When you don’t have a bank account, you may be confused about what to do when you receive a check. You can’t use the money that the check represents until you cash it. But how can you cash the check without a bank account?
Luckily, there are actually many different ways you can cash a check when you don’t have a bank account. Depending on your situation, one method might be better than another for you. Here are some options to consider.
What to know before you go
Before you go to cash your check, make sure you bring your ID. Most places are going to require it in order to cash a check. Some forms of ID you can use:
- Driver’s license.
- Green card.
If you have a tribal ID, nonresident alien card, or military ID, you may be able to use that instead. Call ahead and ask what forms of ID are accepted before you go.
Take it to the check writer’s bank
You can take the check to the bank of the person who wrote it and ask the bank to cash it. Look on the front of the check to find the name of the bank.
The bank might charge you a fee to cash the check since you’re not a customer – or they might have a policy against cashing checks for non-customers. You’ll have to call or visit to find out. Most likely, though, the bank will charge a flat fee, or it’ll take a percentage of the overall amount with a minimum charge of, say, $5.
Try another bank
You can also try cashing the check at another bank, one the check writer is not a member of. But you’ll probably have much less luck without some sort of connection to the bank. And they’ll likely charge you a fee, too.
Often, the bank will require that the check you want to cash is less than six months old. So don’t sit around waiting to cash a check – it’s better to do it sooner rather than later.
Load it on a prepaid card
You can use prepaid cards for a lot of the same functions as a bank. When you have a check to cash, load it onto a prepaid card, that way you can spend it simply by swiping your card wherever it’s accepted.
An example of a prepaid card is Brinks Prepaid Mastercard®.
You can buy these cards at many different retail stores, or even order one online. Once you have it, be sure to activate it properly before depositing your check onto it.
You might be able to load the check by using an app, or by taking a picture of the check with your phone. Some prepaid cards also let you do direct deposit. So if you get a regular paycheck, you can set it up with your employer so that the paycheck goes directly to the prepaid card every time you’re paid.
You might also be able to do the same with government checks, such as Social Security checks.
Note that prepaid cards nearly always have fees. It might cost $5 or so every time you load the card. If you get paid once a week, that’s $20 in fees just to access your own money.
There might be other fees, too – fees to access funds at the ATM, monthly fees to keep the card active, and so on. Check the card in question so you know what to expect.
Cash it at a credit union
Another place to try is a credit union in your area. Just like a bank, they’ll probably charge a fee and ask for identification, and they may refuse if you or the check writer aren’t members.
But since credit unions are not-for-profit, unlike banks, they might be more willing to take a chance on a member of the community. It’s worth a try.
If the person who wrote you the check is a member of the credit union, that might help, too.
Bring it to Walmart
When you want cash and don’t want to mess around with prepaid cards, apps, and activation fees, you can bring your check (and your ID) to certain retail stores and ask them to cash it.
For example, Walmart offers check cashing. Bring your check to their Customer Service Counter and ask them to cash it. You’ll need to make sure the check you want to cash complies with their check-cashing policies
Walmart accepts a wide range of check types, including personal checks, government checks, paychecks, and two-party checks (with restrictions). The fee is $4 per check for amounts less than $1,000, and $8 for checks greater than $1,000.
But you can get your cash quickly, and often for lower fees than elsewhere.
Take it to Kmart
Believe it or not, Kmart used to be a great place to cash checks. However, the brand is shrinking at a rapid pace, so there aren’t too many stores left. But if you do live near a Kmart that offers check-cashing, you’ll get a great price. It costs just $1 to cash a check at most Kmarts.
Take it to the grocery store
You may also be able to get a check cashed at the grocery store. These stores often will only cash government checks and paychecks from area businesses, so if your buddy wrote you a check, you might need not be able to cash it at the local supermarket.
A few grocery stores where you might be able to cash a check:
- Giant Eagle.
- Food City.
- Food Lion.
- Winn Dixie.
- Fred Meyer.
Fees will run you between $2 and $10, for the most part, and may depend on the amount of the check. Many grocery stores will refuse (or are unable) to cash larger checks. You may be limited to cashing checks up to a certain dollar amount, such as $1,000.
Some stores, such as Wegman’s, don’t charge a fee for loyalty cardholders, though.
Contact your local store to get their policy since it varies from state to state and even store to store.
Try the corner 7-Eleven
You can also bring your check to 7-Eleven. They don’t cash checks, but they do offer their own financial services. For example, Transact, which is a prepaid Mastercard service that accepts mobile check loading, is available at 7-Eleven stores.
Cash it at a check-cashing store (as a last resort)
If regular retail stores near you won’t cash a check, you could take it to a check-cashing store. These are places whose sole focus of business is cashing checks.
You should know that the fees are pretty high, so try to cash your check elsewhere first.
Examples of check-cashing businesses:
- The Check-Cashing Store.
- ACE Cash Express.
- Check Into Cash.
- The Money Mart.
On the plus side, these places will often cash checks that other places won’t accept. For example, at ACE, you can cash not only government checks and payroll checks, but also insurance checks, personal checks, and tax refund checks.
Even when you don’t have a bank account, there are places to cash a check. Get to know a few of them, so the next time you have a check to cash, you have a few ideas of where to take it.
Remember, the dollar amount of the check and the type of check it is might affect who will cash it for you. You’ll have the easiest luck cashing government checks and payroll checks that are a couple of thousand dollars or less.
And always remember to bring your ID before you go, so you can cash the check without trouble.