Checking accounts offer convenience for managing money, but a sizable number of Americans don’t have one. According to Federal Reserve (Fed) data, 6% of U.S. adults are unbanked, meaning that they have no checking account, savings account, or money market account. Instead, they rely on alternative financial services, such as check-cashing companies and payday lenders, to meet their needs.
Another 16% are underbanked, meaning that they have bank accounts but still depend on alternative financial services. Using alternative services to perform even simple tasks, such as cashing checks, can get expensive. Fortunately, there are ways to cash a check without paying steep fees.
- An estimated 6% of adults are unbanked, and another 16% are underbanked, meaning that 22% of American adults rely on alternative financial services.
- Convenience stores, grocery stores, and the check writer’s bank are some of the ways to cash a check when you lack a bank account.
- When cashing checks, it’s important to pay attention to fees, as some check-cashing services can come at a high price.
- Opening a bank account can make cashing checks easier, and some accounts are designed for people who may have had banking issues in the past.
Where to Cash a Check
When deciding where to cash a check, there are multiple options to choose from. Depending on whether you have a bank account or not, some avenues may be more obvious than others. Here are the top places for check cashing that you may consider.
Local Banks or Credit Unions
If you have a bank account or an account at a credit union, this could be the best option for cashing a check. Banks and credit unions can cash personal checks, payroll checks, certified or cashier’s checks, and government-issued checks.
But what if you don’t have an account at a bank or credit union? Federal law does not require banks or credit unions to cash checks for people who are not their customers. Nevertheless, it’s possible that the bank may agree to cash your check in exchange for a fee.
If you’re depositing a check into your bank account rather than cashing it, be aware of your bank’s funds availability policy and when you can make withdrawals against the deposit.
The Issuing Bank
It’s possible to cash a check at the issuing bank, even if you don’t have an account there. In other words, you could take the check to the bank of the check writer. Again, it’s up to the bank to determine whether to honor your request for cashing a check, and you may or may not pay a fee. The bank may be unable to cash a check if the check writer’s account doesn’t have sufficient funds to cover it.
The issuing bank may be unable to cash a check if the check writer’s account doesn’t have sufficient funds to cover it.
Walmart offers check-cashing services in its stores. You’ll need to visit a nearby Walmart location and pay a fee to cash your check. The fee depends on the amount of the check:
- For preprinted checks up to and including $1,000, a maximum fee of up to $4 applies.
- For preprinted checks over $1,000 up to and including $5,000, a maximum fee of up to $8 applies.
The types of checks you can cash at Walmart include:
- Preprinted checks
- Payroll checks
- Government checks
- Tax checks
- Cashiers’ checks
- Insurance settlement checks
- 401(k), retirement disbursement checks
- MoneyGram money orders
- Two-party personal checks
There are limits on how much you can cash at Walmart. For two-party personal checks, the limit is $200, and for all other checks, it’s $5,000—though Walmart does increase this to $7,500 from January to April to account for tax refund season.
Walmart limits check cashing for two-party checks to $200, with a $6 maximum fee.
There may be a fee to cash a check. For example, Pay Less Super Markets charges from $4.50 to $7.50, depending on the amount of the check. In lieu of a fee, a grocery store may require you to make a minimum purchase, as WinCo Foods does.
Your local grocery store may offer check-cashing services whether you have a bank account or not. If you’d like to cash a check at your grocery store, you can ask the customer service desk whether that’s an option.
Convenience Stores and Gas Stations
Convenience stores and gas stations may be willing to cash checks, depending on the type. For example, at Mr. Payroll stores and some Shell gas stations, you can cash a payroll checks, government-issued checks, and other types of checks. Similar to grocery stores, you may have to pay a fee or be asked to make a minimum purchase.
Trans@ct by 7-Eleven
If you don’t necessarily need cash but have a check that you would like to be able to spend, you could consider Trans@ct by 7-Eleven. This is a prepaid debit card that allows you to upload checks via mobile deposit through the 7-Eleven Transact app. You could then use your prepaid debit card to make purchases or withdraw cash at an ATM. In terms of fees, you can either pay per transaction or enroll in a monthly plan for $5.
It’s possible that your employer might allow you to cash a check. There may be specific guidelines on what type (e.g., personal checks only) or limits for check cashing. Still, this could be an option for cashing a check without paying a fee, so it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Kroger Money Services
If you live near a Kroger, you could use Money Services to cash a check. The types of checks that you can cash are:
- Payroll checks
- Government checks
- Tax refund checks
- Business checks
- Child support checks
- Insurance settlement checks
The fees that Money Services charges vary by store and may depend on the type and amount of the check that you’re cashing.
PayPal offers a check-cashing service through its mobile app. You simply take a photo of the check and send it to PayPal, which reviews it and, if approved, credits the amount to your PayPal Balance account, less a fee. This is a fast and convenient way to cash checks if you already use PayPal to pay online.
What About Check-Cashing Services?
Check-cashing stores are another option for cashing checks. On the pro side, you don’t need a bank account to use one. Check-cashing services can also be useful if you don’t have access to any other ways to cash a check outlined above. They sometimes also offer other financial services, such as bill payment and money orders, which are a plus if you don’t have a bank account.
However, there are downsides—namely, the fees that you might pay, which can be quite high. Or, instead of charging a flat dollar amount, check-cashing services may charge a percentage of the check’s face value. So if you need to cash a $5,000 check, and the service charges a 10% fee, then you’re automatically handing over $500 to the check-cashing company.
What Do You Need to Cash a Check?
Regardless of where you plan to cash a check, there are a few things that you’ll need. Typically, you’ll have to have some or all of the following:
- The check itself, signed by you and the check writer
- A government-issued photo ID
- Money to pay any check-cashing fees if they aren’t deducted from the check
If you don’t have an appropriate ID, there’s one more option for cashing a check: signing it over to someone else. This is called a third-party check, and it allows the person to whom you sign over the check to cash it on your behalf.
Where Can I Cash My Check Immediately?
The fastest way to cash a check without a bank account may be to take it to the check writer's bank. You could cash your check at the bank the check originates from the same day you receive it. Keep in mind, however, that the bank may charge a fee to do so. In some cases, the bank may expect you to open a new account in order to cash or deposit a check.
How Long Do You Have to Cash a Check?
Generally, checks are good for up to six months. If you attempt to cash a check that's written out to you after this much time has passed, the bank may not honor it. It's generally best to cash a check sooner than later after receiving it to ensure that the check remains valid and that the person who wrote it has funds available in their account to honor it.
The Bottom Line
A bank account can make life easier when it comes to managing your money. There are fewer hassles involved when you need to cash a check, write a check to pay bills or other expenses, or have a secure way to make purchases online using a debit card. That being said, if you don't have a bank account yet there are several ways to cash a check. Just keep in mind how much you might pay for the convenience of being able to cash a check without a bank account when comparing the different options.