How to Cash a Check If You Don’t Have a Checking Account

by Emily Guy Birken · 30 comments

For many people, it can be difficult to imagine living without a checking account. But it’s the reality for the roughly 8% of Americans who are living “unbanked,” meaning they have no bank account whatsoever. In addition, a total of 28.3% of Americans are either unbanked or underbanked, which means they rely on alternatives to banks for financial services like check cashing.

Unfortunately, living without a checking account is costly. Nearly every available service for cashing checks will impose a fee — and many service providers won’t cash personal checks.

So what are the check-cashing alternatives for an individual without a checking account? Here are five options and their accompanying costs:

1. Visit the Issuing Bank

Most banks will be willing to cash checks that have been issued from their accounts, which means you can visit a local branch of the issuing bank to get your check cashed. The big benefit of this is that you’ll often be able to cash both personal and payroll checks.

However, you’ll likely have to pay a fee for the service. With the exception of Capital One, which has no check-cashing fee, pretty much every bank charges a fee of anywhere from $4 to $10 to cash their own checks for a non-account holder. (It’s important to note that, at some banks, check cashing is free for checks smaller than a certain amount, or for personal checks.) These fees are in place to cover the cost of processing the check — and you may field an offer to open an account in order to avoid the fee.

2. Go to Walmart

The retail giant Walmart offers check-cashing services for customers. They’ll cash payroll checks, government checks, tax checks, and MoneyGram money orders, but not personal checks. The fee is $3 for any check up to $1,000, and $6 for any check between $1,000 and $5,000, which is the check-cashing limit.

3. Endorse the Check Over to a Friend

If you have a friend or family member whom you trust, and who has a checking account, you may be able to cash your check by endorsing the check over to them to cash. Ask the bank first if they will honor the check this way first though, since individual bank policies vary. When you endorse the check, you’ll sign your name and underneath write “Pay to the order of [friend’s name],” under which they’ll endorse the check. Their bank will then cash the check with no penalties.

Obviously, this only works if you completely trust your friend. It’s also not a favor you’ll want to get in the habit of asking, as it could be a major inconvenience for them.

4. Use a Check-Cashing Store

This should be a last resort, as these sorts of establishments generally charge high rates for check cashing. In general, you can expect check-cashing stores to charge you a percentage of your check’s total, although some will also charge a flat fee on top of that.

5. Try Pre-paid Cards

Some banks will allow you to cash a check for “free” if you load the money into a prepaid card or prepaid account. The problem with these services is that the cards and accounts often have hefty monthly maintenance fees, as well as other hidden charges and fees.

Bonus Tip

Alternatively, you can also easily open a money market account at CIT Bank here. It’s a quick and simple process, and then you can mobile deposit any check into the account to be used at any time. And while your money is in there, you earn high relative interest too.

The Bottom Line

Living without a checking account can put you at an economic disadvantage. But if you’re willing to do a little leg work, you can make sure you pay as little as possible in fees to access your checks.

What are your favorite bank alternatives for cashing checks? 

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Ava M says:

    Thanks for pointing out that you could visit a local bank branch of the issuing bank so you could get the check cashed. I could imagine how important it is for checks to be printed with the highest quality by a reliable printing company. Certainly, a business paying in checks must ensure that who they are paying could have their checks encashed conveniently.

  • Levi Armstrong says:

    Emily, it’s good to know that a check-cashing store would charge me a percentage of the check I am cashing and may even charge an additional flat fee. My mom is planning to cash her check in a commercial check cashing store since she doesn’t have a checking account. I’ll look for a reputable store myself to ensure that they would only ask a fair price. Thanks for this!

  • Dennis Sanchez says:

    It never occurred to me that cash-checking stores will charge a percentage of your check and also sometimes a flat fee. I have a check that needs to be cashed but I have no other options right now. I’m going to have to find the right check-cashing store to use.

  • Vi rginia avena says:

    I need to cash my check and its sunday but i need the money really bad so ill have it put on a prepaid card thank you

  • Matthew says:

    I recently qualified for SSI. I have two checks that I am unable to cash. One for the amount of $2,250 the second one’s for the amount of $750.
    I have already signed up for their go direct money card but I will continue to receive paper checks monthly till December 2018.
    The only identification that I have is a Wayne County Jail inmate identification bracelet that has my picture and date of birth on it. I also have all the paperwork stating the amounts I will receive from Social Security. I send to Wal-Mart I’ve called All of Me check cashing places in my area I do not have a bank account and I cannot get a Michigan State ID at this time.
    Looking for any suggestions on how to cash these checks. I would save the checks and load them to the government go direct card but they’ve already told me that they are not reloadable cards the only way that money goes on them is the monthly benefit I receive from Social Security.
    Is there anyone else having the same issue?
    Does anyone know where I can cash these checks?

  • Sharon Pairish says:

    Trying to load 2 cks in amount of 17,500$ it’s my daughters from a divorce 401 ckecks that was made in to ( pay to the order of Sharon Pairish ) can you please tell me what it is you would need ) she’s been in jail for 6 yrs now and she needs this for needed items to buy ( such as clothes food and hygiene products…? Please let me know ASAP …. respectfully Sharon Pairish

    • Melinda says:

      Dear Sharon Pairish any checks made out in inmates name can be mailed directly to the state or federal holding facility or or inmate commissary account and the money will credit there account then they can withdraw money and send out to u if nessesary

  • Shawn Nagy says:

    So I did a moving job for an out of state moving company. After the job was complete I received a check in the mail 2 days later. They paid me way more than I expected. What happens if I deposit the check and it were to bounce because its more than its suppose to be? I don’t want to get in trouble

  • Candice James says:

    How can i cash my boyfriend check without his ID…

  • kalpesh says:

    I received a check however dont have a bank account in the . How can i cash it?

