Best places to cash a check for free

Where are the best places to cash a check for free?

Cashing a check can be done at a bank, credit union, ATM, convenience store, retailer, or check-cashing store. Each location has different fees and requirements to use its check-cashing service. The only free options are cashing the check at your bank/credit union or the bank/credit union that issued the check. 

We will discuss these free options and alternative low-cost options for those who may not have access to a local bank. Don’t miss the FAQs at the end of the article if you’re looking for a quick summary.

TFF22-038 -Best places to cash a check for free

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Where Can I Cash a Check for Free?

Banks and credit unions are the best places to cash a check for free. You can cash a check for free at the bank or credit union where you hold an account or at the bank or credit union where the check was issued. If you do not have a bank account, you could also have a family member or friend cash the check on your behalf through their account.

Some banks will also allow you to cash a check at one of their ATMs, but other ATMs will require 1-2 days to process the check before allowing it to be withdrawn.

1. Cashing a Check for Free at a Bank or Credit Union

Going to a bank or credit union is the best option when looking for a free way to cash a check. The difference is that a bank is a for-profit institution while a credit union is a nonprofit. This article will refer to these conjointly as “banking institutions.”

It’s essential to only go to the banking institution where you hold a checking account or from where the check was issued. Other banking institutions will charge you a fee if you do not meet the aforementioned standards.

To cash the check at a banking institution for free, you’ll need to:

  • Endorse the check
  • Present the check
  • Present your ID

Do know that some banks have different funds availability rules. These rules determine how much money you can withdraw or cash during one transaction. Most banking institutions will allow you to cash the entire check, but some may impose a $200 limit until the check clears and the rest of the funds become available.

1. Endorse the Check by Signing the Back in Ink

Endorsing the check is when you sign the back of the check before cashing or depositing it. The person to whom the check is made out must be the one to endorse it. If the check is made out to two individuals, both need to endorse the check before cashing it. Make sure your endorsement is in ink.

2. Present the Check to the Teller

You’ll need to present your check either at the walk-in booth or via a drive-thru option (if available) to the bank teller.

3. Present Your Banking ID or Other Photo ID

The teller will ask you to show your bank card and/or valid photo ID. They may ask you for other information depending on the bank’s policies.

2. Cashing a Check for Free Through Someone Else’s Account

If you don’t have a bank account or a bank nearby, you can have a family or friend help you cash your check. You will need someone you trust who holds a checking account at a local bank. After endorsing the back of the check, they will need to sign under your name and go to their local institution’s branch to cash the check.

Usually, you would not need to accompany them for this process; however, each bank has different requirements, so be sure they check with theirs before making the trip.

Once they have the money, they can hand it over to you, and – voila – your cash is in hand.

3. Cashing a Check for Free at an ATM

Some banks allow customers to cash checks directly at an ATM. This must be an ATM from a banking institution at which you hold a checking account since you’ll need a personal debit or ATM card.

Not all ATMs have a cash-check option. The majority require 1-2 business days to process deposited checks before funds become available.

The Best Banks for Cashing Checks

If you are thinking of opening a new checking account at a local bank to facilitate cashing future checks, you’ll want to choose a bank with a brick-and-mortar location near you.

While online banks have the lowest fees, most are not as accessible for cashing checks as traditional banks.

Here are the most popular brick-and-mortar banks that offer different checking account options:

  • Bank of America: Advantage Plus Banking
  • Chase: Total Checking
  • PNC Bank
  • U.S. Bank: Gold Checking Package
  • Wells Fargo: Preferred Checking
  • Citi: Basic Banking Package
  • TD Bank: Unlimited Checking

The Best Credit Unions for Cashing Checks

Credit Unions are known for offering lower fees and higher savings rates than standard banks. If you prefer to hold a checking account at a credit union, check out one from the list below.

  • Bethpage Federal Credit Union
  • Blue Federal Credit Union
  • Connexus Credit Union
  • Consumers Credit Union
  • Pentagon Federal Credit Union
  • Wings Financial Credit Union

Other Low-Cost Options for Cashing Checks

You may run into issues if you don’t have a checking account or if the check’s issuing bank does not have an office in your area. While there are no other free alternatives, you can find plenty of other low-cost options for cashing your check. Most fees range from 1%-5% of the check’s value.

