If you have an active credit card account, you might be offered or have already received unsolicited credit card convenience checks. A credit card convenience check lets you draw a portion of funds from your available credit limit without swiping your card.
Although convenience checks offer the benefit of using your credit line toward other bills — either as a cash advance or a check-based payment for a purchase — they also come with their fair share of issues. Keep reading to learn more about what a convenience check is and how to get one from a credit card.
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What Is a Credit Card Convenience Check?
Also known as cash advance checks, access checks, or balance transfer checks, credit card convenience checks let you borrow money against your credit card balance. Card issuers offer this option as a way to encourage spending on your card account. You can use these checks to pay bills, borrow money, make a balance transfer, or transfer loans to your credit card.
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Pros of Credit Card Convenience Checks
Convenience checks have downsides, but there are pros to them as well:
• They let you make purchases when using a credit card isn’t accepted.
• You can use one to pay off other debt.
• You can access cash quickly with a convenience check.
• A convenience check borrows against your existing credit line, so you don’t need to undergo a credit check for a new line of credit.
Cons of Credit Card Convenience Checks
There are also a number of drawbacks of convenience checks to consider before using one. These include:
• You’ll incur an additional fee each time you use a convenience check.
• Using a convenience check might activate a higher APR for the check amount.
• You don’t get a grace period, so you’ll start incurring interest immediately.
• You’ll have fewer legal protections if your purchase is defective and you need to withhold payment.
• Your check purchase might not qualify as an eligible purchase under the card’s rewards program.
Factors to Consider Before Getting a Credit Card Convenience Check
Since convenience checks are treated like a cash advance by your credit card issuer, you’ll incur cash advance fees when the funds are drawn from your account. For example, your card issuer or bank might charge a minimum fee of $10 or 3% of the check amount, whichever is greater. Also, if you exceed your available limit and don’t have sufficient funds in your credit card account, you might be charged another fee.
On top of these extra fees, the interest on the check amount accrues immediately at your cash advance APR. Cash advance interest rates are typically higher than the APR charged for swiping your card for purchases at places that accept credit card payments.
If your account is a rewards credit card, purchases or draws using a convenience check are often ineligible for earning rewards. So not only are you paying more money to use the check, you’re losing the benefits of your rewards credit card program.
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How to Get Convenience Checks From a Credit Card
You’ll often get convenience checks in the mail. If you have an existing credit card account, your card issuer might include the checks in your monthly statement. A card issuer might also mail you a promotional offer with convenience checks inside to encourage you to apply for a credit card.
If you have an existing credit card account but haven’t received convenience checks in the mail, you can request them directly. Contact the phone number printed on the back of your credit card to reach a customer service agent. Make sure to ask about fees you might incur by requesting printed convenience checks, as different types of credit cards carry different fees.
Using Credit Card Convenience Checks
There are many ways to use a convenience check, including:
• Using it as a cash advance. In this case, you’d write a convenience check to yourself and cash it to access physical currency.
• Using it to pay off other debts. This could include a loan or other credit card balance. In this scenario, the convenience check acts like a balance transfer vehicle that pays off a third-party credit account. You’ll then repay that balance, plus fees and interest, through your card issuer that provided the checks.
• Using the checks to pay for goods and services directly. This might come up if you’re dealing with a merchant or vendor that doesn’t accept credit card payments, but accepts checks.
If you decide to use a convenience check, it’s more like a physical check from your personal checking account as opposed to how credit cards work. A convenience check has the same familiar fields as a personal check, including a place to write in the date, payee name, amount, optional memo, and your signature.
How Credit Card Convenience Checks Can Affect Your Credit Score
A convenience check borrows money against your existing credit card line, so your credit isn’t verified when using a check. Since convenience checks let you access your credit line through another method other than swiping or tapping your card, there’s a greater chance to borrow more from your account.
If you borrow large amounts from your credit card account, it can increase your credit utilization ratio. Keeping a high credit utilization ratio can adversely impact your credit score. However, if you repay your balance responsibly and are mindful of your utilization — both key credit card rules to follow — convenience checks can have minimal impact on your credit.
Alternatives to Credit Card Convenience Checks
Although convenience checks are a viable option when you need cash, there are other lower-cost options than turning to your credit card.
Borrowing a personal loan gives you access to cash at a lower, fixed APR compared to the variable cash advance APR from your credit card. Some lenders also don’t charge fees of any kind for personal loans. However, you’ll need to undergo a credit check and have strong credit for the most competitive rates.
Earning Extra Income
If time is on your side, increasing your cash flow can help you avoid high interest charges and fees for your next large purchase. Consider selling items that are taking up space in your garage, picking up additional shifts at work, or starting a side gig, like tutoring, for some additional income.
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A convenience check can be a fast way to access cash in hand or make a purchase when a credit card isn’t accepted. However, the disadvantages of using convenience checks, like costly fees, increased APR, and no grace period, often negate the perks.
If you need access to credit, consider applying for a SoFi credit card. It offers up to 2% cash back rewards for every dollar spent on eligible purchases. Cardholders earn 1% cash back rewards when redeemed for a statement credit.1 Plus, if you make on-time payments of at least the minimum amount over a 12-month period, SoFi lowers your APR by 1%.
Is a convenience check linked to your account?
Yes, convenience checks from credit card companies are tied to an existing credit card account you have with that card issuer. The amount that you write on a convenience check will directly be added to your credit card balance, plus fees.
Can I write a convenience check to someone else?
Yes, you can write a convenience check out to another person or business as a method of direct payment. For example, you can use a convenience check to pay for a utility bill or as rent to your landlord. Keep in mind that this will mean you’ll pay more toward that purchase thanks to fees and a higher APR. Proceed with caution.
Where can I cash a convenience check?
You can cash a convenience check anywhere you’d cash a personal check. Your personal banking institution can cash the check for you, or you can visit a third party like a check-cashing establishment.
What are the disadvantages of using credit card convenience checks?
The biggest disadvantage when using a convenience check from your credit card company is the added fees and interest you’ll pay. Each check incurs a flat fee or a fee based on a percentage of the check amount. Additionally, convenience checks are considered a cash advance, which incurs a higher APR on the borrowed amount. Plus, there’s no grace period so interest starts accruing immediately.
1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
The SoFi Credit Card is issued by The Bank of Missouri (TBOM) (“Issuer”) pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.
Photo credit: iStock/Ivan Pantic