  • Richard Libby says:

    Hi I just received a check for work I’ve carried out and I don’t have an account. I’m also low on IDs. I have a photo with my forklift license and have birth certificate. I also have utilities bills with my name and address on it. So where do I cash it? And how much is the fee they charge? Kind regards Mr Libby

  • Skip says:

    Chase Bank just sent me a check for $120,000.00. I currently don’t have a checking account. Is Chase under any legal obligation to cash their own check. I will be happy to pay the $10 fee.

  • Skip says:

    Chase Bank closed my account and after a two week wait, issued me a check for $120,000.00. Since I now have no bank, is Chase obligated to cash the check for me and just charge me a $10 fee?

    • Brandon says:

      Hey Skip,
      I’m curious what this outcome was. I’d imagine for an amount that large you could schedule an appointment and they would give you the cash. I closed an account (with lower value than yours) once and the bank would not give me cash at the time and only gave a cashiers check. I was able to move it to another bank, but their refusal to give me paper made me feel uneasy. In the event of a major banking crisis, unless they give out cash, your funds could get stuck in the system because if no banks will give out cash upon account closing, your funds will only be able to move from one bank to another.

  • Hazel Owens says:

    I didn’t know there was such a high percentage of people in America that live without a bank account, since the United States seems to be a credit- or debit-card society. I’m actually surprised that there’s so many options available to cash a check, but it is a necessary service; even if checks are becoming less common, there will always be those who will use them. Is it necessary for employees without a bank account to always use these services, since they can’t get direct deposit, and would such people get a discount for repeated use?

  • christy says:

    how to cash a personal check

  • Rick says:

    Regarding number 3, a lot of banks aren’t accepting third party checks anymore

  • Neker Elie says:

    Once again I will have a check soon,but its gonna be around $11000, but I don’t have a checking account how can I cash it…..I need some advice please…

  • Neker Elie says:

    I will a check over$ 10000, I don’t have a checking account how can I cash it..

  • Bert says:

    First, regarding my previous comment, Western Union has discontinued their free pre-paid card. Lindsay: in reality, there are no more government checks. If you receive federal benefits, you could be issued a debit card if you require one. Your money will be deposited directly.

    • Jon says:

      So she just asked how to cash her government check and your response is to tell her she doesn’t have one? lol..that’s pretty weak dude, I’d hate to see your pull out game

    • Sarah j Gallagher says:

      that is not true Bert, I just received two federal benefit checks, paper ones

  • Lindsay Johnes says:

    What if your not able to use Wal-Mart check cashing services and the other options are closed until Monday, is there any other sources so you’d be able to cash a Government check on the weekend so that you can get your daughter the things her supposed to be grandparents kept and she is really in need.

    • Jon says:

      Don’t worry Lindsay..according to Bert your check doesn’t exist and therefor you don’t have a government check to cash..because that would be impossible since your check doesn’t exist!

      So I guess you needn’t worry yourself over how to cash a check that doesn’t

      P.S. if anyone’s in a similar spot you can get a govt check cashed at Walmart 7 days a week for $3, if over $1,000 then $6. Also if it’s an emergency you can just use a costly check cashing place this one time

      • Saraha says:

        Actually they do send retro active balances as checks and send checks in special sercomstances. Just saying. But Walmart is a great place to cash it.

    • Jon says:

      Sounds like a sticky situation though..maybe you should let her stay there and use the things she needs that they’re providing for her until you can provide it?
      As long as that’s in the child’s best interest of course (and only her best interest, not other parties involved)

      If you’re struggling to find money to put clothes on her back by Monday that very well could possibly be what’s in your daughters best interest

  • Bert says:

    Western Union offers the best pre-paid debit card I have discovered. It is an actual account with MetaBank, which means one can get direct deposits for no fee. This covers paychecks, government checks, etc. To get cash for no fee, just make a purchase from any retailer providing cash back. There are no monthly usage fees, but ATM withdrawals are costly. To load cash directly, any Western Union will do it for $4.95, which is how I send cash to my grandchildren, who live away from me.. It is far speedier to do that this way, than wiring the money, and also precludes a necessary trip for them to the WU agent. To get a card, there is a shortcut page to go directly to the debit cards (

    • Neker Elie says:

      Ooh really wanna get that prepaid does it have a limit…please give me more informations about it..347-753-0546

  • Property Marbella says:

    I thought that checking is not used anymore because they are easy to forge and copy. In Sweden and Spain is blocked we check property sales and they can only be redeemed at the issuing bank.

  • Levi Blackman says:

    All these are great options except the last two. Check cashing stores are really expensive and if for some reason the check you cash bounces they will harass you to know end even if it isn’t your fault. And loading on to a prepaid card is generally a bad idea for any kind of money. They charge you a fee for having the card, and many even charge $1 every time you use it!

    I have used the WalMart option before and I find it the best alternative to a bank. Of course, with a little hard work you should be able to find a bank that will set you up with an account, unless you are illegal or have committed serious bank fraud in the past.

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