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Updated on Saturday, June 27, 2020
You can cash a check without a bank account in a number of ways, although you may incur a fee for the service. The cheapest option is typically to go directly to the issuing bank to cash the check, which can offer the service for free, depending on the check amount. You could also endorse the check over to a trusted third party, who then can cash the check for you if they have a bank account. Explore your options below, and make sure to note each one’s requirements and potential fees.
- 5 ways to cash a check without a bank account
- What to do if you’re trying to cash a large check without a bank account
- Difficulties you may encounter when trying to cash a check without a bank account
- What are my options if I’ve had trouble opening a bank account in the past?
5 ways to cash a check without a bank account
|Check Cashing Option||Fee||Cash Limits|
|Issuing bank||$0+ (varies by bank and could be a flat fee and/or percentage of check amount)||Varies by bank|
|Prepaid debit card||As low as $0, but varies by card||Varies by card|
|Check cashing store||Flat fee, or 1% to 4% of check amount (varies by store)||Varies by store|
|Trusted third party||None as long as the third party has an account||Varies by bank|
1. Cash a check at the issuing bank
Some banks allow you to cash a check without an account if the check was issued by that bank. For example, if your friend writes a check from their Chase Bank account, you may be able to go to Chase to cash that check. In this case, Chase will cash the check as long as the issuing account allows check cashing.
This allows the issuing bank to verify that the person who wrote the check has enough funds in their account to allow you to cash it. Another bank, one that didn’t issue the check, wouldn’t have this ability and isn’t likely to hand you cash without that assurance.
What you need to cash a check: You will likely need to bring some form of identification. Consider calling the issuing bank ahead of time to find out what kind of ID it accepts.
Check cashing fees: You may be able to cash a check for free with the issuing bank if you don’t have an account there, as banks often charge a fee depending on the check’s amount. For example, Chase Bank may charge a fee of $8 only when the check amount is $50 or more, while Capital One will charge $7 for check cashing services on checks over $100. Other banks may charge a percentage of the check’s amount instead of a flat fee.
2. Cash a check at a retail store
You can head to select retail stores — including Kmart, Kroger (via Money Services) and Walmart — to cash your checks. You should check the company’s website to find a location that participates in check cashing. Money-transfer locations like Western Union and MoneyGram do not cash checks.
Each retail company will have its own limitations, requirements and fees. Kmart, for instance, will cash government and payroll checks of up to $2,000 and two-party checks of up to $500. Walmart limits two-party personal checks to $200 and all other check types to $5,000.
What you need to cash a check: You will likely need some form of ID to cash a check at a retail store, with exact requirements varying depending on the store.
- Kmart: You can cash a check with Kmart with any one of a variety of valid IDs, including a Green Card, Tribal Card or Mexican Matricula Consular ID.
- Kroger: Kroger also accepts a few kinds of ID, and also requires your Social Security number or Taxpayer Identification Number.
- Walmart: Walmart requires a valid ID to cash a check.
Check cashing fees: Expect to pay a fee for cashing a check at a retail store, though again these vary from store to store.
- Kmart: Kmart charges $1 or less (50 cents in Illinois and Rhode Island) to cash a check; select states will cash a check free of charge.
- Kroger: Stores with Money Services, like Kroger, charge a fee based on the check amount. If you have a Shopper’s Card, fees start at $3 for checks of up to $2,000 and $5.50 for checks from $2,000.01 to $5,000. Fees also vary by state.
- Walmart: Walmart charges a fee of up to $4 for pre-printed checks of $1,000 or less, and a fee of up to $8 for pre-printed checks from $1,000.01 to $5,000. Two-party personal checks up to $200 will cost $6 at most.
3. Deposit a check with a prepaid card
You don’t need a bank account to deposit your personal check onto a prepaid debit card. Depending on the card and its capabilities, you may be able to cash your check at an ATM or deposit your check with a picture on the card’s linked mobile app.
Prepaid debit cards tend to have balance and transaction limits, however, so keep an eye out for those. For example, the Bluebird by American Express prepaid card allows up to $5,000 in mobile check deposits per day and $10,000 per month.
This option is best if you already have a prepaid debit card. Prepaid debit cards often charge any number of fees, including for monthly use, cash deposits, check deposits, direct deposits, ATM usage and more.
What you need to cash a check: You’ll just need the check you’re depositing and either your prepaid card for an ATM deposit or the mobile app with camera capabilities.
