How To Cash a Check: 7 Steps

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Contributor, Benzinga
August 7, 2023

While checks are gradually being replaced by digital wallets and alternative payment methods, if you live in the U.S., chances are, sooner or later, you’ll receive a check. You could receive a paycheck, tax refund or gift in the form of a check.  The good news is you can cash a check whether or not you have a bank account. Cashing a check is simple, and this guide will walk you through the steps, including where to cash a check. 

7 Steps to Cash a Check

Cashing a check requires just a few steps. Here’s what you need to do. 

Step 1: Endorse the Check

Sign your name in the endorsement area on the back of the check. Some checks may have specific instructions for endorsement, such as “For Deposit Only.” If you’re unsure, ask the issuer or check-cashing location for guidance.

Step 2: Verify ID Requirements

Before cashing the check, ensure you have a valid government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, passport or state ID. Most check-cashing locations and banks require identification to verify your identity.

Step 3: Choose a Check-Cashing Method

You can cash a check at a bank, credit union or retail location. Here’s what to know about each:

Bank or credit union: If you have a bank account, you can cash the check at your own bank or credit union. Just visit a branch and present the check along with your ID. If you have an account with the bank, the funds will be deposited directly into your account. If you don’t have an account with that bank, it may charge a fee for cashing the check.

Retailers and check-cashing locations: Many retailers, grocery stores and dedicated check-cashing locations offer check-cashing services, including gas stations like 7-Eleven and Walmart. Some may charge a fee, which can vary based on the check’s value and the location’s policies.

Step 4: Provide Information

When cashing a check at a bank or credit union, the teller might ask for additional information, such as your account number or the purpose of the check. Be prepared to provide any necessary details.

Step 5: Verify the Check Amount

Before leaving the counter, double-check that the check has been cashed for the correct amount. Mistakes can happen, and catching them before leaving the premises is essential.

Step 6: Deposit the Funds or Use Cash

If you have a bank account and cashed the check at your bank, you can choose to have the funds deposited into your account. If you cashed the check at a retailer or check-cashing location, you’ll receive the funds in cash or a prepaid card.

Step 7: Keep Records

After cashing the check, keep the receipt or transaction details for your records. This is especially important if you encounter any issues with the transaction later on.

Tips for Cashing a Check Hassle-Free

Here’s what to know to ensure cashing checks remains hassle-free:

Choose the Right Cashing Location

The right location should be convenient and friendly. Select a reputable and convenient cashing location for your needs and preferences. Look for a bank, credit union, or trusted check-cashing store with positive reviews. If the location feels shady or off, choose a different location. 

While some banks will only cash checks of account holders, they can direct you to a trusted location nearby. You can also check online and ask local friends for recommendations or low-fee check-cashing locations nearby. 

Verify Check Details

It’s essential to double-check the check’s amount, payee information and date before presenting it for cashing. Some checks are post-dated to ensure the account holder has the necessary funds. In that case, you won’t be able to cash the check until the issue date. Make sure the name matches the name on your ID to avoid issues. 

Bring Proper Identification

Have identification ready to expedite the cashing process. Identification documents required by most cashing locations is a government-issued ID. This can include:

  • Driver’s license
  • Passport
  • State ID card
  • U.S. military ID card
  • U.S. military dependent’s ID card
  • Tribal card

If you’re not a U.S. citizen or resident, you should be able to present your foreign passport or ID to cash a check. 

Endorse the Check Correctly

To endorse the check, you’ll sign the back of it. Most checks have a line or box that says “endorse here” or something similar. Then, another line usually says something like, “Do not write, stamp or sign below this line.” 

You should sign the check in the area that says endorse here and avoid writing in the area that requests you don’t write or stamp. 

To avoid complications, sign your name exactly as it appears on the front of the check. Learn more about endorsing checks here. 

Understand Fees and Policies

Check-cashing fees can cost 1% to 12% of the check’s value. Ask about fees upfront and research ahead of time to avoid surprises when cashing checks.

For example, at Bank of America, you don’t have to pay to cash a check if you have an account. You can cash a check without an account for a flat $8 fee on checks over $50. At 7-Eleven, you can cash checks up to $1,500. The fee is 0.99% of the check’s value. 

If you need to cash a check over $800, Bank of America’s flat fee is less. At Walmart, the max fee for checks up to $1,000 is $4; for checks over $1,000, it’s $8. 

Plan for Timing and Processing

Be sure to consider the timing of check cashing, as some locations may have limited hours or longer processing times. Ask about busy times, and then plan ahead to avoid unnecessary waiting.

Avoid High-Risk Situations

Checks are exchanged for cash. In some cases, people knowing you’re carrying cash can be dangerous. Be cautious when cashing checks from unfamiliar sources or people. Be wary of scams for cash checking and report any suspicious activities.

Final Tips on Cashing a Check

Learning how to cash a check inexpensively can give you the freedom to accept this common payment method. Research where to cash a check for low or no fees locally and the best times to avoid long lines. Consider approaching local banks about opening a no-fee checking account so that you can easily cash checks for free. Finally, remember that if the first location you try for cashing checks doesn’t work, better options and help are available.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

Where can I cash a check?

A

You can cash a check at a bank, credit union or many retail locations, including Walmart and gas stations.

Q

What do I need to bring with me to cash a check?

A

You need to bring the check and a government-issued ID to cash the check.

Q

Are there any fees associated with cashing a check?

A

There are fees associated with cashing a check at most locations. If you have a bank account, you can cash a check at your bank without fees.

About Alison Plaut

Alison Plaut is a personal finance writer with a sustainable MBA, passionate about helping people learn more about financial basics for wealth building and financial freedom. She has more than 17 years of writing experience, focused on real estate and mortgage, business, personal finance, and investing. Her work has been published in The Motley Fool, MoneyLion, and she is a regular contributor for Benzinga.