When you don’t have a bank account, cashing a personal check or paycheck can prove difficult. You don’t have the luxuries provided by a checking or savings account, and you must go to greater lengths to prove who you are. Where there’s a will, there’s always a way, however, and you can turn your check into cash.
Bank or Credit Union
In some cases, a bank or credit union will cash a check for a non-account holder if the check was drawn at that bank. Check the logo on the check you received to find out which bank issued the payment, then contact that bank to find out if you can cash it there. You might incur a fee—sometimes a percentage of the check, and sometimes a flat rate—but at least you’ll have cash in hand.
You might discover, however, that the bank doesn’t have a branch in your area. This is common with paychecks from large corporations out of state, as well as gift checks from friends or relatives. If this is the case, you might have to seek alternate methods to turn your check into cash.
Grocery Store or Gas Station
Many grocery stores and gas stations offer check-cashing services to consumers without bank accounts. The fees are usually higher with these services, but they are often more convenient. You can look for signs that advertise check cashing or ask the cashier at the customer service desk.
Some grocers and gas stations only cash paychecks, while others will take personal checks as well. You will probably have to provide at least one form of photo identification—either a driver license or a state-issued I.D. card—and you might have to be a member of the business.
Payday Loan Center
Some payday loan centers and cash-advance establishments provide check-cashing services as part of their business. They are more likely than grocery stores or gas stations to cash personal checks, and might also have lower fees. They will generally accept the same forms of identification to give you cash on the spot.
Beware payday loan centers when trying to turn your check into cash because some of them are owned by predatory lenders who will attempt to wrangle you into a payday loan (they are very pushy sometimes). If this is the case, simply tell them that you are only interested in cashing the check, and leave as soon as they have give you the money. We do recommend some payday lenders if you feel you can pay the loan off in time and avoid major costs.
Friend or Relative
If you’re really in a tight spot and need to turn your check into cash as quickly as possible, you can circumvent the entire system. Ask a friend or relative to deposit your check in their checking or savings account. Once the check clears, they can give you cash from their ATM. This is sometimes the easiest option for personal checks, which are getting harder and harder to cash without a bank account.
If you do this, you’ll need to go with your friend or relative to their bank and sign the check in front of the teller. They will probably require two forms of identification, and will want your phone number and address in case the check bounces in their system. Some banks will only do this for relatives of an account holder, so be sure to ask the bank about their policies in advance.
Open an Account
The final option to turn your check into cash is to open a bank account with the funds of the check. Many banks require minimal opening deposits for their non-interest-bearing accounts, such as Washington Mutual, who currently only requires $1 for their free checking.
Opening a checking or savings account is a great way to improve your financial future and to eliminate the possibility of this happening again. Talk to several banks about their policies and services to find out which account is best for you.