Published in: Banks | May 23, 2020

5 Ways to Cash a Check Without a Bank Account

By:  Kailey Hagen

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Fortunately, when you receive your check, you won't be stuck with a worthless piece of paper. There are several ways you can turn it into cash that you can actually use, but some of them carry a fee. Here are a few you can look into.

1. Visit the issuing bank

This won't help with your stimulus check, but you can always visit the issuing bank, assuming there's a branch near you. If you need to cash a paycheck or a check you received from someone else, many branches will readily cash it, even if you don't bank with them. This is because they can verify that the account the check is drawn from has the necessary funds. But some banks don't allow this and some may charge a fee for doing so. The bank may ask for a government-issued ID before it cashes the check to verify that you are the person it's addressed to.

Most checks should list the issuing bank, but if you don't see it, you can always try looking the bank up by its routing number online. This is the first number written on the bottom of the check. Once you know the bank, you can find the branch nearest you. If it's an online bank, you may be out of luck as not all of them have branches.

2. Go to certain retailers

Some big box and grocery store chains enable you to cash your checks, including payroll checks and government checks, at their stores. There's a small fee and you can only cash up to a certain amount, which varies by store. But it's usually a few thousand dollars, so unless you need to cash a five-figure sum, you should be fine.

Do some research online or inquire at the store to see if cashing checks is an option, and if so, what the store charges for doing so. You can compare these to the cost of cashing a check at the issuing bank or at a payday lender, discussed below, but retailers usually offer a pretty fair price.

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3. Try a payday lender

Payday lenders are used to taking people's checks and doling out cash without asking too many questions and they'll most likely cash your check for you if you take it there. But this is unlikely to be your most affordable option.

Payday lenders are notorious for charging high fees and they're no different when it comes to cashing checks. You might walk away with less cash than you would if you went to a retailer or the issuing bank, so use this as a last resort.

4. Consider a prepaid card account

Some banks enable you to cash your checks at their ATMs and load the money onto a prepaid debit card that you can use to make purchases. This is an option worth considering if you don't want to worry about waiting in line at a bank branch or a retailer every time you need to cash a check.

But like the other options listed here, it's not without fees. These accounts usually carry a monthly service fee and that could eat into your profits even more than a per-check fee if you're not getting checks that often.

5. Endorse it to a friend

If you have a friend or family member that has a bank account, you could endorse the check over to them by writing on the back of it that you would like the money deposited into that person's account. Then, your friend can deposit the funds and give you your cash.

This option might get you out of paying a fee, but you're putting a lot of faith in the person you're handing the check over to. Once the money's in their account, it's mostly on the honor system for them to give your money back to you. You willfully signed the check over to them, so banks aren't going to be much help if your friend doesn't pass the money on to you. 

At least one of these options should appeal to you, but if they all sound too complicated, consider opening a free checking account with a nearby branch. That way you won't have to jump through as many hoops the next time you need to cash a check.

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