7 Ways to Cash a Check Without a Bank Account

By Walecia Konrad · February 27, 2024 · 9 minute read

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7 Ways to Cash a Check Without a Bank Account

If you have a bank account, cashing a check is a simple process; you just deposit it and can then use the funds once it’s cleared.

However, about 4.5% of American households don’t have a bank account, according to a recent study from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. They must therefore rely on alternative methods to cash a check. These workarounds can take a bit of time and energy, but can help you access cash if you are in this situation.

Here, you’ll learn about how you can cash a check if you don’t have a bank account or can’t use it for some reason. You’ll find out the pros and cons of each technique, as well as some important information about using checks and checking accounts.

Key Points

•   Cashing a check at the issuing bank is a convenient option, but it may not be available at all banks and fees could be charged.

•   Cashing a check at a retailer is a convenient option, but it’s important to consider the fees and potential cash limits that may apply.

•   Payday lending stores offer check cashing services, but it’s advisable to use them as a last resort due to their high fees.

•   Depositing a check onto a prepaid debit card is a convenient option, but it’s important to be aware of the fees and the waiting period for funds to clear.

•   Employer-sponsored payroll debit cards provide a convenient way to deposit paychecks, but it’s important to consider any additional fees that may be associated with these cards.

7 Places Where You Can Cash a Check

There are several ways to cash a check if you don’t have a bank account. Some of these alternatives may come with fees or extra legwork. And some may have restrictions on the dollar amount they will cash. Here’s a closer look at the different ways you can cash a personal or business check without a bank account.


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1. Cash the Check at the Issuing Bank

Look at the check to see which bank issued it and if there is a brick-and-mortar branch near you. Sometimes that bank will allow a non-customer to cash a personal check without a bank account if the payee comes in person. The teller can usually determine whether funds are available. The same often holds true for business checks.

•  Those that do provide this service often charge a flat fee (say, $8) or percentage of the check amount.

•  Some large banks will cash a check under a certain amount, $5,000 for example, without a fee.

•  Worth noting: If a bank does collect a fee, it may try to persuade the non-customer to open an account to avoid paying that charge.

2. Cash at a Retailer

Where else can you cash a check without a bank account? Several retailers such as Walmart and some grocery-store chains offer check-cashing services through their customer-service departments, usually for a flat fee based on the size of the check. For instance, at Walmart, there is a $4 fee for checks of up to $1,000 and a $8 fee for those over $1,000.

The amount charged and restrictions on the types of checks cashed will vary, however. For this reason, it’s important to check with each retailer in your area that offers this service to find one that works for your situation.

3. Payday Lending Store

Stand-alone check-cashing and payday-lending stores will cash many types of checks of varying amounts. However, the problem with payday loan check cashing services is that they are often the most expensive, charging a percentage of the check amount as well as a flat fee. For many people, this is best thought of as a last-chance option.


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4. Prepaid Debit Cards

Some banks and financial institutions allow unbanked consumers to deposit checks directly to a prepaid debit card. Some big banks allow you to use their ATM system to deposit checks onto the card for a monthly service fee.

In other cases, using an app, you can use your smartphone to take pictures of your checks and deposit them into any type of account, including a prepaid card. This is often free, but you may have to wait up to 10 days before the funds from the check are available. In some cases, you can pay a relatively large fee, usually about 2% to 5% of the check value, for quicker access to the funds.

5. Employer-Sponsored Payroll Debit Card

Some large employers have programs that allow you to deposit your paycheck directly onto a reusable debit card. Be sure to look at the various types of fees associated with these cards. You may wind up paying overdraft, ATM, transfer, and inactivity fees in addition to general service fees.

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6. Sign Your Check Over to Someone Else

Another option would be to sign a check over to a trusted friend or relative. This person could then deposit the check in their account and withdraw the funds, once available, and give them to you.

This is a simple process. Some verification is involved, and then you usually just need to write “Pay to the order of” and the name of the person on the back of the check and then sign it. However, it’s vital that this person can be relied upon to give you the cash.

7. Check Cashing Outlet

If you need to cash a check without a bank account, you could also visit a check cashing outlet. This can be expensive, though: Fees can be around 10% of the check’s value.

