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Credit Card Basics

What Is a Convenience Check?

A convenience check is a check issued by a credit card company that you can use to pay balances on other cards or make purchases. Often a credit card issuer may send you a blank one when you open an account as a way to encourage spending. But, before you use a convenience check, it's crucial to know what they are, what their terms are and whether they are right for you.

How to Get Convenience Checks

Convenience checks often come in the mail as part of a credit card promotional offer. If you don't yet have a credit line with the company, they sometimes come as a sort of welcome offer. The information packet that comes with the credit line should outline any stipulations that go along with the convenience checks.

If you have open lines of credit with a company, convenience checks may arrive with your paper statements in the mail. You may find a separate insert that describes the terms of use. If not, you can also see that information by logging in to your online account.

You can also request to have convenience checks printed. Your bank or card issuer can likely perform this service, but there is usually a small fee associated with it. Consider calling ahead to find out how your bank or financial institution handles printing convenience checks.

Where Can I Cash a Credit Card Convenience Check?

Since convenience checks work in much the same way as personal checks, you can usually cash one anywhere that would cash a personal check. Check cashing fees are generally the same as well.

You may not be able to immediately access the full amount of the check, though. If the check amount is large, it is common practice for banks to give you only a portion of the money and deposit the rest into your account. This deposit may be held for several days before it's made available to you, so make sure you understand how your bank will handle cashing a convenience check before you start the process.

What to Consider Before Getting a Convenience Check

Convenience checks work like cash advances. So they usually include advance fees, higher interest rates and stricter penalties around repayment.

Convenience checks do not have grace periods like credit card charges. So if something unexpected happens and you're unable to repay the balance in full immediately, you will incur interest charges.

Another thing to consider is that there are no restrictions in place that will prevent you from cashing a check that puts you over your credit limit. If you go over your credit limit with a convenience check, penalties may apply.

How a Convenience Check Can Affect Your Credit Score

If you use a convenience check responsibly, it won't affect your credit score. However, these checks do make it easy to borrow large amounts. The more that you borrow against your credit line, the more it will increase your credit utilization ratio, which is the percentage of your total credit limit that you're using.

The Bottom Line

Credit card companies often use convenience checks as a way to get you to use your credit. But for most people, it's best to avoid using them. They have many penalties, few buyer protections and plenty of fees.

Like the name implies, they might seem like an easy way to access cash without the fuss, but there are many stipulations attached to convenience checks. If you do decide to use one, it is best to have a contingency plan in place in case you are unable to pay off the debt.

Carefully review the fine print, and weigh the cost of cashing the check against what your financial situation will look like if you can't pay off the balance. In most cases, it is best to shred the checks and consider another way of getting the cash.

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