How to Cash a Check

Quick Answer

Cashing a check may be easier than you think. Sign your name to the back of the check and go to a financial institution that you trust, either putting the money in your account or exchanging it for cash.

Checkbook, Pen, Calculator and Money - Close Up

In this digital world, where people often receive money via direct deposit or peer-to-peer payment app, paper checks seem to be more of a rarity. If you have a paper check, either a personal check or a business check, and are wondering how to turn it into money, you can cash a check by following these five steps.

5 Steps on How to Cash a Check

  1. Have your identification handy. You will need your ID, such as your driver's license, to cash a check at many banks or financial institutions.
  2. Find a pen. You will need it to sign your name on the check. (Try the junk drawer.)
  3. Look at the back of the check. On the back of the check, there will be a line, probably with an X at the start of it. This is where you will endorse the check by signing your name.
  4. Sign the check. Signing a check is essentially signing a contract. Your name should already be on the check, but by signing it, you're essentially saying that you are the person whose name is on the check and that this money is owed to you.
  5. Go to a financial institution to cash the check. Preferably this will be your bank, since you have a relationship there, although there are other places and ways you can cash the check (more on this below). But if you go to your bank or credit union, the teller can help you get it deposited into your account or give you money for it.
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Where to Cash a Check

Fortunately, you have quite a few places you can cash a check, even if you don't have a bank account.

Your Bank or Credit Union

Assuming you have a bank or credit union, this generally makes the most sense. You have a good relationship with them. They know you. Also, many banks and financial lenders charge check cashing fees, but if you have an account with your own bank, that typically won't happen.

If you go to a bank other than your own, you could be turned away. No financial institution wants to be stuck with a counterfeit check, and banks are not obligated to cash your check, especially if you don't have an account with them or if the person paying you isn't associated with the bank.

So if you're going to cash a check at a bank or credit union, it's best to do it at your own to avoid hassle and extra fees.

Retailer or Grocery Store

Not every retailer or grocery store will cash checks, but some will. Walmart, for instance, has a check cashing service. The grocery store Kroger also cashes checks. Some grocery stores and retailers have limits on what type of checks they'll accept. Retailers are probably more likely to take a payroll check or government-issued check than a personal check that your uncle gave you for your birthday.

Check Cashing Stores

These are businesses that specialize in accepting checks for cash, though they may offer additional services. These stores have a reputation for charging high fees, so find out how much this option will cost you before cashing a check there.

Prepaid Cards

Some prepaid cards let you take a photo of the check with their app, and load the check's funds on the card. But many of these prepaid cards have fees to put money on the card, so take a look at the fine print before you take this route.

Other Ways to Deposit a Check

Of course, you don't have to go into a bank or credit union branch and cash a check. You can deposit your check with your bank's mobile app, which is generally quick. Your bank's app will give you instructions on what to do, but you'll likely take a photo of the front of the check and the back (which you will have signed), and you'll make a deposit.

You can also deposit your check at an ATM.

Whether you go to a brick and mortar branch, deposit a check through an app or visit an ATM, you will probably not get all of your money at once. The check may need a day or two to clear. You're entitled by law to get $225 of the money by the next business day. Usually, you'll have your money within two days, but financial institutions have the right to hold any amount over $5,525 if you deposit more than that in checks on the same day.

Banks vary, of course. You may get that first $225 right away and all of your money the next day. If you're unclear when you'll receive the money, that's where going into a bank and talking to the staff can help.

The Bottom Line

Cashing a check isn't particularly difficult, but if you've never done it before, it can be a little nerve-racking. After all, you want your money, and the last thing you need is to make a mistake that delays you from getting it. If you're unsure what to do, your best strategy is likely going to be to go into a bank that you trust and ask for help.