Though online payment services like Apple Cash and Venmo continue to gain in popularity, we’ll all still probably receive a paper check at some point in our lives, whether from an employer, from the government or from a friend paying us back for the dinner we bought. But what happens when you don’t have a bank account to cash it?
There are several ways you can cash a check if you don’t bank anywhere. To get your money from a physical location, you’ll need to bring a form of identification, such as a passport or driver’s license. Other options, like prepaid debit cards, might let you do it all online.
We’ll explain how you can cash a check without a bank account. If you’re interested in getting an account, here’s how to open a bank account online.
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Visit the bank that issued the check
To cash a check without a bank account, try visiting the bank that issued the check -- for instance, Chase Bank or PNC Bank. Though they aren’t required to, most banks will cash checks that’ve been issued by them, as long as you bring a form of ID. Do note that banks can refuse to cash a check if it’s more than six months old, as it’s considered a “stale check.”
Also, be aware that banks can charge fees to cash checks for noncustomers. If you’re planning to cash checks regularly -- for instance, from your employer -- call your state banking department or state Attorney General’s office to see if your state has a law that prevents you from having to pay fees.
Many stores will cash checks
Many stores, including retail outlets, gas stations and grocery stores, will cash a check -- but it’ll cost you a fee. Walmart, for example, will charge a max fee of $4 for checks up to $1,000 and a max fee of $8 for checks above $1,000. Pawnshops and jewelry stores may also cash checks these days.
To cash your check at a larger retail store, like Walmart or Kroger, visit the customer service desk or a money services counter. Don’t forget to bring your ID. For gas stations, you just need to present your check to the cashier, and they’ll cash it for you.
If you’re concerned about hefty fees for cashing checks, call around to see who has the lowest rates. Check-cashing outlets and payday loan stores can also cash your check, but experts usually consider them the most expensive option since they may charge membership or first-time use fees and often charge higher cashing fees, typically ranging from 2% to 15% of your check’s value (though the exact amount varies by location and company).
Ask a friend or relative to cash your check for you
Though it isn’t the most convenient route, you can see if a friend or relative with a bank account will cash a check for you. You’ll avoid fees, and it’s actually easy to do -- just make sure you trust the person helping you.
To have someone else cash your check, you’ll need to sign it over to them. To start, make sure the bank will accept the check before you sign it over. Once that’s confirmed, you’ll need to sign the back of the check and write “pay to the order of [name]” below your signature. Your designated person can then take the check to their bank to be cashed.
Use a prepaid debit card to cash a check
Some prepaid debit cards let you deposit checks with the company’s app. For instance, Netspend Visa cards let you load funds by snapping a photo of the check you want to deposit. You then use the app to upload the photo.
Read more: Best Prepaid Debit Cards
Note that you could be charged a fee when loading your check into the app.
Correction: An earlier version of this article was assisted by an AI engine and it mischaracterized aspects of check-cashing and prepaid debit cards. Those points were all corrected. This version has been substantially updated by a staff writer.