How to cash a check without a bank account

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In a Nutshell

Retailers, check-cashing services, apps and even some banks might be options you have for cashing a check without a bank account. Most check-cashing services will probably charge a fee, though.
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Cashing a check without a bank account may be time-consuming and costly in some cases, but it’s usually possible.

For some people, the process of cashing a check might be as simple as heading to the bank where they hold an account, or using the mobile deposit feature on their bank’s mobile app. But for the estimated 7.1 million households that are unbanked — meaning they don’t have a bank or credit union account — the process isn’t quite as simple.

If you don’t have a bank account, you may wonder whether you can cash checks. Even if you do have a bank account, if you happen to be traveling, you may find that you need to cash a check without your bank nearby. The good news is that you often can cash a check without a bank account. It just might require a bit of work.

Keep reading to learn more about how to cash a check without a bank.

How to cash a check without a bank account

If you don’t have a checking account, you may find it’s more difficult to cash a check.

Banks and credit unions aren’t obligated to cash checks for non-customers. Luckily, there are several ways to cash a check, even without an account at a bank or credit union.

Where can I cash a check without a bank account?

Here are some ways you might be able to cash a check without a bank account.

  • Try the bank where the check was issued: You may be able to cash the check at the issuing bank, even without an account there, since the check’s writer is a customer of theirs.
  • Check-cashing service at a bank: If you can’t get to the bank where the check was issued, some banks and credit unions offer fee-based check cashing services for third-party checks.
  • Check-cashing stores: Check-cashing stores cash checks for a fee and also may offer other services like providing money orders. Some check-cashing stores also market payday loans.
  • Major retailers: Some retailers offer check-cashing services for a fee, with the fee varying by store. Walmart, Kmart and Kroger offer this service, for example.
  • Prepaid debit card: You may be able to deposit a check onto a prepaid debit card, and then use that card for spending, bill-paying, withdrawing cash and more. You can typically find prepaid cards at retail stores, banks, online and even from government agencies. Be aware that there are usually card-related fees.
  • Sign over the check to someone you trust: If a friend or loved one has a bank account, you can sign the check over to them and have them cash it on your behalf. To do so, you’ll sign the back of the check as you normally would, and then write “Pay to the order of,” followed by their full name below your signature. Just make sure you trust this person to give you your money.

What do I need to consider before cashing a check without a bank account?

While it may be possible to cash a check without a bank account, you’ll have to provide identification to verify that you’re the person the check is issued to. Acceptable forms of ID may include a driver’s license, state-issued ID, military ID or passport.

There may be a fee to cash a check with a third party. The amount can vary depending on where you cash it, and you’ll likely be charged a flat fee or a percentage of the check. If the fee is a percentage of the check, keep in mind that the larger the check, the higher the fee.

It’s also important to note that some checks may be easier to cash than others. For example, government checks and payroll checks might be accepted while personal checks won’t — or there may be limits on the amount you can cash with a personal check.

What’s next?

Even without a bank account, there are usually ways to cash a check. Unfortunately, those methods can come with hoops to jump through and fees that can add up.

You may want to consider opening a checking or savings account to make it easier to access your money. With various types of banks and financial institutions to choose from, there are more options than ever to find the right fit for you.

About the author: Erin Gobler is a freelance personal finance writer based in Madison, Wisconsin. Erin studied journalism and political science at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and began writing full-time after a seven-year caree… Read more.