Some of these include cashing your check at a:

  • A different bank/credit union
  • Convenience store
  • Payday lender
  • Retailer
  • Check-cashing store
  • Or online

1. Cashing a Check at a Banking Institution with No Account

If a bank did not issue your check and you have no account with them, you can still cash the check there for a fee. Most banks charge between $3-$8 to cash a check when you don’t hold an account with them.

Here are the costs to cash a check without an account:

  • Chase: $8
  • Capital One: Free
  • Citibank: Free for checks under $5,000
  • PNC Bank: Free for checks under $25, 2% for larger checks
  • TD Bank: $10
  • Wells Fargo: $7.50

2. Cashing a Check at a Convenience Store

Plenty of convenience stores and gas stations cash checks for a fee. Some will only cash certain types of checks (e.g., tax refunds, payroll, unemployment benefits, etc.) Call your local convenience store to ask what kinds of checks they cash in person.

You will need to give them the endorsed check and show them your legal ID.

Some convenience stores that may cash your check are:

  • Citgo
  • Chevron
  • Dillons
  • GetGo
  • Love’s
  • Pilot Flying J Travel Centers
  • Road Ranger
  • Safeway
  • Shell
  • Sunoco

3. Cashing a Check at a Retailer

Some retailers, especially large grocery chains, offer check-cashing services at their customer service center. Many only cash government checks, but not personal checks. Fees generally range between $1-$4 but can increase if the check is made out for a higher amount.

Some popular retailers with check-cashing services are:

  • Walmart: U.S. government, cashier’s, retirement distributions, insurance settlement, and two-party personal checks, plus MoneyGram money orders
  • Kmart
  • Food City Supermarket: U.S. government, payroll, and some rebate checks
  • Fred Meyer: $3 transaction fee for up to $5,000 checks
  • Tops Grocery: $1 transaction fee for up to $500 checks
  • WinCo: $5-$10 fee cashing two-party, insurance settlement, manually-written payroll, and finance loan checks, plus deposit slip money orders
  • Stop ; Shop: $0.05 fee for checks of up to $500 for Stop ; Shop members
  • Winn Dixie: $3.50-$4.00 fee cashing starter, third-party, cashier’s, traveler’s, insurance, government, and handwritten payroll checks

4. Cashing a Check at a Check-Cashing Store

Some stores are dedicated solely to cashing checks for customers. These stores tend to charge fees that vary greatly depending on the amount of the check and the store itself.

There are few check-cashing company chains and most are independent stores or smaller franchises. You can google “check cashing in my area” on Google to find stores near you.

5. Cashing a Check Online

Some apps will allow you to “cash” your check by transferring it into a type of debit or gift card. These cards can be used immediately like cash.

Some of the top check-cashing apps are:

  • Money Mart: cashes your check and deposits it into your connected bank account
  • PayPal: cashes your check into money that can be used via your PayPal account
  • Transact: Run by the convenience store 7-Eleven, Transact cashes your check into a Transact prepaid MasterCard

Check-Cashing FAQs

Here are the top FAQs and answers around cashing your check.

Where Can I Cash Checks for Free?

You can cash checks for free at your bank or the bank that issued your check. If you do not have a bank account, you can have a family or friend cash the check under their account for free. You will both need to endorse the check.

Their bank may or may not require you to be present to cash the check – normally, only the account holder is required to be present.

Can I Cash a Check Without a Bank Account?

When a particular branch issued the check, you might be able to cash it there for free without an account. If that is not the case, you can cash a check through another trusted individual. If you cannot use these options, you’ll need to cash the check through a retailer, cash-checking store, convenience store, or unassociated bank for a fee.

What Do I Need to Cash a Check?

You will need a government-issued photo ID and your endorsement to cash a check. If you are cashing the check at your bank, you may also need your bank card or use it instead of your ID.

Sign your name in ink on the back in the endorsement space to endorse your check.

When Should I Cash a Check?

Checks are usually cashed when the person needs the money immediately. People without bank accounts also cash checks to access their funds. If you can wait a day or two for the funds, it’s recommended to deposit the check into your account instead to avoid fees.

What Fees are Charged for Cashing Checks?

Most places charge a fee for cashing your check. This fee can vary greatly depending on the location, check amount, and whether or not you hold an account with that location. Banks tend to have a flat-rate fee of between $1-$10 for cashing a check, while other places charge 1%-5% on average.

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