Check cashing fees: Depending on the prepaid card, there may be a fee for depositing a check. For example, mobile deposit to a Bluebird by American Express prepaid card is free if your check doesn’t bounce within 10 days after depositing. If you want your money immediately, however, it can cost 1% or 5% of the check, with a $5 minimum fee.
4. Cash a check at a check cashing store
Check cashing stores should be your last resort when trying to cash a check without a bank account, as they often charge exorbitant fees for their services. While check cashing stores near you may be a convenient option, weigh your other, cheaper options first.
What you need to cash a check: You may need to bring in a photo ID to cash a check at a check cashing store.
Check cashing fees: Check cashing stores can charge a percentage of the check amount, often ranging from 1% to 4%. Others may charge a flat fee, while some may even charge both a flat fee and a percentage of the check amount.
5. Endorse the check to someone you trust
If you don’t have a bank account but know and trust someone who does, ask them if you can sign over your check to them. You should also confirm that this person’s bank will accept third-party checks, which is what the check becomes when you endorse it to someone else.
To endorse your check, sign the back of the check in the area designated for endorsement signatures. Below that, write “Pay to the order of,” followed by the name of the person you are signing over the check to. They can then cash the check through their bank account and pass on the cash to you.
What you need to cash a check: You’ll need your personal check, now endorsed to the third party. Depending on the bank’s policies, you may also need to accompany the third party to the bank with a valid form of ID.
Check cashing fees: The bank shouldn’t charge the third party a fee for cashing a check as long as they have an account with that bank.
What to do if you’re trying to cash a large check without a bank account
Checks for over $5,000 are considered large checks. In this situation, your best bet is going to the issuing bank, although you’ll likely have to pay a fee. Don’t forget that you’d also likely have to bring a form or two of identification.
You can also endorse the large check to someone you trust, or you may be able to deposit it onto a prepaid card if the card’s deposit limits are extensive enough to cover the check’s amount.
However, these routes may result in a delay in getting your cash: Per the Federal Reserve’s Regulation CC, large deposits may be held for up to seven days, and perhaps even longer if the institution can prove the delay is “reasonable.”
You won’t have much luck trying to deposit a large check at a retail store, as they are unlikely to accept such large amounts. For example, Kmart’s limits fall well short of $5,000 and Walmart only accepts up to $5,000 for non-personal checks.
If you turn to a check cashing store, you could end up paying a pretty penny for the service. For example, if you want to cash a check for $6,000 and the check cashing store charges a fee of 4% of the check amount, you’ll end up handing over $240 to the store.
Difficulties you may encounter when trying to cash a check without a bank account
- Unnecessary and variable fees: One difficulty you’ll likely run into when cashing a check without a bank account is unnecessary fees. Each check cashing option above has the chance of charging a fee, with the exception of endorsing a check to someone who has a bank account. Prepaid debit cards are especially notorious for unnecessary fees, with activation and monthly fees as well as charges to reload the account.
- Varying limitations in check amounts: You may run into some limitations, depending on the route you take. There are often maximum check amounts that institutions will accept. Further, these limitations may be more lenient for government or payroll checks, and more restrictive for two-party personal checks.
- ID requirements: You will also likely run into further difficulties when cashing a check without a bank account when it comes to forms of identification. Most options above require some form of ID to cash a check, and each institution will have its own policies on what forms of ID are accepted. Some institutions will have tighter requirements on acceptable forms of ID.
What are my options if I’ve had trouble opening a bank account in the past?
There are several second-chance bank accounts that offer an opportunity to continue banking even if you’ve had trouble in the past. These accounts tend to come with more potential fees and are typically more bare-bones, without added perks or rewards. However, they give you the chance to rebuild any bad banking history you may have. You often have to prove you can pay the monthly fees on time and avoid overdrafts or negative balances.
If you’ve had trouble opening a bank account in the past, it is likely due to a blemish on your ChexSystems report, which tracks your banking activity, like the accounts you’ve opened and any overdrafts or account closures. When you apply for a bank account, many banks take a look at this report and are less likely to offer you a bank account if they see a history of bad banking practices.
If this is the case, you might want to check your ChexSystems report. See if there are any incorrect or misattributed items on there that you can dispute. You may also notice patterns in your banking history that may help you determine how you can improve your banking practices. You can apply those practices to your second-chance checking account and eventually move up to a regular checking account, preferably a free checking account for continued ease.