Here, consider the pros and cons of each in chart form:

Method

Pros

Cons

Cash at Issuing Bank Convenience Not all banks offer this; may charge fees
Cash at a retailer Convenience Fees; may be a cap on the dollar amount that can be cashed
Payday Lending Store Convenience May charge very high fees
Prepaid Debit Cards Convenience Fees; wait time for funds to clear
Employer-Sponsored Payroll Debit Card Convenience Potential fees
Sign Over Your Check Convenience; typically no fees Must trust person who receives check; must wait for check to clear
Check Cashing Outlet Convenience May charge very high fees

What to Consider Before Cashing a Check

To help determine which check-cashing option is best for you, keep the following in mind.

Check Amount

In general, larger checks are harder and more expensive to cash without a bank account than smaller sums. Walmart, for instance, will usually only cash checks up to $5,000 or $7,500.

Check-cashing stores may have similar limits, or higher fees for larger checks. For large checks, depositing into a prepaid debit card may be the best option.

Fees

As we’ve seen above, almost every non-bank checking service entails fees when cashing your check. They can vary widely, with check-cashing and payday-lending stores usually being the most expensive.

It can pay to look for the least expensive alternative in your area, especially if you are able to access the bank that issued the check.

Identification Requirements

To show that the check rightfully belongs to you, you’ll need to show at least one form of government-issued identification, such as a license or passport. With large checks, you may be required to show two forms of ID.

Recommended: How to Write a Check to Yourself

Personal Checks

Personal checks can be more difficult to cash without a bank account than government-issued or payroll checks. Many check-cashing stores won’t accept any personal checks, and retailers may have lower limits on how much they’ll cash, usually a couple hundred dollars.

Here’s one workaround: Ask the person writing you the personal check to send a money order or cashier’s check instead.

Can You Cash a Check Without ID?

To cash a check without ID, you have a few options:

•  Check with your bank or the issuing bank and see if they will allow you to cash it without identification or with an alternative method of identification.

•  Sign the check over to someone else, have them cash it, and give you the funds.

•  Deposit the check (provided you have an account), wait for it to process, and then withdraw the funds.

•  Use ATM check cashing, if possible.

Recommended: What Is an E-Check?

How to Cash a Large Check Without a Bank Account

The methods for cashing a large check without a bank account are similar to methods for cashing any other check. You will likely want to be a bit more cautious and double-check the process in advance:

•  Sign the check over to a trusted friend or relative

•  Visit a check-cashing outlet.

Opening a Bank Account

Cashing a check without a bank account can often be costly and inconvenient. After exploring the options above, you may find that your best option for the long term involves opening a bank account. A bank account makes saving and spending easy, safe and flexible. Some points to consider when opening an account:

•  What do you need to open a checking account? You’ll usually need to make sure you qualify for an account, have an ID, and be willing to share basic personal information such as your birthdate, address, phone, social security number, etc. You’ll also need an initial deposit, which can often be as little as $25.

•  Keep in mind, most banks have a minimum age to open a bank account; they won’t allow those under 18 to have an account without a parent or guardian as the joint owner.

•  If you have a history of banking issues, such as unpaid overdraft fees, you may not qualify for a traditional checking account. Instead, you may want to consider what’s known as a second-chance account, offered by many lenders. These accounts often charge a monthly fee and come with more restrictions than a traditional checking account. That said, many allow solid customers the opportunity to convert to a regular checking account in six months to a year.

The Takeaway

It is possible to cash a check without a bank account. Options include signing the check over to a trusted friend to cash it and give you the funds; seeing if the issuing bank will cash it; using the check to buy prepaid debit cards; and other tactics.

That said, opening a bank account can be a simple process and can provide not just check cashing but the foundation for your daily financial life.

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FAQ

Can I cash a $5000 check without a bank account?

You will likely be able to cash a $5000 check at a retailer, such as Walmart, or at a check cashing outlet. Inquire about fees, though, before proceeding to be sure you are prepared.

How can I cash a large check immediately?

To cash a large check immediately, try your bank if you have one or the bank that issued the check. You might also be able to cash it by signing it over to a friend or relative who can give you the cash once it clears; buying prepaid debit cards with it; or going to a check cashing outlet.

What bank will cash a check without an account?

It’s often best to go to the bank that issued the check and see if they will cash it. They will be able to verify that the funds are available and may be willing to give you the money.


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