How to Cash a Check If You Don’t Have a Bank Account

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Research from the Federal Reserve shows that there are more than 55-million underbanked or unbanked adults in the United States. This staggering figure accounts for more than 22-percent of households, with Mississippi leading the way with over 16-percent of all adults being unbanked, relying on cash to get by in life.

Another report shows that the national rate of unbanked adults currently sits at 7.7-percent, which means that nearly 18-million adults in the United States, have no bank account. People that own a bank account may wonder at how these people manage to survive. However, as it turns out, it’s possible to live a normal life in America, without a bank account.

Owning a bank account does make life easier. The onset of internet banking available through smartphone apps makes it easy to send and receive funds from anywhere in the country that has a Wi-Fi connection. Paying bills, settling your mortgage, and paying student loans are far easier with a bank account, but it isn’t necessary to own an account to fulfill these tasks.

If you’re one of the millions of underbanked or unbanked individuals, you may wonder how you intend to cash your salary check at the end of the month. However, you don’t need a bank account to gain access to your earnings.

Here are a few methods you can use to cash your check and get your hands on your money.

Reasons Why People Remain Unbanked

A recent survey of unbanked individuals cites a lack of trust in the government and banking system as the primary reason why people refrain from opening a bank account. The wake of the 2008 Financial Crisis left millions of people feeling uncertain about the intentions and ethics of the large banks and corporations that were to blame for causing the crash that rocked the economy.

Over the last 11-years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers that sparked the conflagration, trust in the banking sector is still compromised, and many unbanked individuals believe that if they leave their money in the bank, the corporation will steal it in the advent of another crisis.

These people may have a point. The Federal government uses FDIC (The Federal Deposit Insurance Company) insurance to guarantee the deposits of account holders at most of the major banks.

However, with the trillions of dollars swashing around bank accounts, one wonders at how the federal government will afford to pay back all the money to account holders. This situation seems somewhat ridiculous when you consider that the government would need to bail out both the account holders and the banks themselves in the case of another crisis.

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Do I Need an ID to Cash a Check?

Before we get started giving you methods to cash your checks, you might be wondering if you need some form of identification when you reach the cashier. The answer is yes; you do require ID in most circumstances when cashing a check. So, if you are an unbanked individual, and you have no form of ID, you may find it challenging to cash out.

However, there are workarounds to this problem. You can sign your check over to someone you trust, such as a family member, and ask them to cash it for you, creating a third-party check. In some cases, the bank teller may require you to be present as your family member or friend cashes the check. Some banks also offer the facility of cashing checks through an ATM, allowing your friend or family member to cash it for you.

Ways to Cash a Check if You Don’t Have a Bank Account

Visit a Branch of the Issuing Bank

The majority of banks will permit you to cash both payroll and personal checks issued from their accounts. As an additional bonus, you won’t have to visit the original branch of the check holder; you can do it from your local bank branch.

The downside of this service on offer from the banks is that they will charge you a service fee for completing the transaction. Most banks charge anywhere between $4 to $10 to cash a check. The bank charges fees to cover the costs involved with processing the transaction. The only bank that doesn’t charge a fee for cashing your payroll or personal checks is Capital One. Capital One has a no-check cashing fee, regardless of the branch you visit. Therefore, if your employer has an account with this bank, it can save you hundreds of dollars in costs over the working year.

Some banks may void the check-cashing fee if the amount is under a certain minimum, but every bank differs in this threshold, so it’s best to ask them about the rates involved in the transaction before you commit to cashing your check. Some banks may offer to open you an account to void the check-cashing fee.

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Cash Your Check at A Retail Outlet

With the retail sector experiencing the biggest slump in history, they are diversifying their strategies to include some banking facilities. It’s now possible to cash checks at a variety of retailers across the country. Here are our top 4 choices for cashing your check with a retailer.

  • Walmart – The kings of the retail game now include check-cashing as a service to their clients. Visit a Walmart on payday, and you’re bound to see a few people cashing checks at the teller. Walmart permits you to cash government, tax, 401(k) distribution, insurance settlement, personal, and payroll checks up to the value of $5,000, with two-party checks having a threshold of $200 per transaction. Walmart charges a flat fee for cashing checks up to the value of $1,000, and the fee doubles for any amounts over this threshold.
  • Kmart – If you are a “Shop Your Way” member at Kmart, then the retailer allows you to cash payroll, tax-refund, and government checks up to a value of $2,000. Kmart also permits two-party checks up to $500. Kmart also charges a fee for all checks you cash with the retailer, but it’s typically lower than the bank, and many other retailers.
  • Money Services – Fred Meyer, Kroger, Fry’s and Ralph’s all have Money Services outlets in-store. You can use Money Services to cash payroll, tax-refund, government, business, and insurance settlement checks, up to the value of $5,000. Strangely enough, Money Services don’t accept personal checks. You’ll also have to pay a fee for cashing with this retailer.
  • Food Lion – This retailer cashes printed payroll checks, as well as traveler’s checks, tax-refund, and cash-rebate checks. The retailer has a $1,000 threshold for all checks other than traveler’s checks, which have a limit of $499.99. Food Lion won’t accept personal, two-party, or hand-written payroll checks.

