common, but there are still plenty of stores out there. They are typically open 24 hours a day and are frequently the target of robbery attempts. So if you are going there after you get off your nightshift to cash your paycheck, be on the lookout for this too!
They will give you cash right away and will accept almost any kind of check, but this is the convenience that you’re paying for. If you’re able to download any of the apps that we mentioned, go to Walmart, or even ask a friend, you’ll be much better off than going to one of these check-cashing stores.
BitWage is a payroll direct deposit option for the 21st century. It won’t work for all checks but if you’re trying to cash checks that you get from your employer this might work for you. All you need to do is sign up for BitWage and provide the banking details to your employer just like you would as if you were doing direct deposit with a normal bank. On payday, the money will be sent to your account at BitWage and allocated however you specify between dollars and Bitcoin. Bitcoin isn’t physical cash but it’s definitely an alternative. Digital currencies might be where the financial system is soon headed, so it’s a good idea to get familiar with how it works.
What to Look For When Cashing a Personal Check
Now that you’ve decided where you’re going to cash your check, it’s time to double-check the check that you received and make sure that everything is in order. This is a complete guide, so making sure you know how to cash a personal check is important. If anything is out of place, it’s possible that whoever is processing the check will reject it. Or worse than that, if the check is initially accepted and then rejected you might have to pay a fee.
Pay to the Order Of
Make sure that whoever writes the check uses your proper name. It has to be the name that is on your driver’s license or whatever form of ID you’ll be showing at the bank. If you’re using a mobile app, it will have to be the name that they have on file for you. If you were recently married and changed your name or if you have a nickname or shortened name that most people call you, be careful. If you try to cash the check at a bank or in-person service then they will very likely reject you if the names do not match. If the names don’t match when you receive the check you should immediately ask whoever wrote it to void that check and write you a new one.
Matching Dollar Amounts
Something else that the bank or check cashier will look for is that the dollar amounts match. The amount will be written in numerical form in a small box on the right side of the check. The amount will also be written out in long-form on a line in the center of the check. These amounts have to match. If the numerical amount was the only one that mattered then anyone would be able to turn the decimal into a comma and add a few zeros at the end! Matching dollar amounts are one of the most important aspects of a check. It protects the issuer but also protects you from any inadvertent trouble or hassles that would arise from a check mistakenly being deposited for an incorrect amount.
The Check Issuer Signs the Check
This is an obvious one but it’s easy to forget. The person who writes the check needs to sign the front of it. You will endorse the back of the check when you deposit but the check needs to have both signatures on it to be accepted. You can look at a check as a miniature contract. The person who wrote the check is certifying that they intend to give you the amount that’s written on the check. Your part of the contract is to receive the money. The contract needs to have both parties sign it. If only one person has signed the check then there is no contract.
The date that’s written on the check cannot be in the future. Ideally, the person that writes the check will put today’s date on it. They may write a past date on it. This is called “backdating”. It’s not the right thing to do and is probably something that they’re doing for their accounting purposes. This should not cause problems for you though unless the date is very far past. What will cause a problem is if the date is in the future. The person who writes the check may do this to prevent you from depositing it until that date. They will do this if they don’t have the funds in their account at the moment and are anticipating receiving a transfer that will cover the amount of the check that they’re writing to you. If this is what’s happening, be careful! The money that they anticipate receiving might not come in on time and when you deposit the check it might bounce. If someone is acting funny about the date that they write on the check it might be best to ask for cash or some other form of payment.