There’s no better feeling than receiving a check, whether it’s for a job well-done or from a friend who has finally paid you back. Or maybe you’ve received a refund in tax envelopes from the IRS. You want to get the cash in your hands as quickly as possible!
However, if you don’t have a bank account, your local banks will charge you to cash your check. And when you’ve worked hard to earn that money, you don’t want to lose some of it to fees.
You know that your local credit union in New Orleans, LA, has good reviews, but what if you don’t have a checking account there? Will they still cash your check?
Bank policies for cashing checks
Banks are less likely to cash your check unless you pay a hefty fee. “Banks are for-profit businesses that are generally owned by shareholders. Banks may be headquartered in a specific city, but may have retail branches in several states — some banks have retail branches in other countries,” Ellis Roanhorse of Small Business Chronicle explains.
Because they’re usually operated at the national or international level, banks have to follow corporate policies. They may have no choice but to refuse to cash your check or require a fee.
Credit union policies on check-cashing
While banks are typically stringent on their policies, credit unions are often more welcoming. Some will cash your checks for free because they’re hopeful that you’ll open an account with them if they offer this free service. This depends on the community you’re in and the rules set by the shareholders there.
Others will cash checks for free as long as those checks come from their credit union.
This is the fastest and easiest way to get your check cashed. When doing this, Justin Pritchard of The Balance recommends in an article, “Start by looking for the bank’s name or logo on the front of the check. You don’t necessarily have to go to the same branch that the check writer uses, it can be any branch of the same bank. Be sure to bring identification that matches the name written on the check.”
You might also run into credit unions that refuse to cash your checks. They are under no obligation to do so, and many don’t because they don’t want to deal with the fees. Call around to local credit unions to compare fees and make sure a credit union will cash your check before you go.
Open an account to waive the fees
If you want free check-cashing, by far the easiest thing to do is simply open a checking account with your local credit union. A checking account is useful for things like direct deposit and easier transactions at any merchant.
Most credit unions do charge a small holding fee, usually around $25, that stays in your account at all times. You are technically not losing this money because you can withdraw it as soon as you close your account, but you can’t take it out before. Plus, you can cash or deposit any check you like for free, so it’s worthwhile in the long run.
Other options for free check-cashing
If you can’t open a checking account for some reason and you still want to get it cashed for free, you have some options.
U.S. News Money suggests letting a friend cash the check for you. “For immediate cash at no expense, let a trusted friend, who does have an account, cash it for you,” she says. “Simply endorse it with your name and the additional statement, ‘Pay to the order of’ – and insert your friend’s name. The friend can then cash it or deposit it to their account.”
You can also take your check to Kmart, Walmart, or a grocery store where fees are minimal or even non-existent.