Open a Checkless Debit Card Account

A checkless overdraft-free debit card account is an affordable option for people that do not have a bank account and need to cash their checks. This service is available to everyone, even if the credit bureaus currently blacklist you. Citibank’s “Access Account,” and KeyBank’s “Hassle-Free Account” are viable options for people that remain unbanked.

These accounts also allow you to deposit your check into your debit card, using your smartphone. If you open one of these accounts, you’ll need to pay a monthly maintenance fee for the service. However, the monthly maintenance fee works out to be far less than cashing out at a retail store or bank, especially if you are cashing multiple payroll checks over the course of the year.

Let a Friend Cash Your Check for You

If you have a family member or friend that you trust, you can hand over your check to them and let them cash it for you. You’ll need to endorse the check into their name by writing “Pay to the order of (person’s name),” and then sign the check. The bank or retailer then cashes the check with no additional fees involved.

Load the Check onto a Prepaid Card

It’s possible to use a prepaid debit card to cash your check by depositing the check at an authorized agent, such as a retailer or bank, and then using the prepaid card to withdraw cash at the ATM. Some prepaid cards also offer a mobile check-deposit feature, allowing users to take a picture of the check with their smartphone, and deposit the check into their debit card.

However, it’s important to note that these mobile services often charge very high fees, so it may not be worthwhile to follow this route if you’re concerned about the costs involved in the process. Some fees vary depending on the type of service. For instance, if you want a standard transfer, it could cost you as little as 95-cents, but an expedited payment may cost you $5.95.

Use a Payroll Debit Card

Some employers offer the service of providing their employees with a payroll debit card. The employer loads their wages onto the card, instead of issuing a paycheck. The card is reusable and accepted at all retailers. Some retailers also offer this service, with Walgreens, Walmart, and even Taco Bell providing this service to customers.

However, once again, these cards may come with additional fees and hidden charges that take a significant chunk out of your payment.

Visit a Payday Lender

You can take advantage of payday lenders if you need to cash your check. Most lenders have this service included in their bouquet of services, but at a significantly higher cost that retailers or banks.

If you’ve ever taken out a payday loan, then you know that it comes with outrageously high-interest rates to keep you indebted to the lender through a continuous cycle of high-interest payments.

Some payday lenders may charge a percentage of the value of the check, or a flat fee – depending on the amount. Payday lenders are well-known for executing predatory lending tactics, so you should expect the same when cashing your checks at these establishments.

It’s for this reason that we recommend payday lenders as a last resort for cashing your checks. Instead, take the extra time to visit a retailer or bank, and keep more of your money.

Read: Are Payday Loans Ever a Good Idea?

Shop Around for Cheaper Fees

Whichever method you decide to use to cash your check, it’s a prudent financial move to check around for the best pricing on fees from retailers, banks, and other cash points in your local area. Call into your local bank branches and ask them for their fee schedule for cashing checks, and compare the best rates from your available options.

Take Precautions with Your Check

When receiving a check, make sure that you trust the person that writes it. While this isn’t much of a concern for payroll checks, accepting personal checks from people you don’t know might be risky. There’s no way for you to check on the validity of the person that’s writing the check, and they may also use fraudulent ID documents to swindle you out of your possessions, money, and time.

While there is a significant level of risk involved in accepting checks, you can follow these steps to mitigate that risk.

  • Make sure you get the first and last name of the issuer and compare that to a valid identity document.
  • Ensure you get their cellphone number and physical address for reference purposes, and call the number to check if it’s valid before you accept the check.
  • If you have the time and resources, you can call the bank and speak to a service consultant that will confirm if the account holder has the funds available to cover the amount on the check.

Wrapping Up – Consider Opening a Bank Account

While it’s possible to cash your check with any one of the methods mentioned in this article, we recommend that you seriously consider opening a bank account. Owning an account with a large financial institution provides you with many lifestyle benefits. Every American has a credit score, and if you remain unbanked, you’ll never be able to apply for any credit facility.

Banks and lenders rely on your credit report and credit score when assessing you for a loan. If you remain unbanked, then you will never evolve your credit score. This situation may make it challenging to secure a personal loan, auto loan, or a mortgage in the future.

With a low credit score, you may also find it challenging to get a lease on an apartment, get insurance coverage, or apply for a student loan. While there is some risk involved with owning a bank account, it’s a lifestyle convenience that everyone needs as we move into 2020.


Oliver Dale is Editor-in-Chief of MoneyCheck and founder of Kooc Media Ltd, A UK-Based Online Publishing company. A Technology Entrepreneur with over 15 years of professional experience in Investing and UK Business.His writing has been quoted by Nasdaq, Dow Jones, Investopedia, The New Yorker, Forbes, Techcrunch & More.He built Money Check to bring the highest level of education about personal finance to the general public with clear and unbiased