How to Cash a Check and Get Direct Access to the Cash You Need

When you learn how to cash a check, you open up new opportunities to get quick and easy access to money. That can even be the case if you don't have a bank account.

Technically, a check is properly cashed when the recipient signs the back of the check and presents it to a financial institution or check-cashing service for cash, or if a person deposits the check into his bank account.

In most cases, though, cashing a check is done with the intent to exchange the signed check for the cash value listed on the front of the check. The goal is to get that task completed with no hassles and no or minimal fees - and there are multiple ways to cash a check with minimal or no difficulty.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Cashing a Check

Before you can cash a check, take time to make sure the check is properly signed by the sender and ensure the check is in good physical health (i.e., all sections are filled out and there is no damage to the check that would negatively impact the ability for you to have it cashed.)

Once that review is complete, start the check cashing process:

  1. Sign the check (banks call that "endorsing" the check) on the top back of the check designated for the recipient's signature. Not signing the check will disqualify you from being able to cash it.
  1. Go to your financial institution (usually a bank or credit union) and complete a deposit slip (if required) and ask if there are any fees associated with your cashing the check.
  1. If you don't have a bank account, head directly to the bank or financial institution listed on the front of the check.
  1. If there are no fees, or the fees are agreeable to you, present the check for cashing.
  1. Present current identification to the bank teller or the person cashing your check. Usually a driver's license and/or debit card are enough to cash a check.
  1. Accept payment for the check and count it for accuracy's sake.

If you're simply depositing the check, you can have the bank or financial institution's customer service representative deposit it straight into your account. Or, use an ATM machine and deposit your check into your account automatically.

Expect a deposited check to take at least one business day to clear before the cash is available to you. If you're depositing a check at an online payment vendor like PayPal, your check payment may take up to three days to clear.

Places Where You Can Cash Checks

The number one option to cash a check is a bank, either your own or the bank that issued the check in the first place.

When you cash a check at your own bank you likely won't have to pay any fees. That may not be the case at the bank that issued the check, or at check-cashing service centers, which usually do charge a fee. Expect to pay between $1 and $5 to cash a check when not dealing with your own bank.

You can also cash a check at these financial institutions:

  • A credit union.
  • A check-cashing store.
  • A payday lending center.
  • A major retailer like Walmart or Kmart.
  • A grocery store, like Publix and Safeway.

Expect to pay a fee between $3 and $6 for cashing a check at Walmart, and expect to pay between $1 and $3 to cash a check at a grocery store.

Government-issued and payroll checks are easier to cash than personal checks at most grocery stores. But a check-cashing agreement usually has to be made beforehand.

Fees at check cashing and payday loan outlets are much higher than at banks and retailers. Payday loan centers, for example, charge up to 10% of the check's amount.

Cashing Checks Online

You can also cash a check online or mobile, either through your own bank (most banks allow you to deposit checks online, although the check proceeds won't be available until the next business day.

For a small fee, you can also cash a check via digital payment sites like Venmo and PayPal, as you have set up an account and/or a mobile app.

Simply take a picture of the front and back of the check and download the check to the online payment service's mobile app. Again, expect a delay of one to three days before the check clears and is deposited into your bank account.

Do Your Homework When Cashing a Check

Various financial institutions have different policies (on issues like check-amount limits, out-of-state,  and third-party checks, for example) and charge different fees (or charge no fees at all) for cashing your check.

Do your homework, shop around, and get the best deal you can when cashing your check.

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