Checking accounts offer convenience for managing money, but a sizable number of Americans don’t have one. According to Federal Reserve (Fed) data, 6% of U.S. adults are unbanked, meaning that they have no checking account, savings account, or money market account. Instead, they rely on alternative financial services, such as check cashing companies and payday lenders, to meet their needs.

Another 16% are underbanked, meaning that they have bank accounts but still depend on alternative financial services.

Without a bank account, something as simple as cashing a check can become a headache. Still, there are ways to cash a check without paying steep fees.

Key Takeaways

  • An estimated 6% of adults are unbanked, and another 16% are underbanked, meaning that 22% of American adults rely on alternative financial services.
  • Convenience stores, grocery stores, and the checkwriter’s bank are some of the ways to cash a check when you lack a bank account.
  • When cashing checks, it’s important to pay attention to fees, as some check cashing services can come at a high price.
  • Opening a bank account can make cashing checks easier, and some accounts are designed for people who may have had banking issues in the past.

Where to Cash a Check

When deciding where to cash a check, there are multiple options to choose from. Depending on whether you have a bank account or not, some avenues may be more obvious than others. Here are the top places for check cashing that you may consider.

Local Banks or Credit Unions

If you have a bank account or an account at a credit union, this could be the best option for cashing a check. Banks and credit unions can cash personal checks, payroll checks, certified or cashier’s checks, and government-issued checks.

But what if you don’t have an account at a bank or credit union? Federal law does not require banks or credit unions to cash checks for people who are not their customers. Nevertheless, it’s possible that the bank may agree to cash your check in exchange for a fee.

If you’re depositing a check into your bank account rather than cashing it, be aware of your bank’s funds availability policy and when you can make withdrawals against the deposit.

The Issuing Bank

It’s possible to cash a check at the issuing bank, even if you don’t have an account there. In other words, you could take the check to the bank of the checkwriter. Again, it’s up to the bank to determine whether to honor your request for cashing a check, and you may or may not pay a fee. The bank may be unable to cash a check if the checkwriter’s account doesn’t have sufficient funds to cover it.

The issuing bank may be unable to cash a check if the checkwriter’s account doesn’t have sufficient funds to cover it.

Walmart

Walmart offers check cashing services in its stores. You’ll need to visit a nearby Walmart location and pay a fee to cash your check. The fee depends on the amount of the check:

  • For preprinted checks up to and including $1,000, a maximum fee of up to $4 applies.
  • For preprinted checks over $1,000 up to and including $5,000, a maximum fee of up to $8 applies.

The types of checks you can cash at Walmart include:

  • Preprinted checks
  • Payroll checks
  • Government checks
  • Tax checks
  • Cashiers’ checks
  • Insurance settlement checks
  • 401(k) retirement disbursement checks
  • MoneyGram money orders
  • Two-party personal checks

There are limits on how much you can cash at Walmart. For two-party personal checks, the limit is $200, and for all other checks, it’s $5,000—though Walmart does increase this to $7,500 from January to April to account for tax refund season.

Grocery Stores

There may be a fee to cash a check. For example, Pay Less Super Markets charge from $4.50 to $7.50, depending on the amount of the check. In lieu of a fee, a grocery store may require you to make a minimum purchase, as WinCo Foods does.

Your local grocery store may offer check cashing services whether you have a bank account or not. If you’d like to cash a check at your grocery store, you can ask the customer service desk whether that’s an option.

Convenience Stores and Gas Stations

Convenience stores and gas stations may be willing to cash checks, depending on the type. For example, at Mr. Payroll stores and some Shell gas stations, you can cash a payroll check or government-issued check, but not a personal check. Similar to grocery stores, you may have to pay a fee or be asked to make a minimum purchase.

Trans@ct by 7-Eleven

If you don’t necessarily need cash but have a check that you would like to be able to spend, you could consider Trans@ct by 7-Eleven. This is a prepaid debit card that allows you to upload checks via mobile deposit through the Trans@ct by 7-Eleven app. You could then use your prepaid debit card to make purchases or withdraw cash at an ATM. In terms of fees, you can either pay per transaction or enroll in a monthly plan for $5.

Your Employer

It’s possible that your employer might allow you to cash a check. There may be specific guidelines on what type (e.g., personal checks only) or limits for check cashing. Still, this could be an option for cashing a check without paying a fee, so it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Kroger Money Services

If you live near a Kroger, you could use Money Services to cash a check. The types of checks that you can cash are:

  • Payroll checks
  • Government checks
  • Tax refund checks
  • Business checks
  • Child support checks
  • Insurance settlement checks

The fees that Money Services charges vary by store and may depend on the type and amount of the check that you’re cashing.

PayPal

PayPal offers a check cashing service through its mobile app. You simply take a photo of the check and send it to PayPal, which reviews it and, if approved, credits the amount to your PayPal Cash Plus Account, less a fee. This is a fast and convenient way to cash checks if you already use PayPal to pay online.

What About Check Cashing Services?

Check cashing stores are another option for cashing checks. On the pro side, you don’t need a bank account to use one. Check cashing services can also be useful if you don’t have access to any other ways to cash a check outlined above. They sometimes also offer other financial services, such as bill payment and money orders, which are a plus if you don’t have a bank account.

However, there are downsides—namely, the fees that you might pay, which can be quite high. Or, instead of charging a flat dollar amount, check cashing services may charge a percentage of the check’s face value. So if you need to cash a $5,000 check, and the service charges a 10% fee, then you’re automatically handing over $500 to the check cashing company.

That’s quite a bit more than what you would pay to cash a check at, say, Walmart, which maxes out its fee at $8. So, consider the fees carefully before using a check cashing service to cash a check.

What Do You Need to Cash a Check?

Regardless of where you plan to cash a check, there are a few things that you’ll need. Typically, you’ll have to have some or all of the following:

  • The check itself, signed by you and the checkwriter
  • A government-issued photo ID
  • Money to pay any check cashing fees if they aren’t deducted from the check

If you don’t have an appropriate ID, there’s one more option for cashing a check: signing it over to someone else. This is called a third-party check, and it allows the person to whom you sign over the check to cash it on your behalf.